one white duck among many black and brown ducks
Not all ducks — or digital marketing hubs — are identical. PHOTO: Jiří Zralý

Leading analyst firms like segment vendors into various categories, from leaders to the also-rans. But is the top rated vendor necessarily the right vendor for you?

In a recent Magic Quadrant on digital marketing hubs (DMH), for example, Gartner named four leaders: Adobe, Oracle, Salesforce and Marketo.

Gartner said digital marketing hubs provide marketers and applications "with standardized access to audience data, content, workflow triggers and operational analytics to automate execution and optimization of multichannel campaigns, conversations, experiences and data collection across online and offline channels.”

Those capabilities are often complementary to native applications within a marketing cloud or suite. 

“Extensibility through published services,” Gartner researchers added, “is a key benefit of this technology.”

We decided to find out what’s under the hood of some of the vendors recognized in the Gartner digital marketing hubs report — and give company representatives an opportunity to explain why their company's platform is the best to use.

The Question

What makes your digital marketing hub unique?

The Answers

Cory Munchbach, VP, Marketing, BlueConic

Cory Munchbach
Cory Munchbach

Munchbach oversees inbound, outbound and all other marketing and associated activities. Before joining BlueConic, she was an analyst on the customer insights practice at Forrester, covering the intersection of marketing strategy and technology and an expert in the marketing technology landscape. Tweet to Cory Munchbach.

Gartner succinctly nailed what differentiates the BlueConic digital marketing hub, which is that our technology is a customer data platform (CDP) — and the only one so identified by the MQ’s authors in the report.

According to the founder of the CDP Institute, a CDP is a “marketer-managed system that creates a persistent, unified customer database that is accessible to other systems.”

There are parallels between a CDP and a DMH, purely defined, but there are critical differences as well. To that end, there are a lot of vendors listed in the Quadrant to which BlueConic is more similar, and others considerably less so.

BlueConic isn’t intended to be an all-encompassing marketing suite, positioned as a one-stop shop for a marketer’s every need, nor does our CDP encroach on advertising platforms. Rather, our built-for-purpose customer data platform gives marketers:

  • A data-agnostic unified profile for anonymous and known individuals. It isn’t made up of, as some others claim, pre-built segments that catch visitors. It’s not a services build on, not a cookie, and it’s not just for a single channel. The BlueConic profile is data agnostic and serves as the foundation of the entire platform.
  • Data activation right from the platform. Without reliance on developers, agencies or code, marketers can personalize digital interactions, optimize experiences and deliver one-to-one recommendations in just a few clicks. The seamless handoff between identifying, understanding and interacting that takes place within the BlueConic CDP overcomes long-stand challenges of using data usefully and in real-time.
  • An interoperable system, by design and philosophy. BlueConic has dozens of out-of-the-box integrations with the other solutions that make up the modern marketer’s tech stack, a dedicated team building these all the time, and a fully documented and public API. BlueConic is all about giving marketers the utmost flexibility in how to build and use their technology. In fact, a lot of those integrations are with the other vendors in the Gartner MQ.

Bill Pena, Chief Technology Officer, Kitewheel

Bill Pena
Bill Pena

Pena leads the product and technical organization at Kitewheel. Before Kitewheel, he was VP of product/chief architect at 89 Degrees, a customer engagement agency, spanning the areas of big data analytics, loyalty and CRM. Before that, he was executive director/chief architect at IMN, a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) content marketing platform. Tweet to Bill Pena.

Kitewheel is unique in that it is designed from the ground up, as an open and flexible framework for real-time customer journey orchestration. The ability to connect to just about any system, and orchestrate any customer experience, makes us the choice of innovators and early adopters.

We combine this flexibility with deep subject matter expertise, both strategic and technical, which is provided as part of our support, service, and training for customers. Agencies walk away with a best-in-class platform and the know-how to create differentiated experiences that make brands stand out in a crowded marketplace.

Lastly, we offer deep decisioning capabilities — including support for predictive models, decision trees, and adaptive split tests, as well as any script written in JavaScript/Node.js or R — which makes the Kitewheel Hub incredibly powerful for even the most demanding businesses.

Gar Smyth, VP Marketing, DataXu

Gar Smyth
Gar Smyth

Smyth brings more than 20 years of experience to DataXu, where he sets global marketing strategy to drive demand for and awareness of DataXu’s programmatic marketing software. He oversees all marketing, demand and lead generation, content and sales enablement. Smyth has also held senior positions at Dynatrace and PTC, and technical roles at EMC, PTC and Mitsubishi. He holds a degree in electronic engineering from Dublin City University. Tweet to Gar Smyth.

DataXu is now one of the few remaining independent programmatic marketing platforms of a meaningful size. We view the leaders like Oracle, Salesforce, Marketo as partners, not competitors.

While they have added AdTech to their stacks in the form of data management capabilities, DataXu’s core expertise is in uncovering insights in data and activating those insights in real-time to power customer engagement. Rather than passively storing data, we actively engage consumers, an important distinction since the half-life of consumer intent data is so short.

