Dark Martec: The Need for Marketing and IT Alignment

What is dark martec?

It sounds a little scary, I know. Is it the next epidemic sweeping the world? Is it the name of a James Bond villain’s secret, world-ending technology?  Is it a comet headed straight for Earth?

Well, it’s not quite as bad as any of these things—but it is a little unsettling.

Coined by Seth Ulinski on the Chief Martec blog—notorious for their overloaded infographics that visualize the astronomical growth of marketing technology—dark martec is homegrown or internally built marketing technology. In some cases this could mean a more advanced system built internally, in other cases, it could essentially mean using spreadsheets.

Apparently, despite the incredible number of marketing technology solutions out there—and the sheer amount of data that marketers now have the privilege of dealing with—the majority of marketers are using homegrown solutions rather than investing in marketing technology.

According to a TBR’s 2H15 Digital Marketing Services Customer Research, an average of 52% of the 224 marketers surveyed were using ‘internally managed’ or homegrown martec. This ranged in type from data management platforms to marketing operations to programmatic advertising, as can be seen in the graph below.

Dark Martec Chart

Additionally, this same survey by TBR found that fewer than 20% of the companies associated with the marketers surveyed had fully implemented marketing technology solutions.

The large gap between the percentage of marketers who are using a tech vendor and those who are choosing to use homegrown technology solutions has serious implications for the adoption of marketing technology and for the ability of marketers to scale with agility.

Why Does Dark Martec Exist and What Does it Mean for Marketers?

It may seem that the adoption of marketing technology tools is a much simpler and easier solution than the DIY approach that apparently many marketers are taking. And it is—in the long term.

In the short term, though, sticking with the familiar and sticking with that which is controlled internally may seem like the safer, easier option. After all, who really has the time to deal with sifting through the 2,233% increase in marketing technology companies?

Plus, siloed marketing departments and fragmented budgets can make it hard to go all in on a piece of technology. Especially when that piece of technology has a pretty substantial price tag. Couple all of those elements with potentially outdated thinking from senior executives and the discomfort and confusion caused by marketing technology in the early stages of adoption, and you end up with the numbers that TBR found.

Most of these perceived advantages—such as being more personalized and cost-efficient—of sticking with old-school options are nothing compared to the benefits of taking the marketing technology plunge. Plus, the perceived advantages of homegrown marketing technology don’t exactly weigh out their disadvantages, which include being clunky and overly technical—both of which can actually decrease adoption within an organization. Homegrown technology options also lack the value added benefits that come with working with a technology vendor.

Finally, and most importantly, the extreme customization of internally built technology solutions can actually be a hindrance. Because a specific instance of homegrown marketing technology is typically built for an organization’s specific need at a specific time in its history, once an organization begins to grow and change it can actually be extremely difficult for dark martec to stay relevant. In other words, it’s simply not scalable.

Marketing technology provided by tech vendors, on the other hand, is built to be customized while retaining scalability.

Bringing Marketing Technology into the Light: IT and Marketing Alignment

When it comes to marketing technology, true adoption is going to come from the top thanks to the massive investment involved. Of course, adoption can also be squelched at the top through the aforementioned outdated thinking from senior executives. The solution? A technologically minded Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) or, even better, a Chief Marketing Technologist (CMT). The success of both of these roles, though, depends on an organizational structure that allows for collaboration between technologists and marketers.

While the role of the CMT is still somewhat in its infancy, there has been a positive correlation found between a company’s having a CMT and its pattern of marketing technology adoption. (Chief Martec) According to Inc., a CMT is “the ultimate culmination between the chief marketing officer (CMO) role and the chief information officer (CIO) role…Naturally, the person best suited to collapse the marketing and technology functions within your company is someone who has been trained to handle both.”

If your organization isn’t ready to up and hire a CMT tomorrow—or, better yet, even if they are—breaking down walls between marketing and IT will be essential to the proper adoption of marketing technology. With the increased need for powerful marketing technology stacks to stay ahead of the game, working well with your IT team is essential.

Marketing and IT Alignment Models

The myriad of ways that organizations can foster marketing and IT alignment is nearly as extensive as the number of marketing technologies. Take, for example, Chief Martec’s 14 models for breaking walls between marketing and IT.

IT and Marketing Alignment

What works for your organization may look exactly like one of the models above or it may be tweaked based on your specific needs. By facilitating open communication, though, you’ll be well on your way to a world-class CMT as well as a world-class marketing technology stack.


Homegrown marketing technology may still be working for your organization for the time being. It may even still be functional in the next few years. The more time that passes, though, the more that organizations that have not adopted proper marketing technology will appear clunky and slow to evolve next to their competitors.

Dark martec will only get you so far. If your company has plans to prosper in coming years, marketing technology adoption—and thus IT alignment—will be a necessity.

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Did you like this post? Let us know why (or why not) in the comments. In the meantime, check out our blog Blurred Lines: The De-Silo-Ing of Marketing to discover why breaking down organizational silos is key to staying agile and ahead of your competition.

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