Introducing Marketing Orchestration Platforms

There’s an important new category developing on the marketing technology landscape which I’m labelling Marketing Orchestration Platforms (MOPs). They are not connected with any specific channel, data source or analysis method. They allow marketers to select the best channel execution tools for their needs rather than relying on the tight product coupling which exists in the emerging marketing clouds from IBM, Oracle and Adobe. They are the digital nervous system for real-time, personalised, multichannel marketing and customer engagement.

Defining the Marketing Orchestration Platform

MOPs share a feature set that sits between a middleware platform (like Informatica or Mule) and a multichannel campaign management tools (like Adobe Campaign or IBM Campaign). MOPs are separated from the campaign management platforms in the following three ways:

  • Firstly they are not linked to any delivery mechanism. I may get some heat from vendors here, but Adobe, IBM and Oracle’s marketing suites have a heritage in specific channel execution.
  • The second difference is that MOPs are not tightly linked to common marketing objects of campaigns, programs and promotions. They have a greater deal of flexibility in the objects they work with.
  • Thirdly they have open connectivity with multiple data sources and execution platforms. If it has an API or web service, the MOP will be able to communicate with it.

Think of a policeman directing traffic. He is aware of the traffic queues and flow. He is also aware of laws governing what traffic is allowed to do and can therefore direct traffic appropriately.

So it is with MOPs. They are connected to a range of data sources that provide information on what is happening. Rules are built within the MOP to determine how to respond in a given situation. Based on these rules, the information can then be directed to the appropriate system for an action to occur.

Marketing Orchestration Platform Example

For example, a MOP may be used to better merchandise a retail website:

  1. The MOP would receive AdWord impression data and process that data to identify spikes in data.
  2. Complex statistical models built in R could then be applied to the data to determine whether a certain product group or category is more popular.
  3. If a popular product is found, competitor websites could be scraped to find live pricing information.
  4. This data would then be sent over API to the e-commerce platform to change the product price and place it on the homepage as a featured product.

Simples!

Screenshot of Provenir

Screenshot of Provenir

A simple comparison is to think of an MOP as being a complex version of IFTTT (which stands for If This Then That). For the uninitiated IFTTT is a website that connects a number of popular channels. For instance one of my favourite recipes is for Star Wars Day: If the date and time is equal to 8am on May 4th, then send a tweet saying “Happy Star Wars Day”.

Another popular IFTTT recipe is to save Instagram photos that I post to DropBox.

Business benefits of the Marketing Orchestration Platform

In preparing this post, I reached out to Scott Brinker of Chief Marketing Technologist Blog. In my view he’s the leading expert on the categorisation and grouping of marketing technology. If you haven’t seen his Marketing Technology Landscapes, you need to go check it out – after reading this post of course.

Scott offered the following view on MOPs:

“I think the concept of marketing orchestration platforms are incredibly promising.

“To me, they are a part of this emerging category of “marketing middleware” — software that helps you connect all the other software applications in your marketing technology stack and, in doing so, makes all of them work more effectively together.

“I believe such marketing middleware is incredibly important (a) in keeping a company’s overall marketing ecosystem “open”, i.e., not locked in to a single vendor suite; and (b) in reducing the overhead associated with integrating new software applications into your marketing infrastructure.”

Scott pulls out two important business benefits which I’ll expand on here:

  1. Keep the organisation’s marketing eco-system open. Whilst the vendor brochures will tell you that the new marketing clouds offer you the ability to market across every channel the truth isn’t that simple. There are other vendors with a really strong product that you may want to integrate with instead. You may love Adobe Campaign for email marketing and hate Adobe Sitecore (or whatever they call it these days). The MOP ensures tight integration, therefore allowing you to pick the tools you prefer rather than being locked into a vendor’s suite.
  2. Reduce the future overhead of integrating new software. I’m not a betting man, but if I were, I’d happily wager that channel choice is going to continue growing and individual channels will become more sophisticated. An MOP will allow you to be prepared for these eventualities and give you the infrastructure necessary to integrate the new channel functionality into your marketing.

Marketing Orchestration Vendors

MOPs are still very much in the early stages of development although there are some strong players in the market. If I’ve missed your company or you know of an alternative vendor please let me know in the comments.

Provenirprovenir-logo
CACI partner, Provenir describe their software as “a real-time customer engagement hub that allows agencies to orchestrate customer journeys and experiences across their client’s data”. Bit of a mouthful but the sentiment matches my definition of a MOP. Gartner have also struggled to place Provenir in a specific category and have instead opted to refer to them as a “cool” vendor [note that Gartner’s previous cool vendors include Siri and Eloqua].

Provnir’s VP of Marketing, Jeff Nicholson sent me the following comment on the growth and success that Provnir is enjoying:

The marketing world is in a great moment of change. Today’s brands already own enough commodity software such as email, campaign management, digital asset management, web content management and CRM. These assets are strewn across the enterprise, each one provided by a different vendor, and none of it ever designed to work together. Meanwhile, today’s constantly connected consumer expects a completely seamless experience as they move across touch points, often using several touch point at the very same time.

