TMW #086 | The shortcut economy (episode 3)

Jun 13, 2022

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Here’s the week in Martech:

  • The shortcut economy (episode 3). The thrilling conclusion to the three-part series
  • The SaaS crash. Software has lost over $1 trillion in value since November
  • Salesforce launches “NFT Cloud.” They are either 6 months late or 5 years early
  • Everything else: WWDC, the DOJ steps into Web3, the end of borderless data, DALL-E and the art revolution, relationship marketing, the identity landscape, socially responsible ads, and sentient AI

✍ Commentary

The shortcut economy (episode 3).

Today, in the last installment of the shortcut economy, I have a question for you. I argued in episodes one and two of the shortcut economy that the premise of most of what we call Martech is about monetizing (economy) a company’s lack of capability by building products to get around many of today’s challenges with data and technology (shortcut).

My question for you is this - will the future of the industry have more shortcutting technologies or less? Without a doubt, this is a big question, but one we must answer if we are to truly understand if Martech really does have a future in its current state.

Hold on to your seat folks because in this thrilling, final chapter I will look at several angles on how marketing technology will continue to circumvent the enterprise for many years to come.

Martech is purchased because companies haven’t built their own software to enable marketers to participate in the digital economy. A marketer using the internet looked very different in 2000, to 2010, and in 2020, and with every decade it has brought us significant shifts in data, channel, content, and strategy.

Most of the world's most successful companies have been around long before the vast majority of marketing technologies came online with the internet. Because of this, there are many seasoned marketers out there that have worked through the various waves of change in each iteration of the internet.

Through each step, on the whole, most of these marketers become a little bit more capable, and hopefully a little wiser. One way to think about the future of Martech is to analyze the future of marketing technology capability through the ages.

The future of capability

For most companies that can afford marketing technologies, there is a distinct curve of maturity. At first, there’s the proof of concept. Say there’s a company wanting to start AB testing, usually there’s a very limited amount of investment, driven by simple apps and a single person who can do most things end to end. After a few months and if there’s value they move on to building a team, investing in more complex and capable AB testing platforms, and then finally to onboarding an engineering team to insource experimentation with its own custom tooling and capability.

Over time as a company understands and validates the technologies that marketers need to use, more technical people get involved to make things work and follow best practices. As the obvious use cases are solved, technical complexity becomes a more logical path to value. It’s the slow, messy and arduous task of proving value over a long-time horizon that is the engine of capability building in Martech.

Over this time horizon, something happens when companies come to overly rely on marketing technologies. They quickly discover that there’s a different type of capability needed to integrate various apps and software to make marketing work in a holistic way.

This is where companies go in one of two directions; they build a Martech-specific department to manage all the apps, or they absorb functions, capabilities, and strategy into engineering and IT teams. Technology native companies do the latter, while non-native technology companies do the former.

Let’s say it takes 15 years for most companies operating today to reach a golden age of marketing technology capability. As each company matures, and eventually, if Martech is doing its job, it is playing an important role in growing brands, then is it reasonable to assume that most of what we call Martech today will become obsolete? Can we reasonably expect that every company will become a technology company, that replaces shortcut apps with real data and technology mastery?

There’s one corner of the industry that can help answer these questions – No Code.

The No Code to No Skills pipeline

No Code is one specific category of technology that is built on the idea that the future will be filled with people that won’t need technical skills like HTML and Javascript. No Code represents, perhaps, the greatest shortcut of them all, getting a nerd to do your homework for you. Don’t tell me you didn’t do this in high school, I see you.

The No Code movement has recognized that for most people, and especially marketers, a layer of abstraction is needed to build on top of the internet we have today. It’s hard to see in any future where coding languages and technical software skills will have the same ubiquity as written language or generalized maths.

Can you really imagine marketers needing to learn R Studio or how to compile an app to do their job? The shortcut economy exists because there’s a technical vacuum in marketing. There’s a technical vacuum because marketers shouldn’t have to learn how to code.

While No Code has an important role in helping marketers build their own tools, the future of the shortcut economy will be about the expansion of the kinds of things a company can automate. Last week I talked about how shortcut-enabling technologies follow in the wake of innovation. With each innovation trigger, there’s a new category of technology to make the most of it, and right now that trigger is set on automating human creativity and language.

I can build and deploy a web application in three days without any code, I have DALL-E 2 that can create thousands of custom illustrations in seconds, I have that can write and optimize my marketing copy and I have attribution software like that can tell me where to focus my ad budget. The shortcut economy is not just one of cutting shapes out of technologies that companies can build themselves, but rather shortcutting the essential skills of marketers.

As I mentioned in TMW #078, in the great abstraction, it makes a ton of sense for companies to replace expensive marketers with No Code operators that orchestrate a variety of intelligent tools that replace marketing skills. If the advent of AI continues at pace, then the shortcut economy will result in the atomization of marketing into technology products that only a small group will manage at scale. Think of it like this. Who wouldn't want to hire a thousand marketers constantly creating content, optimizing it, and running campaigns 24/7?

How will anyone know what it good copy looks like? Or when designs communicate something impactful with clarity? We won’t need to if the atomization of marketing goes anywhere near mainstream adoption. The competitive advantage becomes a game of who can harness technology to its best abilities and at scale. If No Code has the potential to unseat the website developer, then her No Skill sister has the potential to unseat the creative talents of marketers everywhere. This, dear reader might be the greatest shortcut of them all.

The future is multivariate

It’s hard to see it today, but as technology both becomes more complex and abstracted, we’ll need fewer technologies than what we have today and more people with the right kinds of judgment to use them. In other words, we will need mastermind shortcutters.

