MarTech Maven Scott Brinker: The Adobes And The Oracles Missed The Opportunity
As marketing tech was beginning to catch hold a few years ago, he said, there was a window to create an industry-wide platform that went beyond suites.
Scott Brinker, best known for his slide depicting the icon jungle that is marketing technology, is surprised that the big animals haven’t taken over.
The big animals (my term) refer to the large marketing automation suites that promise an “end-to-end solution” to whatever marketers need.
“I would have thought [mid- to large-sized companies] would have Adobe or Salesforce at its center,” he told me.
(Brinker, the co-founder and CTO of interactive content marketing firm Ion Interactive and the author of the chiefmartec.com blog, is also the Program Chair of our upcoming “MarTech: The Marketing Tech Conference” in March in San Francisco. His new book, “Hacking Marketing: Rethinking Marketing Management in a Software World,” comes out next month.)
Instead, he sees companies using Salesforce for customer relationship management (CRM), Oracle’s BlueKai for its data management platform, Adobe for its Web Experience Manager, Marketo for marketing automation around email, a Sprinklr for social media management and an assortment of other tools for other tasks.
This is “a little surprising,” Brinker said, “because the vision put forth wasn’t just to create a portfolio [of tools], but an end-to-end [solution].”
But, he added, there are “very few cases of companies of size that have standardized on a vendor” like Adobe or Oracle. Brinker said he isn’t “buying the end-to-end solution,” since, at least for the short term, many companies utilize a “heterogenous marketing stack.”
Heterogenous, as in a music component system. You can mix and match best-of-breed music components into the music system you really want — the amplifier/tuner from this company, the speakers from that one and, once upon a time, a separately-sourced turntable, cassette deck and CD player. It was the counterweight to the all-in-one music console.
Brinker agreed that the current mix-and-match marketing tech stack somewhat resembles such a component system. And, supporting and potentially accelerating that approach, a growing number of small companies are focused on being the cloud-connecting middleman between business tools.
Instead of having your tech person deal with the API and integration points between your social management platform and your customer relationship management (CRM) system, for instance, you, the marketer, can connect them via Zapier’s dashboard. Or you could employ other workflow automators like Workato, Azuqua or Bedrock Data.
Brinker also pointed to similar integration roles for Segment and Cloud Elements. He describes such tool-stitching companies as “marketing middleware” and includes tag management systems because they are a kind of “marketing data pipeline.”
That same orientation is behind LeadPages’ release late last year of its Center product for managing leads across email service providers, webinars, CRMs and other tools.
Germany-based CampaignChain has similarly launched what it describes as “a cockpit for digital marketing” that can manage other marketing tools. The recently released Databox mobile app tracks your most important status indicators — like website traffic or email signups — across a portfolio of tools.
This mix-and-matching, Brinker said, “is partly the result of a missed opportunity by the Adobes and Oracles. When this stuff was just starting, I thought there was a missed opportunity for an ecosystem.” Instead of all-in-one marketing clouds, he recalled, the Adobes and the Oracles could have made “a platform play.”
In other words, imagine what Brinker’s MarTech landscape slide would look like today, if Google had been an early, major player in this space.
Instead of a giant suite that allowed integration with smaller applications — proprietary marketing clouds like Oracle, Salesforce, Adobe, IBM and others that offer app marketplaces and APIs — Google probably would have created an open source platform, a few central applications and tools for developers to join in.
In other words, a kind of Android for marketing technology.
Brinker said that at this point, it often makes more sense to have multiple marketing tech tools instead of a single end-to-end solution, simply because marketing itself is rapidly changing in so many directions.
There’s marketing’s increasingly overlapping relationship with sales and customer service, for instance. Customers — in B2C, but especially in B2B — are conducting their own extensive online research of backgrounders and reviews. This means they’re often pre-sold and way down the funnel of decision-making by the time they reach a salesperson.
“Animals Have Gotten Out”
Customer service, at least the online version, has become blended with cross-selling and knowledge bases, adding new opportunities for creating demand. Predictive analytics and multi-layered targeting are generating additional ways marketers can direct their pitches.
Many retail stores are evolving into storefronts for online commerce. And any effort to summarize the impact on marketing of social media or mobile is virtually outdated by the time it is uttered.
Looking forward from today’s vantage point, Brinker sees each category as having one or two vendors “that dominate the portfolio,” around which there is “an incredibly diverse set of options.” A big marketing suite could have one or more features that dominate a category, like Salesforce’s CRM, Adobe’s Web Experience Manager or Oracle’s data capabilities — or the category dominator could be a smaller player.
But he acknowledged that this topology could be upset if open source tools really begin to take hold, the way they have in, say, web content management with WordPress and other tools.
It’s gotten “harder and harder to imagine one company to [cover] the entire business,” said the man who has visually demonstrated how diverse the “entire business” is.
The opportunity to create the connecting infrastructure is now over, Brinker noted, because “the market is maturing to the point where it realizes it doesn’t need a platform.”
“Now, all the animals have gotten out.”