I smiled at this the other day -“Software Developers: The New Rock Stars of Marketing” – it comes from the article  ‘Out of the Box’ published a few weeks ago in the UK Financial Times, that talks about the role of technology in marketing in the new media age. The smile is because this is pinned up on the kitchen noticeboard in our Bristol office and that phrase is highlighted (can someone explain why developers always sit nearest the kitchen?). So has the geek inherited the earth? Well, marketing anyway…

Later on I found myself flicking through the pages of an old June edition of Information Age and this jumped out at me: “online gadget retailer ‘I Want One of Those’  has merged its marketing and systems development departments”.

Just to give the Information Age article the correct context, it was titled “Welcome to the Service Department” and was using ‘I Want One of Those’ (IWOOT) as an example of SOA (Service Orientated Architecture) and that it “spells the end of IT departments as we know it”.

It’s the IT press so excuse it’s SOA geekiness – but it made an interesting point: Aside from mixing the seemingly oil and water of developers and marketers (a combination we call Alterian!) that a company’s technology experts are becoming focused on helping execute business processes and more specifically (as in the article from the FT) these guys are the differentiation in marketing communications. According to Tom Bedecarré, chief executive of AKQA:

Software engineers are the new rock stars of marketing

In the context of persuasive content, or web engagement – I talk about the fact that marketing should think about having the same relationship with IT as they do with a printer, that they own the website, the same way as they own a brochure (the printer doesn’t own it).

This sounds a bit dull, for any techie folks reading this – being compared with what we have come to think of as a ubiquitous, inanimate object – a printer. Or maybe you thinking of the chap that does your printing, that hurries over to marketing with some proofs and with whom you compare pantone colours with.

But if the bright geeks like the ones at Siemens hadn’t invented the color ink jet in the 50’s (more here), paving the way for color printers for the masses, then every brochure would be bespoke, created by a different kind of dull stuff geek, forged through a rigid process and extraordinarily expensive – especially when your CEO, the market, the competitors, whoever – decides that just as they get delivered – actually blue is the new black.

Nowadays the brochure printing business is driven by creative business users, with desktop tools and an Internet connection or a USB stick. Marketing and advertising collateral can be personalised, with specific offers, specific products and seasonal greetings. The high end brochure guys are still doing expensive bespoke stuff, that your printer can’t do – but now your brochure is sprung loaded box with rabbits coming out of it.

The same is true of digital marketing technologies, of course we’ve been through the phase of the geeks doing the dull stuff, (like marking up text into HTML and arranging those pages into websites) they’ve created tools that business users can use for that. We are in a new age of web personalisation, where the business user, the visitors behavior and preferences can drive their experience. Meanwhile the equivalent of that bespoke brochure box with rabbits jumping out of it – is the coolest Flash thing you’ve ever seen.

The geeks have also been hard at work with building new platforms and channels – like social media – and tools for how we make best use of those channels with social media monitoring tools. Access to these tools, the democratisation of the channel means that according to the FT – “digital is only just emerging from the basement” and “only now are digital agencies taking the lead on large client accounts”.

They can do that now as the creative folks can mix it up with the geeks, they’ve got the tools and a common platform. Information Week might call it SOA and we might call it a Web Content Management, Twitter, Integrated Marketing, YouTube, Dynamic Messenger, Adobe InDesign, Social Media Monitoring or an “automated system for planning and buying media space” – they are all tools that the empower the business user and make the developers and implementers of these tools essential.

Yes my friends, treat your geeks like rock stars – and I am off to get that quote enlarged and framed, hang it outside the kitchen of all of our offices…

The picture of the non conformant XML tattoo comes from here reproduced under Creative Commons License.