Battle of the Marketing Clouds

IBM officially joined the Marketing Cloud battle today, with the news that it is acquiring marketing automation vendor SilverPop.
This expands IBM’s  capabilities to scale personalized customer engagement beyond Unica—certainly in email, but across all digital channels. (IBM is no stranger to marketing software, but they’ve really not been a contender in this category)

IBM confidently announced on the call that the other vendors were clearly following their lead in building the technology modern marketers need–yet Oracle, Adobe, and Salesforce have been faster to build out their own “Marketing Clouds.” Today’s news follows acquisitions of Eloqua and Responsys by Oracle, Neolane by Adobe, and ExactTarget (which had also previously bought Pardot) by Salesforce. While these aren’t perfect apples-to-apples comparisons, it’s clear each of these giants sees the importance of marketing automation as a cornerstone of modern marketing and cross-channel customer engagement. And the acquisitions made by Adobe, Salesforce, and Oracle go well beyond marketing automation to include capabilities related to customer data, analytics, social, mobile, and content.

All four vendors have the same fundamental vision for how they help the modern marketer, which can be distilled down to:

  1. 1. Understand the customer (aggregate data; unified customer identity)
  2. Engage the customer (consistent, personalized, cross-channel)
  3. Attribute, measure, optimize


IBM vision


Oracle vision


Of course, any company using these technologies will still need to define their own objectives for the customer journey, but this vision makes sense given what are becoming basic needs for the modern marketer. Beyond this basic vision, though, each vendor emphasizes it’s own strengths when presenting its Marketing Cloud:

  • Adobe has emphasized web analytics with Omniture, as well as content—it’s own heritage.
  • Salesforce has emphasized social marketing, where many of its investments have been made.
  • Oracle has continued to highlight CRM and focus on customer experience.
  • IBM has focused on analytics and big data for many years, and naturally they emphasize those capabilities.

So what’s next in this battle of the giants? While none will ever have a truly “complete” solution, there are some natural places these vendors may look as they continue to build out their offerings. Social, mobile, content, and customer data are hot areas. Social signon providers Janrain and Gigya, for example, may be attractive targets because of the social identity data they’ve been collecting. And of course the ability to integrate these acquisitions to provide increased value remains a big question as well.

Welcome to the battle IBM, things are getting interesting!

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