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This Is Not Your Father's Marketing Database

More than 15 years ago, Oldsmobile launched a campaign to save the failing brand by highlighting its design for the future that defined the next generation of its brand’s vehicles. The actual details on what Oldsmobile was changing in their vehicles are hard to recollect today. The tagline, however, lives on and has been repurposed many times over.

The marketing database is undergoing a similar innovation today. In addition to supporting a marketer’s traditional needs, it must also be able to support online media programs and other systems of engagement in an increasingly dynamic, digital world:

  • Campaign management continues to broaden and shows no signs of narrowing. Campaigns must now target both known and unknown audiences across many addressable platforms. Targeting within Facebook and Twitter are just the beginning – soon enough, the connected objects within our homes will begin messaging to us as well.
  • The interactions that can help us understand consumers and how to best communicate to them present themselves in larger numbers, through a variety of vehicles, and with varying pieces of identifying information associated with them. We must be able to connect those events in a compiled event stream to create a single, more detailed view of the consumer.
  • Decisions about what and how to communicate must be made rapidly, and must be based on the most recent information available about a consumer’s behavior.  The marketing database’s reach is bigger than just marketing — it drives the consumer experience and relationship with the organization.
  • Mandatory data sources now include very large digital data sets as well as unstructured data.  Leveraging Hadoop for large scale processing of these source within the marketing technology infrastructure has become the norm.

Traditionally, the marketing database has been the central integration point for all known data sources required to enable execution and measurement of direct marketing programs for traditional channels like direct mail and email. It is as important as ever, but is now just one of the three components that make up the next generation marketing database:

Identity Management: matching and keying based on names and terrestrial address information remains essential, but as Sandra Swindle described in her post on Identity Management, the identity graph has expanded and must now include all digital and device identifiers in order to link online to offline. Without all identifiers, you simply can’t build a comprehensive view of a consumer across all touch points with which the consumer interacts.

Data Management Platform (DMP): These platforms are the traditional marketing database’s sister data mart and sister campaign management tools for anonymous data and targeting. They enable us to target anonymous audiences for digital media as well as decision management capabilities for personalization on site and other channels. When we leverage identity management to augment a DMP with known customer attributes, segments, and offline events, it is considerably more effective.

Marketing Database: The traditional marketing database is still required to connect all customer and prospect behavior and characteristics for known audiences. It must still support campaign execution, advanced analytics, and business intelligence. It is a crucial part of the foundation, as it must also provision data throughout the entire Connected Customer Platform to components such as the DMP, online operational systems, and analytics platforms.

Any one of these three components can add value as standalone solution, but when all three are fully integrated and collaborating, their capabilities are all increased to drive results in a data-driven, analytically robust direct-to-consumer marketing environment.

I suppose several years from now, after these components consolidate, we might look back and scoff at this new solution, much like we do at that space age car with an onboard computer in which William Shatner’s daughter flies away; however, today, it is innovation, and therefore an exciting time to be architecting solutions.

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