Convergence and the power of data in modern marketing
Columnist Josh Manion takes a look at how marketing technologies are converging and explains why tag management is helping to drive that convergence.
Scott Brinker’s 2016 Marketing Technology Landscape Supergraphic documents what many enterprise marketing teams deal with daily: The number of marketing technology vendors has doubled yet again since last year.
Innovation comes from extraordinary creativity in our industry. It also has its negative side: the fragmentation caused by rapid proliferation of martech tools and the siloed data they generate.
At the same time, several forces are converging to help unlock the power of data for marketing initiatives.
How does convergence emerge from such diversity? The answer is multi-dimensional:
- First, and fundamentally, technology is converging. When you look at Brinker’s supergraphic, you see that the lines separating different technologies are starting to blur. It’s no longer clear which vendors are moving into what spaces and which technologies work better together.
- At the same time, data generated by these vendors is converging. The vendors represented in the martech universe are collecting and integrating lots of customer data.
- The customer experience once involved one or two channels, and brands could think of them as individual experiences. But we now see convergence in the omnichannel customer experience. Consumers are saying, “If you engage me on mobile, for example, I need to have that same experience on your website.”
- Finally, the marketing department itself is undergoing cultural and operational convergence. Marketers are asking, “How do we make all of this actionable across siloed operational teams. How do we work together?”
The apex of convergence
Five years ago, Brinker asked himself the question: How are marketing and IT teams beginning to converge? To support his thinking, he sketched out the first of what has become the iconic Marketing Technology Landscape Supergraphic.
That landscape started out with a modest number of logos displaying just 150 martech vendors in 2011. In sharp contrast, the 2016 list shows some 3,874 on a single slide — a 26-fold increase.
But remember, those logos are more than just pictures. Many of these logos represent a technology that leverages “tags” — snippets of data-collecting code.
Tags drive most third-party digital marketing services, from analytics to display advertising. Now, when we translate the collection of martech logos on Brinker’s supergraphic, we can see a shift in tag management from being tactical to strategic.
In short, the tag is where great marketing ideas converge into implementation. And it’s in enterprise tag management that the martech convergence is taking place. (Disclosure: I’m the founder and CEO of a tag management company serving large enterprises.)
Evolving with the modern enterprise
It’s helpful to look at the history of how tag management evolved to power more sophisticated use cases for omnichannel marketing, security and privacy. What started as a way to address the need for basic tagging agility rapidly evolved to support omnichannel marketing and agility:
- Phase 1: Managing the number of tags. The basic logic for tag management was simple. I have many tags, and it’s a pain to deploy and manage their growing number. In other words, early tag management was simply a function of the number of tags deployed across one or more websites. Tags at this stage delivered a means of collecting data on a single digital channel: websites.
- Phase 2: Managing tag conditions. Tags, however, continued to grow in number and sophistication as the digital ecosystem quickly expanded with new technologies. The next big step was to manage the conditions under which a tag fired, a significant step in complexity. The marketer had to ask, “When do I want that tag to apply?”
- Phase 3: Managing variables and integrations. The tag continued its evolution to include additional first- and third-party data variables required for each of those conditions. Then complexity multiplied again with the number of integrations, which create the connective tissue between different marketing technology and ad tag vendors.
- Phase 4: Managing privacy and security. An enterprise-class system then wraps a privacy and security layer around the entire platform, enabling the enterprise to enforce policy globally.
Tags deployed in enterprise tag management now talk to one another and to back-end and front-end systems. They have become the place where first- and third-party data, security, privacy enforcement and omnichannel customer journeys converge.
And perhaps most fundamentally, they promote data ownership on behalf of the enterprise in a privacy-conscious way to help keep data as secure as possible.
Marketers know how difficult it can be to retrieve their own first-party data from behind proprietary vendor firewalls, which produce islands of data.
With enterprise tag management, marketing retains ownership of data as a cornerstone in building a 360-degree view of the customer. That view requires consumer data from online, offline and offsite sources integrated into a customer data layer, which, in turn, makes it possible to stitch together consumer profiles across all customer touch points, including mobile.
Solving for complexity
Enterprise tag management, as a result, now addresses a math problem that is infinitely more complex than the basic systems first introduced in the last decade. CMOs and CTOs are taking the complexity of customer relationship management and the omnichannel digital worlds and converging them at the tag level 24/7 globally.
We’ve come a long way in just a few years to manage what I call infinite exponential complexity, typical of the business of the 21st century.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily MarTech. Staff authors are listed here.