A company’s Martech capability is not a static thing that moves up a level every year, it’s more of a temperature check to see how teams are responding to economic and technological change around them. In 2019 if I presented something about building a Metaverse café using VR and crypto tokens to a client, I would have been fired. But in 2022 companies are investing millions to build things exactly like this.

Many technologies in Martech are like flowers, they bloom in the wake of innovation, and they die out just as quickly. If you’ve been reading along all this time, you may have an idea that a shortcut is a bad thing. But in Martech it’s the opposite, it’s how you leverage the innovation that others create in the marketing economy.

That’s why the technologies that help us create shortcuts are multivariate and always changing. The future is bright for those who see the shortcut economy as a strategic way to deal with change quickly and capture value efficiently.

This three-part series was an experiment. How did you find it? Loved it. Was ok.Meh.

📈Chart Of The Week  

The SaaS crash. Over $1 trillion in value has been wiped out of the SaaS industry since November. The bigger story here is the path out of COVID-19 and how so many technology companies have not prepared for it. Did we really think that our use of the internet would not change out of lockdowns and public health threats?  Link

📰 Latest Developments

Salesforce officially launches NFT cloud. They are about 6 months behind the hype cycle but are impressively fast at shipping something like this for an enterprise B2B SaaS company. That Salesforce is now saying that companies can “launch NFT projects from your CRM” really throws into question what this company is actually about. It’s getting blurrier every day. Link

WWDC. Apple’s developer conference happened this week. Outside of new hardware updates, the company announced Apple Pay Later, a BNPL product that will work seamlessly with Apple Pay. Some of this is about the cultural acceptance of BNPL products as a form of payment similar to how the credit card took a decade for them to go mainstream. This is also Apple’s way of taking an increasing slice of retail revenue while collecting more purchase data from their customers (remember that Apple is rivaling Amazon as a walled garden advertiser). Interestingly Apple did not roll out any major data privacy changes, which is a welcome sigh of relief for Adland. Links: APPLE PAY LATER, PRIVACY.

More bad news for Web3. One of the core founding team members of OpenSea is charged with insider trading NFTs by accessing when projects will be promoted on the homepage and buying projects early. This is the first time there has been a DOJ indictment for digital asset insider trading, which should chill a lot of the behavior in web3. Bloomberg also ran a story of the fallout of Axie Infinity, the front-running crypto “play-to-earn” game which, since its November hype, has shed significant value and bankrupted professional players on the platform. Links: OPENSEA, AXIE INFINITY.

📚 Reading

The end of borderless data. A good picture of the global changes in data collection, processing, and sharing. There’s a word for what’s coming – digital sovereignty. The idea that data collected on someone should stay in the country of origin is gaining traction. Link

DALL-E and the art revolution. There’s been an unending feed of crazy AI generative art thanks to OpenAI granting greater accessibility to their DALL-2 text-based artwork app and the release of a mini version anyone can use right away. Right now these tools look more like toys. For example, I saw a prompt today asking the software to generate art of “Thomas the Tank Engine in a burrito” and another of “Spider Man from Ancient Rome.” The technology, however funny and strange, is also a seriously powerful form of disruption for the visual side of the creative industry. This piece unpacks some of the potential effects. Link

Data governance: A bird’s eye view. An interesting view on building data governance practices in the enterprise from my mates at The Lumery. Like most companies, data is about as siloed as governance is, and coming up with a holistic understanding of what you mean by “data” can help companies grapple with how to manage it. Link

🔢 Data & Insights

Relationship marketing. There’s growing research suggesting that consumers are becoming less trusting in social media advertising and more responsive to direct channels and loyalty programs. A new report adds to the picture from Aussie Martech legends Adam Posner and Teresa Sperti. Link

B2B webinars are back? This is research that challenges some of the trends around returning to in-person events. Two-thirds of business leaders prefer attending events virtually. A lot of events are now about over-indexing on network or content, doing both is not going to work. Link

The identity landscape. A holistic picture of technologies that facilitate customer identity. Link

💡 Ideas

Socially responsible ads. A very interesting company that generates ad revenue for the purpose of donating it to various world charities. Would you watch more ads if you know that your attention is helping kids get vaccinated for measles, or if it feeds families in need? Link

Yep. Another Google Search competitor. This time, with a focus on diverting ad revenue back into the creator economy. The new search engine is powered by Ahrefs, an SEO analytics company with an advantage given its already huge search database. If Google didn’t already own the search market, Yep’s market position could be considered anti-competitive. Link

India’s open eCommerce framework. A non-profit, government organization that will aggregate India’s eCommerce product listings into a single view. This is an interesting response to Amazon’s growing influence in Asia. Link

✨ Weird and Wonderful

Sentient AI. An absolutely insane story about a Google engineer who recently was let go because he started believing that an AI project, LaMDA became conscious after a series of text-based conversations with it.  Link

Pride month, profile pictures, and hypocrisy. It’s that time of year, folks. Link

Neal Stephenson on the metaverse. A thread from the guy who literally created the idea in the 1992 novel Snow Crash. The most fascinating thing about this thread is the idea that 3D worlds were never meant to be experienced through 2D screens and “keyboards that were designed for mechanical typewriters.” Whatever the metaverse will become, it will be led by hardware, not software. Link

Stay Curious,

Make sense of marketing technology.

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Juan Mendoza

Juan Mendoza is an expert in researching global media, marketing, data, and technology trends. He is the CEO of The Martech Weekly, a media and research brand with subscribers in over 65 countries.

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