Flying above the couds

The Rise of the Marketing Cloud

The Rise of the Adobe Marketing Cloud

A quiet revolution began in September 2009. Adobe, with the long-term goal of unifying the then fragmented landscape of marketing automation and data management platforms, took the first step in that direction by purchasing Omniture. As logical as that acquisition may seem today, The Wall Street Journal, along with other analysts, had a difficult time understanding the move. The addition of this SaaS analytics solution to its catalog, albeit arguably the best in class, was a 180-degree departure from the stable of web and content authoring juggernauts like Premiere, Photoshop and InDesign that had come to define the company. Even for the few who did understand the endeavor, there was still the question as to whether Adobe had bitten off more than it could chew. It was up against some pretty stiff competition, with companies like IBM, Salesforce, HP and Oracle headed down similar paths. But, with Adobe’s subsequent acquisitions of Efficient Frontier, Day Software and others along the way, the race was on.

As this was happening, forward-thinking members of the marketing community began to understand the crucial role that technology was to play in their craft. In 2012, three years after the marketing cloud wars began, Gartner analyst Laura McLellan predicted that by 2017 CMOs would be spending more on IT than their CIO counterparts. This took some by surprise. But when you combine the growing industry push toward all-in-one data management platforms and marketing automation with the information she used to connect the dots, it made a lot of sense:

  • 2011 B2B and B2C marketing budgets as a percentage of revenue were almost three times as IT budgets.
  • 2012 IT budgets were expected to grow at about 5%, while all marketing budgets, in general, were predicted to grow at around 10%.
  • On average, nearly 30% of named marketing-related technology and services is bought by marketing already, and marketing now influences almost half of all IT purchases.

With the tools and technology in place and marketing stakeholders beginning to shift increasingly larger amounts of their budgets toward them, the stage was set for the proliferation of marketing cloud usage. And, not long after that article was written, the full suite of Adobe Marketing Cloud products was introduced to the public in October 2012.

The Marketing Cloud Is Born

I can still remember my excitement as a young, digital marketing professional when first being exposed to the then futuristic notions that fully realized digital marketing would bring. Little did I know that it would be 15+ years before that promise could be fulfilled. In those days, we were focused on things like going viral, rich media and refer-a-friends.

Group of young people leaning against a wall on multiple devices

Thankfully, the Adobe Marketing Cloud has taken such sophomoric notions of digital marketing and replaced them with business-critical offerings like programmatic media, audience management, dynamic content marketing, integrated campaign management, on-the-fly retargeting and more. These solutions are bundled within a collection of integrated online marketing and web analytics products that offers comprehensive marketing solutions and enables marketers to measure, personalize and optimize marketing initiatives and digital experiences. These features are supported by eight different products that make up the suite:

  • Analytics
  • Audience manager
  • Campaign
  • Experience manager
  • Media optimizer
  • Prime-time
  • Social
  • Target

And yet, as great as these products are and as sophisticated as the Adobe Marketing Cloud is, we marketers are not fundamentally doing anything different than we have before. We’re still designing and producing content, buying media, developing websites and applications, and reaching out to customers both offline and online through inbound and outbound channels. But, the difference now is that when leveraging the marketing cloud environment, we’re going about designing, developing, implementing and iterating these things in very new and different ways.

The Challenge Is Real

As cool and interesting as the marketing possibilities are within the cloud environment, holistic marketing automation paired with robust data management platforms requires marketers — agencies and their client counterparts alike — to work more synergistically and collaboratively than ever before. If you don’t recognize and embrace this, then your organization may be dead in the water when it comes to marketing in the cloud.

Robust data capture, regularly generating insights, designing and implementing complex and personalized cross-channel interactions and experiences, attribution modeling and ongoing ROI analysis, and continuous optimization are just some of the things that an organization needs to be able to execute upon before taking the plunge. And, if you’re not intimately familiar with the various aspects and concepts of the platform, the capital investment for initial configuration and implementation can be high as well.

People sitting next to each other and working on tablets and smart phones

Also, keep in mind, there are certain third-party SaaS solutions that complement the Adobe Marketing Cloud that should be considered to truly reap its full benefits. Offline/online data matchback, identity management, tag management, and large-scale data transformation and storage are just some of the areas that should be considered. I will say, though, that with the latest release, Adobe has done a pretty good job of incorporating a much-needed level of integration and intuitiveness between the various products, as well as third-party add-ons.

Having a firm grasp of these collective requirements, along with the people and processes in place to handle them, is the leaping-off point. If you have these boxes checked, you’re ready to take the plunge.

The Future Is Now

Cross-product analytics, customer profiling and segmentation, dynamic campaign management, dynamic content management and publishing, programmatic media, TV and video on demand, social, multivariate and A/B testing, and more are all included in the platform. If it sounds like a lot, well… it is. Though, in my conversations with other marketers, most have indicated that they are growing into the platform over time, choosing an implementation road map that allows the adoption of the various product(s) that will have the most benefits for their clients or organization first.

While digital-centric because of its inherent measurability, don’t think that the platform isn’t geared for offline as well. Data integration, personalization, audience and campaign management, to name a few, are just some of the offerings that can support offline marketing goals.

Two people sitting across from one another. One is reading a paper, the other is on a laptop

With all of this, even up to and including the complexities involved, it’s not surprising to find that companies are adopting marketing cloud technology and finding success. In fact, the Adobe Marketing Cloud has become an integral part of our offering here at Embark Digital. Certainly, there has been a learning curve, but it has been well worth the investment. We’re seeing impressive returns in key areas on behalf of our clients. Following the ROI trail has been a foundational aspect of our success. We’ve found that it’s brought forth a new level of transparency in our interactions with clients, which in turn, has had the added benefit of creating trust and strengthening our relationships with clients as a result.

If you have not yet gotten into the marketing cloud game and are interested, I’d encourage any reader to explore their options. Yes, you will need critical mass as far as having the right people in the right areas to pull it off. You’ll also need to ensure that your organization has the right process and tools that will allow for teams to be collaborative across a wide variety of disciplines. And, don’t forget about the up-front capital costs. But, as we’ve found, and you may too, the investment is well worth it — holding the promise of short and long-term wins. Not only will you be happy that you took the step, your marketing clients will too.