The CDP: Marketing Tech That’s Truly Different

CDP|4 Minute Read

The CDP: Marketing Tech That’s Truly Different

I’m an avid reader and, as a child, I was a devoted Reading Rainbow viewer. As an adult, not much has changed, except now I get my dose of LeVar Burton’s dulcet tones via podcast.

Anyone who watched the show way back when or listens to the podcast today (highly recommended) would instantly recognize when Mr. Burton says, “But you don’t have to take my word for it,” and then launches into the story of the day.

I bring this up because I realized how much I’ve been telling marketers to take my word for it that customer data platforms (CDPs) are a powerful and awesome marketing technology.

Distinctly different from what exists in your company’s technology stack today.

The realization came in a few parts:

  • 1) A well-respected martech analyst expressed doubt that CDPs are a separate category, but rather represent a distinct set of functionality that might even be found in other kinds of martech.
  • 2) The CDP Institute released its annual state of the market report, and there were 50+ vendors in it — more than double the previous count.
  • 3) When Michele Szabocsik joined BlueConic as our new VP of marketing, she was constantly asked by just about everyone, “So what does CDP stand for? What do they do? And how is a CDP different than a DMP?”

For a while, I was admittedly a little frustrated and confused about the state of things.

Hadn’t I and others, spent the last few years explaining CDPs, showing off our delighted customers (e.g., Franklin Sports, America’s Test Kitchen) and appearing in analyst reports?

What wasn’t there to get?

what is customer data platform

A realization about the state of the CDP, marketing’s next best hope

Then, I had the epiphany that this current state of affairs isn’t surprising at all.

Indeed, because CDPs have taken on several attributes of perhaps dozens of existing tech tools to solve for something that those other systems promised but failed to deliver on, it’s not immediately obvious that the whole (CDP) is greater than the sum of its parts.

Furthermore, given the CDP definition is pretty vague (and not universally agreed upon) and the list of CDP vendors, broadly defined, might look like a collection of misfit toys to some, it’s no wonder that marketers struggle to articulate what it is or what challenges it solves.

What a customer data platform does and doesn’t do for marketers today

To review: The original definition — “a marketer-managed system that creates a persistent, unified customer database that is accessible to other systems” — is quite generous in who it allows to claim a stake under the customer data platform tent.

What’s more, it sets a relatively low barrier to entry for other types of tech (e.g., campaign management tool) to add a feature and then suddenly call itself a ‘real’ CDP.

So, we did the thing that we didn’t do well enough in the first place, which is to clearly define what a customer data platform is and isn’t.

As he usually does, Gartner’s Marty Kihn got the ball rolling with an eye-opening piece for AdExchanger, which was spot on in its observations of the CDP space today.

Some of the most important points he calls out:

  • A CDP does not replace your CRM or DMP.
  • A CDP is more than tag management.
  • A CDP isn’t an identity resolution service in the way companies like Acxiom are with their identity graphs, although they can complement each other.

According to Kihn, a legitimate customer data platform “facilitates data collection, unification around a persistent ID, flexible storage and easy access from outside.”

cdp vs dmp

A common refrain from marketers: “So what?”

It’s a fair question for marketers to ask … which is why we held the aforementioned webinar.

We not only contrast CDPs with other tech and explain the differences in plain English (not buzzwords), but also tell you why that matters. For instance, our eBook explains how:

  • The way a platform stores your customer data affects the scope of your customer journey view: from an unknown prospect that engages for the first time to a known customer who has made a transaction.
  • Building persistent, person-level profiles as the foundation of your customer database is a more reliable source of CX insight than a platform that merely offers “access” to customer data via a complex implementation of tags and triggers — like marketing clouds.
  • You don’t need to concede control of your customer data anymore! Marketers can have complete access and control over data collection, unification, organization, and activation (not you plus IT/data science, plus several technology vendors, plus a walled garden, etc.).

Just know when you’re looking into CDPs for your business, they’re meant to be entirely owned and operated by growth-focused teams — including and especially marketing.

And it’s now the ideal means for modern marketing teams to unify and active their data.

Check out our eBook to get even more insights into the customer data platform and learn what distinguishes a CDP from other database technologies.


See what BlueConic can do for you

Whether you’re looking for operational efficiencies or improved marketing effectiveness through data activation, our customer data platform can help.