Forget Shadow IT. Here Comes Shadow Marketing.

For marketers, the vacuum is the gap between what marketing supplies and others demand. How do you scale to better serve internal constituents?

IT used to be a local monopoly. Not unlike the cable company, you were subject to the pace of their process. But then demand reached a tipping point and public cloud alternatives entered the game.

Shadow IT was born.

Business lines simply followed the path of least resistance. These public clouds became the escape valve for pent up demand. Today, in a sense, the same thing is happening to marketing organizations.

Forget shadow IT; here comes shadow marketing.

In this context, the tipping point is the collision of a supremely content-hungry discipline and the combinatorial cost and complexity of serving and supporting a portfolio of brands, channels and local markets. Compounding the pressure is the need to execute at two speeds: a traditional campaign-driven rhythm together with a continuous cadence that asks marketers to engage audiences in the moment.

Most marketers simply aren’t equipped to keep up.

That’s when demand follows the path of least resistance. Look around and you’ll see evidence of shadow marketing organizations operating in your midst. Sales teams, partners and distributors, regional and local sales and marketing organizations—they’re all feeding the beast where you can’t.

And you can’t really blame them for it. They’re trying to rise above the noise, to earn the right to their own audiences’ attention. They’re just trying to compete. And like those business lines that did that inglorious end-run around your IT department, it’s certainly nothing personal. They’re just filling in where, perhaps, you’re falling down.

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It may sound like a harsh indictment. It may sound like some sort of fait accompli for marketers, a gloomy prediction of your inevitable disintermediation. Frankly, it’s not meant to be either of these things. Just as many IT organizations became cloud brokers and cloud operators in their own rights, many marketing organizations are, indeed, rising to the challenge. Like their CIO counterparts, CMOs are learning to accelerate and scale to better serve internal constituents, to tamp down shadow marketing.

But just as IT has learned, the shadow is merely a symptom of the root cause; it will persist until you shine light on the actual problem. You can’t will the shadow away or defeat it by edict or policy.

Aristotle said that nature abhors a vacuum; when space is created, one way or another, it’s quickly filled in. For marketers, the vacuum is the yawning gap between what marketing supplies and others demand.

As Ross Perot once colorfully illustrated, these sorts of things are generally met by a giant sucking sound. In this case, that’s the sound of shadow marketers filling the void, doing whatever it takes to feed the beast.


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