in Digital Business

What is a marketing cloud?

“This doesn’t quite add up? What’s your take?” wrote a friend, when he sent me a copy of Gartner’s ‘Magic Quadrant for Digital Marketing Hubs’.

I can understand why he thought Gartner’s report didn’t sit right. To discuss Adobe and Salesforce in the same paper as ad tech vendors, like Rocket Fuel and Turn, does seem odd. Do these apples and oranges appear on the same procurement shortlists?

Probably not. Digital marketing hubs (or clouds, if you prefer) is an emerging sector. No one’s sure what a hub or cloud is, or should be.

Gartner offers its definition:

“A digital marketing hub provides marketers and applications with standardized access to audience profile data, content, workflow elements, messaging and common analytic functions for orchestrating and optimizing multichannel campaigns, conversations, experiences, and data collection across online and offline channels, both manually and programmatically.

“It typically includes a bundle of native marketing applications and capabilities, but it is extensible through published services with which certified partners can integrate.”

Rolls off the tongue, doesn’t it? Of course it’s easy to mock. I imagine it took countless revisions to get it down to just that.

It’s confusing because every company in Gartner’s quadrant is pivoting, or expanding, from a certain space. Some are more advanced in that journey, like Adobe and Salesforce. Others are just starting out.

I’ve grouped the marketing hub vendors into 4 rough groups, depending on their strengths and historical focus.

Exactly where each company sits is up for debate. I’d argue Adobe sits near the line between marketing campaign automation and content management. The big beasts in its Marketing Cloud are Campaign and Experience Manager. Likewise, Salesforce’s acquisition of ExactTarget gives it a foot in the CRM and marketing campaign automation camps.

Most of the ad tech players qualify because they have a data management platform. Perhaps that’s why Google’s Doubleclick doesn’t feature. Many ad tech players are missing big chunks of functionality to be credible in this space (yet).

That said, neither Adobe, Salesforce or Oracle have large, scaled display businesses like Turn or Rocket Fuel.

Confusion is also in the eye of the beholder. If you’re a CIO, you’ll be comfortable understanding Oracle or Teradata’s offerings. Adobe and Marketo pitch at the CMO. Most of the ad tech players sell through agencies. Each group will define what a hub should be through its own set of challenges. And all will also be wary of vendor lock in.

The promise that a digital hub can tame the explosion of data, devices and content is a strong one. Billions of dollars have been spent on acquisitions and development to get to this point. Looks like several billions more are needed before this market reaches maturity.

In exchange for some of your personal data, you can download a copy of Gartner’s report from Adobe, IgnitionOne or Oracle.

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