The Monday Stack: The State of Marketing

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The Monday Stack: The State of Marketing
The Monday Stack: The State of Marketing

The Salesforce Tower on New York's Sixth Avenue is admittedly still known to many New Yorkers as the MetLife building, because that was the branding for a number of years. But Salesforce did start moving in last year, and The Salesforce Tower is now the official name. Inside, the offices sparkle, and Bryant Park looks better from above than it does from the ground. The occasion for my visit was a lunch preceding the launch of the fourth annual State of Marketing report. Jon Suarez-Davis, chief strategy officer for the marketing cloud, took us through some highlights. The report's four main conclusions, I'd describe as unsurprising, unsurprising, surprising, and unsurprising respectively. Keep score now:

  • Marketers like the idea of customer journeys, but are still having trouble powering them with data.
  • Organizational changes are affecting marketing, largely in response to this new data-driven environment
  • Use of marketing tech is set to sky-rocket over the next couple of years, and
  • Marketing is bracing itself for the "AI revolution."

That all makes sense in terms of what we've observed here at DMN, with a slight qualification over the marketing tech take-off claim. It's evident that vendors are still rushing to serve the marketing tech space, but outside of big enterprises and more tech-savvy brands, there have been concerns about uptake of cutting edge solutions. There's a lot more out there than email marketing.

Figures about current usage of marketing tech (based on an international survey of some 3,500 marketing leaders) deserve a close look. For example, 66% claim currently to use IoT/connected devices. Fine, but what does that mean in practice? There's a world of difference between having a chatbot on a website, and having a full-fledged strategy to gather real-world data from IoT devices and use it to power customer journeys. If 66% of brands are doing the latter, I'm out of touch. 

Similarly, a more modest 51% are currently using AI. I asked Suarez-Davis if a lot of that usage might just be "AI light," but he didn't accept that distinction. For example, any of Salesforce's customer success platform clients might be using AI, just because Einstein is baked into so many aspects of the platform. At it's simplest level (and I don't equate Einstein with this), AI might just be a self-teaching Amazon-style recommendation engine. It can be a lot more than that, of course, and I'm left wondering how that 51% is distributed along the continuum from rudimentary machine learning to putting AI at the center of marketing efforts.

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There's a real trend right now for vendors -- and indeed agencies -- to outgrow their roots and develop more comprehensive product offerings. And it's not a coincidental development: It relates to the convergence of data sources (one source of truth), and a growing channel agnosticism. Take for example xAd, using location intelligence to drive advertising and sales since 2009. Apparently that was too restrictive, and with a re-branding as GroundTruth, it now looks to a much wider range of applications for its location-based data. CEO Dipanshu Sharma said in a press release: "The power of location data doesn't have to be limited to media and can be realized in other applications from real estate, traffic and out-of-home planning to layering in weather to determine its impact on visits, something we recognized after acquiring WeatherBug."

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One thing Alan Trefer, founder and CEO of Pega, told me recently was that "We don't have to do everything." A specific example he gave to a small group of journalists was: "We've made a conscious decision not to be a full-service DMP." It turns out there are many ways to skin the data cat, with Pega's announcement that it has partnered with agency Merkle to launch a Unified DMP. In practice, this means bringing Pega's AI-powered "next best decision" input and feeding it through the Merkle adtech engine, allowing brands to micro-target customers with relevant ads at best bid price. And in real time too (but you knew that already).

Monday stack logo by Hilary Allison

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