We do this by applying data science and machine learning to data to uncover insights and correlations, and we use these insights to improve marketer’s ability to engage consumers across their buying journey. We also look beyond the customer’s own data sources.

To truly understand consumers, we have curated multiple data sources in our OneView platform/using our OneView technology, so that our real-time learning system is optimizing not just on the online behavioral signals from consumers, but also from the highest fidelity demographic and identity graph data available. These learnings are then turned into customer engagement through our activation platform which allows marketers to execute simultaneously across all digital devices including TV.

Gartner specifies that advanced marketers with complex multi-channel advertising requirements consider DataXu as a partner, and we’ve certainly seen an exponential increase in those very types of requirements from across a wide spectrum of customers who have rich data sets in data management platforms, and yet lack native machine learning and activation capabilities.

DataXu’s core strengths — programmatic leadership and heritage, collaboration with customers and ability to meet and exceed the evolving cross-device and offline needs of our sophisticated customer base — are all pride points and key differentiators within and outside of the Digital Marketing Hub Magic Quadrant.

Steven Wolfe Pereira, Chief Communications and Marketing Officer, Neustar

Steven Wolfe Pereira
Steven Wolfe Pereira

Wolfe Pereira is responsible for building Neustar’s brand as well as advertising, communication and marketing across the company’s product and services portfolio. Before joining Neustar, he was VP of brand strategy and marketing solutions at the Oracle Data Cloud. He joined Oracle through the acquisition of Datalogix, where he served as chief marketing officer. Tweet to Steven Wolfe Pereira.

Fundamentally, we don’t believe marketers want to buy all their media from only one source or platform. So instead of focusing on an end-to-end solution, we drive a brand’s existing business through our extensive connections throughout the ecosystem.

Through our trusted OneID system, the most accurate identity framework in the industry, in which fractional consumer identifiers are continuously collected, correlated and corroborated against authoritative subscription sources in real-time, we can help brands form a complete and reliable customer graph across every touchpoint, both offline and online.

We use an omnichannel approach that comprises cross-channel messaging, scoring, segmentation, measurement and analytics, extending across every channel, both digital (e.g. mobile, desktop, video) and offline (e.g. direct mail, call center, addressable TV).

Additionally, Neustar helps marketers manage, normalize and connect their first-, second- and third-party data to build that complete and reliable view of the customer. Through the Neustar Data Directory, marketers have access to our existing audience activation solutions, as well as third-party data sources to build precision-base data programs.

Matt Zilli, VP, Product and Segment Marketing, Marketo

Matt Zilli
Matt Zilli

Zilli joined Marketo in 2013. Before Marketo, he spent six years at Texas Instruments, where he held positions in sales, marketing and business development. He was responsible for business development and product management at Rovi Corp. Most recently, Zilli helped launch LineStream Technologies as the VP of marketing. He holds a bachelor’s in computer science from Santa Clara University and an MBA from UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business. Tweet to Matt Zilli.

A digital marketing hub is about connecting and acting on the right customer data to deliver personalized experiences at scale. There are three reasons why Marketo helps marketers meet this goal faster and at lower total cost of ownership:

  • Built from the ground up as a digital marketing hub. Marketo provides the only digital marketing hub purpose-built to seamlessly bring together the right customer data and touchpoints to deliver best-in-class cross-channel engagement. This reduces complexity for the marketer because you avoid the headache of marketing suites, whose products aren’t fully integrated and have overlapping capabilities, or point products that won’t scale. What this means is a faster path to value, where marketers get to business results faster.
  • Supports the most robust ecosystem of integrated technology partners. Marketo enables a flexible “best-of-breed” approach to the marketer’s technology stack through an open and extensible architecture and a complete ecosystem of marketing and business applications (600-plus partners). This is important because marketing technology is rapidly evolving, and marketers will never get everything they need from a single vendor. For marketers, Marketo simplifies the process of evolving their technology stack and empowers them with the industry-leading platform along with the freedom to connect their data when and where it’s needed by supporting a large ecosystem of pre-built, proven integrations.
  • Maintains a rapid pace of innovation. Because we are the marketing-first, independent vendor with a unified platform (i.e. not integrating a laundry list of acquisitions), we’re able to focus on innovation for the marketer to support digital transformation with less complexity.

Some examples of this include:

  • Building intelligence into our multi-channel nurture and content delivery capabilities and leveraging adaptive technologies that allow marketing teams to quickly and effectively deliver personalized experiences at scale.
  • Delivering market-leading innovations like account-based marketing, natively built on Marketo’s Engagement Platform, or Marketo’s broad set of native integrations with people-based ad platforms, including Facebook, Google and LinkedIn.
  • Creating a flexible platform and apps model that allows marketers to deploy a “right-sized” solution from day one and grow and scale their sophistication over time.

To drive digital transformation in a world of constant change, marketers need a unified platform that’s open and rapidly innovating — not point tools or captive suites — in order to deliver personalized and authentic experiences at scale across every touchpoint.