The Monday Stack: A Healthcare Platform, a Consumer Graph

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Stack logo by Hilary Allison
Stack logo by Hilary Allison

With DMN headed to Adobe Summit this week, IBM gave us a preview of what they're calling a "marketing transformation solution," the IBM Marketing Catalyst from IBM iX, a division of the tech giant focused on intelligent business design and customer experience.

The Marketing Catalyst as launched, it should be said, is a solution specifically for the healthcare and life sciences sector, and one based around some Adobe tools. The application of the concept is, however, potentially much broader, as a way of helping brands negotiate the marketing technology jungle. I asked Paul Stoddart, VP and partner, IBM digital practice, about the vision for Marketing Catalyst.

"Our clients come to us and say, 'Hey, you have to help simplify things for us.' There are probably around 7,000 marketing tools. Clients want to understand how to accelerate on what they're doing, and what tools they should be using." They want something "customizable and future-proof, and really applicable to the industry they're in."

Marketing Catalyst is specific to healthcare, "although you could argue that it could be used across other industries as well; but certainly in healthcare there are the constraints of something like HIPAA." (The initial launch is geared to the U.S. healthcare market.) What does it mean for healthcare organizationds? "For the first time, they can use Adobe Experience Cloud, pre-integrated, so they don't have to go through the complexity and cost; HIPAA-ready; and with a simplified pricing model."

Why not just deploy the Adobe solution? Why go via Marketing Catalyst? "The traditional approach would be to start with Adobe Experience Manager. Once we've got that configured and working, we might introduce Analytics. Then we're going to implement, maybe Campaign. That's a very sequential way of going about things, and can take a very long time. Catalyst is taking five products from the Adobe Experience Cloud: AEM, Campaign, Target, Audience Manager, and Adobe Analytics, integrating them together so we know they work; put them on an IBM cloud, which is HIPAA-enabled. It's a subscription to something which is already pre-built. It still means there's work to be done. There always is."

IBM does add some secret sauce of its own, by making Watson's capabilities available in Catalyst "to take it to the next level of personalization." For example, Watson Weather FX (remember the Weather Company integration?) is being leveraged to "cross reference geography-based weather data and claims data" to set up health-related alerts in the system (specifically, Target). "If we see something happening from a weather perspective, your marketing campaign can automatically kick in." If the pollen is high, you can address a defined segment of asthma sufferers with relevant messaging. 

The healthcare market, Stoddart acknowlegded, presents real opportunities because, for such a large sector, it's comparatively behind in terms of CRM, content marketing, and other tools. They want to make "the massive jump" to catch up with their commercial peers, without it taking 10 years, and without creating regulatory problems.

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DMN has tracked the evolution over the years of Michigan-based Valassis from a coupon and direct mail vendor to a broad-based intelligent media delivery offering. We noted the acquisition, in August 2017, of the campaign-powering DMP Maxpoint, and just last week had the chance to speak with Pehr Luedtke, SVP of Valassis Digital,about the first fruit of the merger; namely, the Valassis Consumer Graph.

How does the Consumer Graph add value for Valassis' customers? "The biggest driver for us, and the greatest benefit we're bringing for our advertisers" said Luedtke, "is a holistic view of the consumer that really blends offline with online activity. How consumers live now is so non-linear that blending the signals from their physical and digital lives makes advertising better, and puts us in a better position to serve our advertising clients better."

And how does Maxpoint add value? "Valassis has decades of offline data; Maxpoint has a decade or so of understanding digital consumers. We're now integrating those two views of the customer." In particular, Valassis brings deterministic data from its historic coupon redemption business; knowing where and when consumers are looking for discounts. Maxpoint brings what Luedtke calls "deterministic device-level understanding, which unlocks a lot of great advertising we can do, consistent with what CMOs are thinking about around personalization."

The other piece is attribution. "With Maxpoint, we have augmented measurement capabilities; for example, how did we drive increased foot traffic to a store, or increased sales? We're augmenting what Maxpoint does with our own capabilities here to prove that advertising works, and that it actually activates consumers and drive sales."

It's common, of course, for media delivery vendors to partner with data services, but in this case, Valassis decided on an acquisition. "We actually can control our own roadmaps; we can double down on features and solutions that we see as driving additional value. Our strategy, however, continues to be partner-friendly. We continue to work with other vendors in the space who can be data-providers to us."

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Next stop, Adobe Summit, where among other things we'll be hunting down a demo of IBM Marketing Catalyst.

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