Martech entrepreneurs to drive a second industrial revolution

We should be concerned with very large parts of our industry having a near monopoly, [m]Platform's global chief strategy officer argues.

It’s that time of year again. You can tell it’s Spring because Scott Brinker has released his latest view of the martech landscape – looking ever more like a ‘tech brand soup’.   

It’s called the "Martech 5,000" and shows all the different technology companies that a marketer can choose from just to get their message, service or product and news across to their customers. Being called the Martech 5,000, it looks like a nightmare of choice.

Despite the 5,000 label, it’s actually worse than that with 6,829 logos, up from 150 on the original back in 2011. It spans advertising and promotion through to talent management, project and budget management. In fact, the only technology I see that is missing would be the coffee machine that I am sure is present at every stage and discipline.   

And there have been many negative comments in response. Not on the graphic itself, but what it implies.    

I’ve heard comments ranging from shock, a lack of progress, the woes of the layers of tech just to do some marketing ("tech tax" anyone?), the fear of unknown arbitrage, fear of fraud, to being aghast at the complexity.   

There is no doubt some fairness in the reaction, but there is also another perspective.  

With a growth of 45x, I see is a sector rich with entrepreneurialism.  It shows new companies springing up at every corner. 93% of the featured organisations are small to medium private companies and around half of that being classified as investor funded start-ups.  

Our economies desperately need these entrepreneurs to keep driving a second industrial revolution. They are creating new industry, new skills and new ways of making a living, replacing the old and declining industries. These entrepreneurs have been empowered by the falling costs of entry to cloud processing and the rising technology skills of younger generations.

This is scalable and accessible entrepreneurialism. Everything about this is a very good thing.

Here is a healthy market full of choice for the buyer. There are so many companies baying for your business, and we all know that restricted markets with few players are bad for everyone accept the dominant few.

But behind all this is much contradiction. On one hand the advertising and marketing communities are bemoaning the duopoly, the FANGs… then on the other hand they are horrified by the number of companies available to them.  

Writing about the latest version of the landscape, Martech Today actively encourages single company solutions, stating that "marketers shouldn’t have to string together six to eight providers to reach their goals". It doesn’t take a lot of thought to work out how that ends up and with whom.

Like most humans, of course I want a simplified way of working, but I am not totally comfortable with a single dominant company providing (and therefore extracting value) at every step. Reliance on one player breeds vulnerability.

To me, we need to ensure healthy competition remains so these entrepreneurs are able to thrive.

There are, of course, very large parts of our industry where there is a near monopoly and parts where we have a clear duopoly. This is rightly cause for concern and potentially action and regulation, but you can’t see this in the Martech 5000.

What it does show is there is plenty of opportunity to challenge market dominance, if you feel strongly enough about it.

For me the real thing to take out of Scott Brinker’s latest view is a point about the competency of the mar-tech or ad-tech buyer.

If you are a buyer of mar-tech and ad-tech and anything else on the Martech 5,000, then you better make sure you are informed enough to buy.  Don’t react negatively to it. Instead, get some training, read everything you can, meet with lots of companies just to chat and learn and keep learning. Have no shame in what you don’t know and ask questions – lots of them.

Don’t assume that everyone is trying to rob you (most are just start ups) but do use your commercial savvy to work out where the money is being made – and that applies to a single provider as much as multiples. And most crucially, read all the small print of any tech vendor you buy - read it with detailed attention, asking questions about it all the way.  

And my final thought…   

If you are a young person thinking about university or higher education, then Web Sciences is a very healthy market full of opportunity and demand, where you can work for the big guns or start up from your garage. There are not many sectors that offer that range of options.  Web Sciences would be my choice.

Jenny Bullis is global chief strategy Officer for  at Group M


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