Posted on: 5 December 2016 By: Ray

In an article of December 1, entitled “Five Disruptions to Marketing, Part 1: Digital Transformation” (Blog edited by Scott Brinker since 2008) explains some of the processes underway in the digital business world. In this first part of a series, the author deals with “Digital transformation” which redefines marketing beyond the marketing department. The article concludes we may see a “democratization” of marketing throughout companies, just as we saw the “democratization” of the use of information technologies.

The article states that marketing is concerned by each of the five major disruptions affecting the whole industry and profession, and that these will grow in magnitude over the next 12 months.

Fully owning customer experiences and the growth they generate

It defines five “stages” (see graph below) of businesses evolving towards digitalization, ranging from digital “laggards, discoverers, marketers, transformers to digital natives”. At the top end of the range are the “digital natives — Amazon, Facebook, Netflix, Spotify, Uber, etc. — who have grown their businesses almost entirely through “marketing” in the digital domain”. It describes how they “build their digital products to optimize for customer experience: easy to try, delightful to use, compelling to upgrade, valuable to share, effortless to keep, and ever-evolving to meet changing preferences and expectations.”


They have “vertically integrated” digitalization in their operations, rather than it being a “wrapper”, restricted to the marketing department (web marketing, email marketing, search engine marketing, social media marketing, etc.).  This has led a number of businesses to “outsource big chunks of marketing” to specialized firms. The article encourages businesses in the earlier four stages of development to progress along this learning curve or risk losing out. But “many companies are still discovering the basics of digital marketing.”

So “digital natives” have integrated marketing at all levels of their business. Although they still have marketing departments, these tend to be limited to communications activities that have classically defined marketing’s scope of operations. They’re generally not in charge of customer experience.

“democratization of marketing”

The article recommends that marketing and product merge organizationally, suggesting this is what “has been happening in firms where a chief digital officer (CDO) or chief customer officer (CCO) is orchestrating customer experiences — or in companies where the CMO explicitly owns digital commerce or customer experience.” It refers to the latest CMO report from Gartner showing this is the case for a large number of companies.


The author argues that just “as we witnessed the democratization of IT — where many departments directly manage their own technology under the governance of, and with some central services from, IT — we could see the democratization of marketing. Sales, customer service, billing, and product teams will all have explicit marketing components of what they do — product most of all — which they will manage themselves. Marketing will provide governance of the brand and offer shared services and technologies to support them.”

The next article in this series examines the second “disruption” caused by digitalization : Part 2: Microservices & APIs.

The five disruptions of marketing due to digitalization suggests are:

  • Digital transformation
  • Microservices & APIs
  • Vertical competition
  • “Digital everything”
  • Artificial intelligence

The blog is edited by Scott Brinker since 2008. Scott graduated from Columbia University with a BS in computer science. Thereafter he got an MBA from MIT and a master’s degree in computer science from Harvard University.


5 Disruptions to Marketing, Part 1: Digital Transformation”, 1 December,


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