The Digital Marketing Stack: Overview

Chad Kearns, Vice President of Marketing Services

This series was originally written by Ian Lurie in 2015 and updated by Chad Kearns in 2020.

The Marketing Stack is how we approach marketing at Portent. It was created by Portent’s founder, Ian Lurie, and continues to guide our approach to building marketing solutions for our agency clients.

This five-post series explains the Stack as a whole, then piece-by-piece, breaking down the elements and channels, explaining how they build on each other, and how they are intertwined in each other’s success.

If you want to skip ahead, here’s a link to each section:

Part 1: The Digital Marketing Stack ← You are here
Part 2: Infrastructure
Part 3: Analytics
Part 4: Content
Part 5: The Channels – Paid, Earned and Owned

Let’s dive in.

The Digital Marketing Stack

Digital marketing is a ridiculous pile of stuff. It can quickly become chaotic and complex.

Don’t get me wrong; marketing’s chaotic nature is important.

The Stack is one way to impose a little order over everything that we do as marketers.


The bottom three layers are the elements of digital marketing. All three are essential to everything that you do as a digital marketer. If you leave one of the elements out, your job becomes nearly impossible.

The top layer of the Stack contains the digital marketing channels that exist to amplify your brand. We communicate with our audience through paid, earned, and owned media. At a high level, think PPC marketing on Google or Facebook (paid media), SEO rankings and traffic (earned media), and email marketing (owned media).


The Stack is designed to show the dependencies that these elements and channels have on each other. If the bottom of the Stack is weak, your marketing will probably erode.

Every layer depends on the layers around it.

Lousy infrastructure — a slow or unsecured site — will suck the life out of everything you do. Without analytics, you’ll have to guess at what’s working and what isn’t. Content is everything that connects you to your audience. Without it, there would be nothing for you to amplify through your channel mix.

As marketers, we must be aware of all the elements and channels. Sure, we’ll have our areas of expertise within the Stack, but a holistic understanding of how it all fits together is crucial.


The Stack also shows convection: your audience moves up and down through the Stack as they interact with you, accessing your content via channels and infrastructure set up, providing you with analytics data along the way.


Marketers must understand and equip themselves to influence each element and channel of the Stack. Ignore any of the elements, and it will be hard to get traction anywhere. Embrace the channels to find the right mix required to reach your audience when and where they need you.

Note: We have a Marketing Stack Explorer if you want to see it all in one, interactive chunk.

Part 1: The Digital Marketing Stack ← You are here
Part 2: Infrastructure
Part 3: Analytics
Part 4: Content
Part 5: The Channels – Paid, Earned and Owned

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