Blog May 26, 2022 |

Marketing Cloud CDP: Oxymoron, Vaporware, or Other?

Beware the Ides of March — the deadline for settling debts in Ancient Rome. Fitting, then, for no fewer than three of the leading so-called marketing clouds to make splashy headlines announcing their own flavors of customer data platforms. In order:

(The company missed the memo in March 2019, but SAP joined the fray in May. No ides and not really any details either!) But, what do these announcements actually mean?

Marketing cloud entrants officially validate the CDP as its own marketing technology category.

For all the back and forth from Forrester and Gartner on whether or not CDPs merit their own marketing technology category, Adobe, Oracle, and Salesforce’s pivot into building a CDP reinforces the fact that a combination of [insert name(s) of existing marketing tech tools] does not equate to a CDP.

It goes back to what Gartner stated in its CDP Market Guide:

“Much of the functionality core to the CDP is not new — data integration, identity management, segmentation and activation are familiar features to marketers... Rather, it is the packaging, marketing and productization of these features, and the optimization for real-time use cases, that compels marketers to investigate how this new technology could produce returns for them.”

By definition, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts when it comes to a CDP because marketers’ use cases rely on these disparate features to live in a single platform, with an integrated architecture, using one UI and login.

Salesforce has spent billions acquiring what they have previously stated to be all the components of a CDP: a DMP (Krux), an ESP (ExactTarget), identity management software (Customer360), an API system (Mulesoft), and its CRM system.

But its latest move shows the market the existence of the functionality within a marketing cloud does not, has not, and cannot equal a CDP.

The same is true for Adobe Marketing Cloud, SAP Marketing Cloud, and Oracle Marketing Cloud and all the other marketing clouds that have hustled this idea that a bunch of acquired solutions jammed together with services is a CDP.

It’s not — and furthermore, if the “CDP” only works within one vendor’s walled garden, it’s not a CDP. Full stop. For what it’s worth, it’s a big leap to see what “works” actually entails.

Every marketing organization that tried to go that "one-solution-for-all-of-marketing" route has concluded that the different components remain "islands unto themselves."

To borrow from a marketing technologist at one global CPG, “Marketing Clouds still have a long way to go to get all of the data across the suite into one place – let alone, adding data from external sources in a way that’s not completely custom and extremely expensive."

Marketing clouds lack the architecture to deliver on the full value of a customer data platform.

I echo sentiments from others around the industry that this is Salesforce, Adobe, and Oracle conceding to the pressure (see: reality) that marketers require a unified, persistent profile to deliver on the big ambition that, ironically, the marketing cloud vendors introduced several years ago but have failed to provide.

But that doesn’t mean their offerings are actually CDPs. Quite the contrary.

Each of these three supposed customer data platforms are both distinct from each other and fail to meet the definition of a customer data platform in their own way:

  • Adobe has merely made progress solving its own, internal customer data problem by building the “customer experience platform.” But this is a cosmetic touch-up that needed a gut job to really build a best-of-breed CDP that opens the ecosystem and liberates data. There is no database, and the unified profile isn’t available to non-Adobe external systems (sorry, Open Data Initiative — we see you and raise you an eye roll). And call us when you realize the 24-hour segment processing is the best you’re going to get. Verdict: Oxymoron.

  • Salesforce, meanwhile, hasn’t built anything, but what it’s describing — “CRM 5.0” — leaves a lot to be desired, even in one’s imagination. Its CRM systems are notoriously rigid, slow, and weak on integration, not to mention meant for internal business management and not customer engagement. We’ll see what the company brings to bear when there’s a real announcement in June at Dreamforce. Verdict: Vaporware.

  • Oracle…oh, Oracle. Their CDP offering only works for Responsys customers so far. Need I say more? Verdict: TBD.

  • Most of the martech proposition from SAP starts (and ends) with enterprise ecommerce platform Hybris and big data solution HANA – a very different origin point than those of Adobe (Omniture), Salesforce (ExactTarget), or Oracle (Responsys, question mark?) Transactional data is a unique type of customer data and SAP's distinctive capacity in that area could be cool. That said, their ERP technology is ancient and Hybris is getting long in the tooth and it’s still not a CDP. Verdict: Vaporware and question marks.

TL;DR: The mission and purpose of unifying and activating customer data for marketers is shared by more than CDPs. But only CDPs deliver in the way the marketer requires.

Red flags: A marketing cloud vendor claiming to be a CDP isn’t

Marketing clouds are now building out CDP capabilities after claiming that CDP functionality has always been available in marketing clouds. But they’re not alone.

Many of the major marketing cloud vendors have pivoted into the category and even started calling themselves a customer data platform.

Here are a few tips for determining if a CDP is, in fact, a CDP:

  • You log in once (i.e., into one platform), see all unified customer data across systems, and have a marketer-friendly UI that lets you understand and activate first-party data.

  • You have a unified, data-agnostic, persistent profile for each of your prospects and customers. The platform won't limit the amount of data you can store or automatically delete data about a prospect or customer after a certain amount of time.

  • You can create segments based on real-time, dynamic data. As your customers’ attributes change, they’ll move in and out of defined segments.

  • You can collect individual-level customer data (including transactional, behavioral, demographic, etc.) into a single customer profile.

Final thought: There's been relentless discussion about whether CDPs are a distinct category or just a bunch of features. Despite Salesforce’s protests to the contrary, the brand's decision to enter into the category massively undermines the "just-features" POV.

Find out if a pure-play customer data platform like BlueConic is the right business technology for your organization. Take our CDP Readiness Assessment today.

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