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Catching Up With Cheetah Digital

DMN was there in June 2017 when Cheetah Digital sprang loose (more or less) from Experian Marketing Services, revived a version of its legacy name (it had been Cheetah Mail when Experian acquired it), and set out a vision of the company as “independent, and laser-focused on marketers” (CEO Sameer Kazi).

Then things seemed to go a little quiet on the Cheetah Digital front, except for the departure of Matt Seeley for Merkle. Seely had steered Cheetah Mail into and out of Experian, and had been as much as anyone the face of the brand. I caught up with Judd Marcello, Cheetah’s EVP of global marketing, to find out what had been happening behind the scenes.

“Last night,” he said, “we hosted about 80 clients in a hotel downtown. It was the fourth and last stop on the North American leg of [a Cheetah Digital world tour, “Dedicated to Marketers”]. It was an opportunity to reintroduce ourselves as Cheetah Digital and let clients know what we’ve been doing for the past year. It’s been one hell of a year in terms of internal transformation, and there’s been a lot of hard work happening which has not been visible to clients.”

The company started from the top, said Marcello, with a realignment of objectives and goals. “We’ve added a client experience team; that never existed before. We’ve overhauled our global service offerings to better meet client needs. We made significant enhancements to the platform infrastructure. And we’ve changed leadership in a lot of roles.”

In Marcello’s view, some of the larger “cloud offerings” in the marketing space are letting clients down when it comes to service. “A lot of that gets farmed out to third parties,” he said, “while its an integral part of our business.” Cheetah Digital competes with major players (Marcello mentions Adobe, Oracle, and Salesforce). “They sell great products; they really do. But in the overall scheme of things, marketing is a small part of what they offer. It’s 100 percent of our focus.”

Marketing is more challenging than ever, especially at large B2C organizations. “If you’re in Sales, you sell stuff. Marketing can own all kinds of different things. You might own customer experience, you definitely own brand. You own acquisition and retention. At the same time, customer expectations have never been higher, and marketers are struck in the middle. We’re trying to help them.”

Cheetah Digital sprang, of course, from email marketing roots. How much has the offering been broadened? “That’s what the company was built on, and it’s a mainstay. Email is still profitable and efficient, and it’s come back to life like a cat. But we’re now a cross-channel marketing platform. Email, social, web, offline, direct mail; we can connect with all of those. But it’s transcended channels in a sense. To compete in today’s enterprise B2C environment you need three things: a modern approach to enterprise data management; technology built explicitly for the B2C marketer; and the skill-sets to deliver sophisticated segmentation, and campaign design, strategy, and optimization. There are a lot of skills gaps today.”

Where does the world tour head next? “We’ll be in Tokyo next week, where we have about 100 clients signed up. Then after a break, we’re off to London.” After the holidays, Australia. But: “We’re coming back with summit next year.” The annual event had taken a break for 2018. “We want it to be an extension of what we’re doing on this tour.” That will be preceded by some thought leadership, and a series of product releases, including an integration of the Stellar Loyalty product acquired by Cheetah Digital in July.

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