And this new consumer doesn’t want “campaigns”, but rather genuine interactions that are contextual and compelling.

No wonder why brands are struggling to keep up. But what are businesses to do… rip it all out and start all over again? Until recently, there has been little other option. This is the great opportunity we saw with Provenir. Provenir serves as the conductor of the customer journey, enabling brands to connect their existing touch points and infrastructure that they already have in place and then orchestrate a connected customer journey in real-time.

Relevvantrelevvant-logo
Relevvant discuss the marketing orchestration capabilities of their platform although the general tone is that the platform is digitally focussed single customer view. The FAQs page makes it clear though that the software is designed to integrate with any inbound data source and any outbound comms channel.

ION Interactiveion-logo
As decribed by Scott Brinker, ION have switched to become a Marketing Apps platform (full post describing the strategy). However it can begin to fall into the marketing orchestration platform category given it’s ability to consume data and pass out actions to variety of downstream and upstream systems.

Responsysresponsys-logo
Having worked with Responsys before I was suprised to see their press release suggesting a pivot away from being simply an email service provider with SMS and retargetting capability to a full MOP. However this pivot appears to be in name only with Responsys’ discussion around this area existing only in a single article and a sponsored Forrester paper (free download to the Forrester report here).

What’s your take on Marketing Orchestration Platforms? Are they a needless additional category of marketing technology? Or are they the vital element of the marketing technology stack that is need to deliver a real-time, personalised experience across any channel?

David Sealey is a trusted adviser to senior executives on getting the most from their investment in digital and data. David created Storm81 as a place to share his passion for business, digital technologies, multichannel marketing and everything else around these topics.

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  • Richard Lack

    Interesting article. The Responsys platform definitely has a heritage in email, though it does have many of the features required of a MOP it does not decouple from the delivery channels. I think the acquisition by Oracle will see the Responsys name disappear and become part of the Oracle Marketing Cloud in the next month or so. The same could be said of ExactTarget, which stopped emphasising email in favour of SMS, WEB, Social channels a few years back and executed well on that strategy, hence the 2.5Bn acquisition by SFDC last year.

    Both of these tools have a big blind spot around planning and any kind of offline marketing activity, and they both lack interchangeability of delivery channel. I tend to think of them as digital marketing suites.

  • Thanks Richard.

    Whilst it might be tempting for the ESPs (under whatever name) to try and push towards MOP space, they still have a crucial role to play in the core channel that they have a real heritage in.

    I’d personally opt to buy a ESP who has invested heavily to become excellent at email creation, personalisation, delivery and reporting. The common alternative is to find an ESP, that has rebadged as a multichannel campaign management platform and has diverted product investment at building social or advertising execution rather than improving the core product.

    Whilst I appreciate the channel diversification strategy has proven profitable for the acquired companies, I have my doubts over the complete set of channel marketing capabilities.This plays well into your around the blindspots.

  • PS Look forward to meeting at Gigya Engage on Thursday.

  • I think this overstates the product lock-in entailed with one of the larger marketing suites (IBM, Adobe). For example, both of these main-line marketing vendors offer pretty extensive partner networks to do exactly this – syndicating out digital behavioral data to prompt a marketing response in real-time. IBM has its Digital Marketing Network, Adobe its new Marketing Cloud Exchange. The difference, of course, is that these suites not only *react* to data, like an “MOP,” but they also collect and analyze it – in other words, doing the critical processing necessary to make analytic data consumable and usable.

    For that matter, I also disagree that all of the suites have a heritage strength in one channel that predisposes them in that direction. You might have a point with Oracle (Responsys), but what would IBM or Adobe’s “heritage” channel be? Both vendors are pretty thoroughly multichannel.

  • Hi ReevesJB

    Fair points and I welcome the challenge on the place and utility of Marketing Orchestration Platforms.

    In my experience, despite the promise of the large vendors to offer a one stop shop in the cloud for all my marketing needs, the reality is more nuanced. Even when using products from the same stable, there will remain complex integration needs that require data orchestration across new channels (e.g. social) and legacy systems.

    I fear that I may appear to be bashing the big vendors (not my intention) – they are investing heavily and working hard to bring together the marketers toolkit.

    The case I’m making is that as marketers’ requirements advance and customer expectations increase, there is a need for an orchestration layer outside of the existing channel execution and campaign tools that has a greater degree of flexibility for current and future integration.

    Cheers…Dave

  • adub

    This kind of thing is going to be highly sensitive to commercial ambitions around platform play and data ownership (salesforce provides just one example of such a misalignment of interests between vendor and customer).

    So it seems to me that open source could provide a disruptive solution in this space for a number of reasons, one being that unlike proprietary solutions an open source project isn’t fighting against commoditisation but seeking it, and commoditisation is key to making a MOP useful over the long term. Another example, with a sufficiently large user community owning the platform, the pace of integrations can beat the capabilities of even the largest private companies (we have examples of this dynamic in other technologies) – and clearly any MOP is going to live and die by its integrations with the latest popular tools. And that’s before we consider that with a free licensing model, beyond just integrations, the architecture will be experimented with and innovated (e.g. data sharing, plugins etc)

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