child stacking multi-colored blocks on top of each other
PHOTO: La-Rel Easter

Not that long ago tech stacks were fairly simple and often vendor-specific. Today tech stacks are anything but simple, thanks in part to major technological advancements such as social media, artificial intelligence (AI)/machine learning and big data. Like other stacks, the marketing technology (martech) stack has not been immune to its own major evolution. And as always, there are pros and cons to such change.

Scott Brinker, one of the most influential minds in martech, helps us visualize the exponential growth in technology options in his well-known graphic. Less than a decade ago, we had a few hundred solutions to choose from. Today marketers have to piece together an infrastructure from a menu of more than 7,000 unique solutions.

The upside? No matter what you need, you can likely find it. The challenge, or downside, is that knowing how to prioritize and reduce potential overlaps can become messy and confusing. And of course, once you figure out what you want and need, how do you ensure all solutions and services play nicely together?

Marketers also must identify which processes are so fundamental to sustained success and growth that they can’t be afterthoughts. Often these processes require platforms, from which every other part of the business can grow.  

Traditionally, the business roles earning the coveted status of “platform” have been relatively static. But as the nature and complexity of omnichannel marketing evolve, some solutions are ready to transition from application to platform.

Related Article: How to Simplify and Increase the Complexity of Your MarTech Stack at the Same Time

Rethinking the Role of Media Management

Finding out which solutions are ready to become platforms requires marketing leaders to identify where they need central sources of truth. Doing so reveals a few big buckets — most agree that CRM, CMS and ecommerce platforms, for example, are mission-critical in order to scale activity across the business. They aren’t just tools that help them perform a specific activity more efficiently.

Although all are constantly evolving, the one business-critical process we see changing most rapidly is content management. As customers find new ways to engage with brands, marketers, in turn, need a way to respond even faster to those engagements with content and media that are optimized for the interaction. This places outsized pressure on marketing teams to get more out of platforms that weren’t designed to handle the new demands.

For example, marketers don’t just manage a few images on a couple of branded channels anymore. While YouTube and Facebook are still the most widely used platforms among video marketers — used by 85% and 79%, respectively — other channels like LinkedIn are returning a great value, with 87% of video marketers calling it an effective channel. The skyrocketing popularity of apps like TikTok brings another opportunity to leverage partner and influencer accounts to reach new audiences on these platforms, too.

As the number of owned and third-party channels on which brands need to be visible increases, the complexity of managing branded content, partner content and user-generated content from creation to distribution skyrockets.

Related Article: What Does DAM Do?

We Need a New Approach to Media Management

Handling the complexity of content creation and delivery today requires a central nervous system that automates media processes to deliver maximum efficiency and control. CMS platforms simply weren’t built with visual media explicitly in mind. The sheer volume, pace and delivery channels for visual media make it nearly impossible to continue relying on CMS platforms to manage it all effectively.

What this means is that visual media management is transitioning out of the shadow of content management and earning its place as a process that needs to be considered platform-worthy itself.

It all comes down to the need for a central source of truth for visual media. Unless you want to build out a legion of highly technical developers to manage visual media — which you likely don’t — it’s crucial that your creative and marketing teams have access to an intuitive platform on which all media can be created, stored, manipulated and delivered to every channel in the right format and size, with the right text overlay and color scheme. 

Even better, it allows you to automate the delivery of assets for regionalized, localized and personalized contexts across every channel without adding complexity or question marks about which file should be used, or which was the original. Without it, you run into issues of fragmentation, duplication and slower time to market.

Related Article: Is it Time We Declutter CMS?

A New Era of Visual Marketing Requires New Foundations

If you own the martech stack or marketing strategies for your company, it will be increasingly critical that you have a plan for establishing a central nervous system for media management if you don’t already have one. For many, best-of-breed visual asset management is still the norm.

But building a martech stack designed to meet the demands of today requires a new way of thinking about media technology. Marketers need to understand the impact that visual media has on every line of business success — and protect those interests from the inefficiencies of decentralized asset management.

Once visual media becomes foundational to everything you do to market the business, I believe it will earn the right to enjoy platform status.