Scott Brinker: “Times are stressful, but this is the state of modern marketing now – let’s just embrace it”

James has a passion for how technologies influence business and has several Mobile World Congress events under his belt. James has interviewed a variety of leading figures in his career, from former Mafia boss Michael Franzese, to Steve Wozniak, and Jean Michel Jarre. James can be found tweeting at @James_T_Bourne.

The Marketing Technology Landscape, the ultimate who’s who of the martech space from social to data and everything in between, is otherwise known as the Martech 5000. Yet that moniker, while memorable, soon became a touch mistaken as ever more companies joined the party. For the 2020 edition, published in April, there are now 8,000 vendors listed.

There was, however, plenty of interest between the lines. Data vendors saw a 25.5% growth since 2019, while management platforms saw a 15.2% rise. As marketers continue to balance several different plates – or platforms – getting a tune out of all of them is a full-time job in itself.

Scott Brinker, VP platform ecosystem at HubSpot and the arbiter of, notes the greater interconnection as a key trend not just in terms of changing priorities, but in the growth of the landscape itself.

“When this landscape started growing, all of these different tools were very disconnected from each other, which made it very challenging for marketers to get these things to work together,” Brinker tells MarketingTech. “But what we’ve been seeing in the industry over these past few years is a greater emphasis on integration within that vendor community themselves, whether it’s major platforms like Salesforce, Adobe or HubSpot, or using iPaaS [integration platform as a service] tools.

“The funny thing is, when you’ve got these platforms, and these integration services that make it easier to connect things, it actually helps inspire more people [to] create software,” he adds. “That barrier starts to get reduced; more things start to appear.”

As the vendor ecosystem becomes more entwined, this translates to an evolution in web and consumer experiences. Brinker spoke at a recent event hosted by software company DeepCrawl around martech and web experiences of the near future – and what marketers need to look out for.

The rise of no-code tools was one such example; indeed, the martech5000 crowdsourced database was built on such a product. Brinker notes that this empowerment helps with relieving apathy more than anything else; companies would previously not bother undertaking certain projects because the value wasn’t there.

Part of these experiences are cultural as well as technological, what Brinker calls a shift from ‘big data to big ops.’ “A lot of the past 10 years was about how [companies] manage the flow of all this data in their organisation. We’re starting to get around that, but now we’re moving onto the next level,” says Brinker.

“It’s not just about collecting this data and keeping it in some data lake, it’s about all these apps, and workflows, and processes, automations, and machine learning algorithms that are now running in parallel,” he adds. “How do we manage across all these different tools and make sure they’re well governed and synchronised, and that we’re not getting misaligned?”

Machine learning, as well as artificial intelligence (AI) more generally, has a natural place in this conversation. Retaining the human element for marketing, Brinker believes, is vital. “There’s a narrative out there which says AI is going to remove the job of the marketer, and I don’t believe that’s true,” he says.

“I think actually what you’re seeing, and we’ll likely see it for quite some time, is that marketers are craving a partnership with these more sophisticated tools, and they’re finding a way to allocate their time and talent in a way that’s actually much more productive with these tools than it has ever been.”

The best way to assess what goes where is by imagining a 2×2 grid, with one axis detailing the level of automation and the other noting the level of human interaction. On the lower left is the rote work – cutting and pasting emails or spreadsheet data – which is neither human or automated and is ‘just not a good use of time’, as Brinker puts it. The lower right grid is an area marketers should not lose sight of. One on one conversations with customers aren’t automated, but important. But on the top right grid, with heavy automation but with the human touch, is where it gets interesting.

“An example of that is using AI technologies to pay attention to the vast digital touchpoints that we have with customers, and then to be able to identify patterns,” explains Brinker. “[If] it looks like there’s a customer who’s having a problem, then alerting a human being who can help intervene, hopefully solve that problem for that customer in the moment, but also understand [if] this is a problem they need to fix on a larger basis.

“That starts to become this magical place where we’re leveraging AI and automation, but we’re doing it largely to also help us find the right opportunities for us to bring our human talents to bear,” he adds.

Covid-19 has, understandably, dramatically changed the way marketers function. This ties in with the broader tech industry and its participants accelerating digital initiatives, with the pandemic forcing their hands in many cases.

It will certainly be interesting to see what the 2021 Martech 5000 looks like; this year’s iteration was compiled before the global shutdown. Amid the uncertainty however, Brinker remains an optimist around the crucial role marketing plays, so long as marketers understand the trends and act upon them.

“The role of marketing as this champion of the customer, of understanding the customer’s journey and being able to serve it – that need is as important as ever,” says Brinker. “So the opportunity for marketers I think is very great. The important thing is to make sure that because the environment is changing, and marketing probably will continue to change for quite some time, you’ve just got to embrace the fact you need to be continually learning.

“Marketers who are willing to lean into that are going to be much more successful over the years ahead,” he adds. “Rest assured everybody’s going through it. I understand it, this is stressful, but you’re not alone. Everyone’s in the same boat. So maybe that makes it a little bit easier to say, well, this is the state of modern marketing. Let’s just embrace it.”

You can watch the full video interview below:

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One comment on “Scott Brinker: “Times are stressful, but this is the state of modern marketing now – let’s just embrace it”

  1. naseri on

    Yes we are having really hard times. Pandemic times is very hard times and we found an easy way “online”. Everything is going to be online if possible. Marketing may change too it will be online soon. Early marketing methods will end soon.


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