Gartner defines a good digital marketing stack or "hub," as it calls it, as a platform with strong partner ecosystems, convergence of marketing and advertising technology, outstanding integration capabilities, and the ability to analyze first- and third-party data.

They give digital marketers “standardized access to audience profile data, content, workflow elements, messaging and common analytic functions for orchestrating and optimizing multichannel campaigns, conversations, experiences and data collection across online and offline channels, both manually and programmatically,” Gartner reported in its second annual Magic Quadrant for Digital Marketing Hubs published Tuesday (fee required). 

What Matters Now

Adobe, Oracle, Salesforce and Marketo all made the leaders quadrant.

screenshot of Gartner Magic Quadrant for Digital Marketing Hubs

Gartner evaluated 22 vendors, up from 16 last year. Of note, Gartner lowered the annual revenue minimum threshold for vendors from $50 million in 2013 (the first quadrant report) to $25 million for 2014 (for the second report). 

But let's look a little deeper: What really matters? 

We can't imagine digital marketers select vendors based on a quadrant graphic. What matters most for digital marketers in this Gartner report is how the research organization defines “digital marketing hubs" and the components it requires. It's not about open-source versus proprietary. Forget build versus buy. Forget who has this feature or that feature.

The nitty gritty of what makes digital technology work for marketers today is who can best integrate with existing CRMs. Who can offer solid multi-channel experiences for known and unknown customers and prospects. Who can play well with new technologies my organization buys later.

Jake Sorofman, a Gartner research vice president who specializes in digital marketing, served as one of the authors of the Hubs quadrant. He called the digital marketing hub a “design pattern for modern marketing. We see this pattern being adopted by the mega vendors and smaller independent vendors that are looking to play a role in supporting this new digital marketing foundation.”

What’s The Hub?

So how do Sorofman and Hub quadrant co-authors Andrew Frank, Martin Kihn and Christi Eubanks “digital marketing hub”?

“The closest cousin within the digital marketing landscape (to the hub) is multichannel campaign management, which is really centered around marketing automation,” Sorofman told CMSWire. 

“The real key difference here is where the world of AdTech and MarTech intersect. So it’s the convergence of MarTech and marketing automation for the purpose of marketing to your known customers using first party data — and the world of AdTech, which is really about marketing to your anonymous customers using third-party data.”

Sorofman called combining first- and third-party data to deliver the right experiences to both known and unknown customers a “very powerful ability.” But, he cautioned, those capabilities come with a lot of “complexity applied within” with no guarantees of achieving the full promise.

It’s similar to where Forrester Research is going with its Digital Experience Wave. They try to answer this question: which vendors combine the best of a hodgepodge of technologies so marketers can simply deliver exceptional experiences? Forrester’s not ready to commit to anybody (outside of Adobe) as a leader.

Vendor Variety

Perhaps the most notable part of the Digital Marketing Hub from Gartner is the diversity of vendors. Sure, the big players are there -- Oracle, Adobe, IBM, Salesforce. And, also, Marketo, well known for its marketing automation, joined first-year vendors Adobe, Oracle and Salesforce in the leaders category this time around. Some, like HP, got the boot, and many others, such as Experian Marketing Services and Kitewheel, joined the Gartner Hub party.

The rest of the vendors that made the list are diverse. MarTech staples like Marketo are pitted with AdTech companies like Sizmek, web content management vendors like Sitecore. 

How does this mix work? Gartner says each of the 22 vendors in the report in some way offer four of these critical components:

  • They provide a master audience profile by combining first-, second- and third-party data across known and anonymous domains for precision targeting and tracking of offers and experiences.
  • They provide workflow and collaboration by supporting marketing programs with core services through ideation, planning and monitoring of customer journeys and experience designs, internally and with partners.
  • They provide intelligent orchestration by driving the sequencing and coordination of engagement across channels.
  • They provide unified measurement and optimization by tying investments to outcomes to enable marketers to optimize investments to the highest yield.

“Generally speaking, a digital marketing hub is a loose assemblage of commercial components,” Sorofman told CMSWire. “It’s not something you typically buy off the shelf. So because of its breadth it’s going to require integration with third-party tools and incumbent tools within your organization.”

Sorofman cited Oracle as a great example of a vendor that’s embraced the combination of marketing automation and AdTech through acquisitions like Eloqua, Responsys, BlueKai, Datalogix and now AddThis.

“They’ve embraced as well as any other vendor the vision of a digital marketing hub through their acquisition strategy,” Sorofman said.

Marketo's Rise

Marketo’s ascension from a “challenger” to a “leader” is certainly noteworthy. The San Mateo, Calif.-based marketing automation provider, also one of Gartner’s leaders in multi-channel campaign management, is making “good progress,” Sorofman said. They’ve done well moving beyond their traditional B2B customers and into B2C."

“They’re embracing AdTech through integrations and really are developing in customer data management and audience management capabilities. They have a very strong partner ecosystem and are very much on the radar of many digital marketers.”

Gartner also included “vendors to watch,” those that did not make the final cut but are noteworthy digital marketing players: Acxiom, AudienceScience, Cake, Ensighten, HubSpot, Infor, Kenshoo, Lotame, Pegasystems, SAP, SAS and Tealium.

To get in the Gartner Digital Marketing Hubs Magic Quadrant door, some of the qualifications include:

  • Minimum revenue of $25 million in 2014
  • Active clients and a presence in at least two global regions
  • Availability as a SaaS solution
  • At least 10 new customers acquired in 2014
  • At least 50 percent of the client base must consist of organizations with a 2014 global revenue of at least $500 million.
  • At least 10 acknowledged vendor partnerships must be public and active (live in a client environment).