Marketing Technologists – Unicorns or Just Horses?

marketing technologist


One of the latest trends in corporate marketing is embracing the idea that with our digital world there is a growing need to have people who are experts in both marketing and technology – aka the “marketing technologist.”

This recently coined term has been a popular topic in marketing news and was recently covered by Forbes in an article titled “The Rise of the Unicorns — Why Marketing Technologists will Rule Modern Marketing.” The unicorn metaphor is used to emphasize just how rare these individuals are, but is the rarity itself a myth?

Role vs. Talent

So what makes these marketing technologists so rare?  Are there simply too few candidates with a passion for the topic? Does the complexity of marketing technology solutions reach rocket science proportions?

The answer of course is not completely black and white. One contributing factor, as noted by Forbes, is the lack of required digital marketing classes in higher education. This is definitely a sobering fact, but may not play as big of a role as they might think.

After all, how much of your college education did you retain? And how often does the digital media landscape change and shift?

marketing technologist


The article pulls many of its insights from the recent MarTech conference, which was established to drive awareness in the field and help prepare organizations with marketing technology strategies.

MarTech chair Scott Brinker created this chart of nearly 1,000 companies offering various types of marketing technology solutions. Clearly the choices are overwhelming, but once the industry matures there could be only a few clear choices left in each niche category.

Likely the primary reason for the rarity of these marketing technologist unicorns is simply the rarity of the roles themselves.


The Prediction

Marketing technologists will only get to enjoy their unicorn status for a short while longer. The business world is reacting with changes to the marketing org chart and organizations like MarTech are surfacing to define and support the field.

This is just the next wave of marketing trends and we have seen the pattern before with ideas such as content marketing and how to find the ideal content marketing manager.

Once the roles are established, we will begin to see more and more marketing professionals react and tailor their skills for the market. Couple this with the natural affinity that millennials have for digital technology and their growing influence in the workplace; soon we will have forgotten all about the unicorns.

Will marketing technologists have a permanent role in the modern marketing org, or will the influence of technology be so great that virtually all marketing professionals will be subject matter experts out of necessity? Let us know what you think in the comments below!

  • Scott Brinker

    Hi, Alex.

    I think it’s a great question.

    I won’t claim to predict the future, but my best guess is that (a) the overall level of technical capability of most marketers will continue to rise — what was a “marketing technologist” task today, may be a general marketing manager task tomorrow; but (b) there will still be value in technology specialists, who are able to apply deeper engineering skills towards more advanced marketing technology requirements.

    How those capabilities are distributed across a company, between marketing and IT as we’ve classically known them or with new organizational structures, is likely to have considerable variance from one company to the next for a while though.

    But there are certainly many other ways this could play out!


  • Alex Foley

    Hi Scott,

    I completely agree that the technical skill level will naturally begin to rise, but that there will likely be a niche for pure technology specialists.

    I think you are also right in assuming the outlook will change from company to company. The fate of that outlook could largely depend on if companies adopt the marketing technologist specialty in the near term.

    If it in fact is only a temporary segmentation trend until the skills/strategies become more prevalent, those companies that don’t adopt the job title now may never see a marketing technologist (as its currently defined) in their future.

    Thanks for your insights Scott!