The Evolution Continues: The Platformization of Marketing

George Musi, EVP – Head of Data, Technology, Analytics and Insights
George Musi, EVP – Head of Data, Technology, Analytics and Insights

George Musi, EVP – Head of Data, Technology, Analytics and Insights

We are currently experiencing the most transformative industrial revolution ever: Industry 4.0or the connected age. The Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) is driven by the convergence of data, quantum computing, artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, the Internet of Things (IoT), autonomous vehicles, 3-D printing, wearable devices, virtual reality, human-computer integration, nanotechnology, biotechnology, materials science, energy storage, and universal connectivity. The 4IR is characterized by a fusion of technologies that is blurring the lines between the physical, digital, and biological spheres. This 4IRhas connected everything and everybody and has fundamentally altered the way people live, work, and relate to one another.

The shift to constant connectivity is providing brands with the new opportunities to find, engage, activate and retain customers. However, whilst the playing field has changed and become increasingly complex, the business objective is unchanged—drive growth, innovation, and ROI. Marketing’s objective also remains the same—endeavor to get the right message to the right person at the right time in the right channel and context. So—right person, right message, right time, right place/context, eight simple words—yet a whole load of complexity in getting it right.

So, in order to take on the challenge, brands must transform and modernize their organizations. Undergoing a business transformation is a daunting and complex effort that requires a comprehensive evaluation of data, analytics, models, technology platforms, people, structures, systems, processes, operations and capabilities. The main objective is to identity the opportunities across all aspects of business—various departments inside and outside the CMO’s domain—with the goal of enabling a more connected, collaborative, cohesive, streamlined and intelligent ecosystem—i.e. become far more integrated across back-, middle-, and front-office—to deliver more personalized offerings, relevant and tailored communications and relevant experiences across the entire consumer lifecycle. The idea is to move from structured and linear to fluid and interconnected and removing friction from the processes.

In an overload of marketing messages, consumer offers and choice, and pressure to deliver business results—making marketing activity as impactful as possible has never been more important. Today’s CMOs have recognized the need to transform their marketing organization (e.g. changing how marketing thinks and behaves) and establish the next-gen marketing organization—modernizing the marketing culture, organization, and skill sets to be insight-driven; enabling true enterprise mar/ adtech platforms to transform the customer experience; providing a consistent, high-quality experience at every touch point along the decision journeys; re-thinking agency and partner ecosystems to optimize execution; and relentlessly balancing art and data (science) to achieve the optimal brand-based experience.

Marketers are spending a significant amount of their time at the intersection of the marketing function and the data, analytics and technology platforms that powers it, in order to find, engage, activate and retain customers. Marketers realized that, in order to compete, they needed to invest in technology. Marketing leaders have invested a lot of resources (money, time and people) in developing their mar/adtech architectures and integration strategies. According to Gartner (CMO Spend Survey 2018-19), mar/adtech now takes up 29% of the average CMO’s budget. This makes mar/adtech the single largest area of investment (followed by labor, paid media and agency fees) when it comes to marketing resources and programs.

Most marketers have adopted a range of mar/adtech best-of-breed point solutions for specific requirements independently from each other over many years (given what was available at that point in time). By investing in platform after platform to serve purely as segmented focal points, marketers unwittingly built walls around themselves. There is a paradox at the heart of this situation: at a time when the mart/adtech landscape and consumer journeys are more complex and fractured than ever, brands require informed simplicity and cohesion. There is an ongoing shift toward a unified technology stack that can create end-to-end customer experiences.

Enterprise marketing technology platforms (EMTP) like Oracle, Adobe, Salesforce, IBM, Microsoft, and SAP Hybris have been focused on investment, innovation and integration in order to serve as the connective tissue that brands need to intelligently orchestrate the entire customer experience (e.g. provide a single marketing service covering customer acquisition, conversion and retention activities). The EMTP providers have been acquiring mar/adtech and building it into their platforms in recent years. Through a series of acquisitions (some significant)of disparate technology point solutions and integration with their existing offerings and allowing independent solutions to be built natively on their platforms (i.e. they have an open architecture and platform extensibility to make it easier for marketers to plug specialized capabilities into a common mar/ad tech backbone), the EMTP providers have broadened their central cloud offerings.

EMTP providers aim to offer marketers tightly integrated mar/adtech solutions that cover a wide range of functions: data (1st, 2nd and 3rd-party sources); data mining; data management platform (DMP); customer data platform (CDP); enterprise data warehouses (EDW); reporting dashboards / data visualization; social monitoring; analytics, attribution and measurement; artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML); performance algorithms; web and app experience design, management and optimization; testing; audience segmentation and management; campaign orchestration; paid media management (ad serving, bid management and paid search, social, video, display management); targeting and campaign optimization; eCommerce; customer relationship management (CRM); tag management system (TMS); content management system (CMS); content creation; creative versioning / dynamic creative optimization (DCO); customer profiling and identity resolution; device graph; search (SEO); social engagement; email marketing; enterprise resource planning (ERP); retail POS; IoT; etc. However, both the level of integration and the completeness of offering vary massively from vendor to vendor.

It is vital not to get too carried away with mar/adtech solutions, as brands (and their agencies) still need to produce creative magic. The uniqueness that creativity brings to the table and its decision-making process should not be marginalized by data and mar/adtech. Mar/Adtech empowers creative thinking—it does not in any way reduce the importance of a very strong creative idea that is tied to a strategy and then executed through technology and data. Advertising that comprises such elements as brand value, storytelling(a core tent of effective advertising), and other more experiential tactics will always need a human driver. Brands need to combine the creative side of the discipline—using powerful narratives to tap into people’s needs, desires and aspirations— with the technical side of data, technology and analytics, to develop and implement marketing strategies that transform the way they interact with and engage consumers, ultimately helping them reach tangible goals. Most brands excel at the art of marketing; creating clear messaging campaigns that elevates awareness, consideration, and purchase intent for the brand. But, brands need to more fully codify a strategy that can constantly guide marketing to support a brand’s overall company goals. To do this, a brand must develop a unified mar/adtech platform that could effectively mix the art and the science of marketing and advertising. It’s important for brands to balance data and technology with humanity, to still allow emotions and culture to influence the decisions they make.

As the 4IR continues to develop, the key to success will be evolving marketing/advertising and business operations simultaneously(given their interdependence).Today’s CMO— who’s scope is widening to include chief growth officer or chief business officer—needs to be a hybrid change agent who understands how marketing, technology and business intersect, can bridge gaps and disparities, educate all disciplines, and ultimately help create a stronger company. CMOs should think business first, marketing second. Marketing is a business, not just a division that supports a business. What can come out of this mind-set change are key transformation pillars which could act as guide posts for the future activities of marketing and advertising.

Brands should see the transformation journey as a longer-term commitment, driven by a clear vision and supported by empowered executives across the organization. Transformation isn’t a destination. Brands should always be asking, “What’s next in our evolution?”

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