How Do We Put Humans At The Center Of The Marketing Tech Ecosystem?

mayurguptaupdated11215Brand Aware” explores the data-driven digital ad ecosystem from the marketer’s point of view.

Today’s column is written by Mayur Gupta, global head of marketing technology and innovation at Kimberly-Clark.

These are interesting times in the growth of marketing technologies, which are consolidating and diversifying simultaneously.

While the consolidation is slow, it is being triggered by frequent acquisitions spearheaded by the top four – IBM, Adobe, Oracle and Salesforce – and their quests to build the next “marketing operating system” with their so-called “marketing clouds.”

Innovation through startups and new technology platforms is driving diversification at the same time. Billions of dollars are being spent in this process as brands and marketers finally utilize these capabilities to try and drive consumer experiences that are seamless and omnichannel.

However, there is a fundamental element that has been missing from within this ecosystem: the “human,” “person” and “consumer.” They are clearly not at the center of a marketing technology ecosystem that has become increasingly channel-centric.


The Right Questions

There are a few simple questions we need to ask ourselves when investing in or managing this technology landscape:

How many times have you started this journey by putting the consumer at the center vs. the technology or the channel?

Are you really trying to change “consumer behavior” by simplifying lives using data and technology? Are you even thinking about it?

Are you truly solving business challenges and objectives that prevent you from making money?

Have you allowed “channels,” such as mobile, social, email or search, to drive your technology strategy in a syndrome I call “channel obsession?” Have you become too channel-focused?

Are you really measuring the impact and ROI from these capabilities through the prism of consumer engagement and top-line business growth?

The Wrong Questions

You may get unique responses to these questions but I’d bet 99% of marketing technology strategies and planning occur in response to goals that do not begin and end with a consumer need or a business challenge. Here are some typical channel-driven strategies that influence marketing technology strategy:

It’s all about “mobile first.” We should have a mobile app and all our sites must be responsive.

Why don’t we have a marketing automation platform?

For all marketing investment, we need to be in the marketing cloud. Can we adopt one of those platforms?

Don’t we need a big data platform and real-time analytics capability?

Should we try a social marketing platform that allows content syndication across all social platforms, in addition to reuse, efficiency and scale?

A Better Approach

To be honest, it is easier to respond to these questions without applying the technologies to specific consumer behavior and needs that prevent your business from making money. But that’s a flawed approach that lacks the “human” element.

We need an evolved methodology that is driven by the consumer and their needs, as well as by business challenges.

Realign The Marketing Technology Landscape

We must find the human within the marketing technology ecosystem. But how do we shift this entire marketing technology landscape on its axis to create a model that is led by the consumer at the center?


I have a couple of simple answers. Connect your technology ideas and capabilities to business objectives and consumer needs. Create a story in plain English and use the art of storytelling for a story that starts with the consumer and the business and not with technology.

Try it.

Follow Mayur Gupta (@inspiremartech) and AdExchanger (@adexchanger) on Twitter.


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  1. If you want to get people to behave in a way that aligns with your company objectives–to try or buy your products or services and then continue using them–you don’t get there by leading with ad technology or strategy. Those things are important, of course, but of higher importance is making sure that the corporate belief system is a belief system that aligns with some segment of people.

    If you can’t say what your company really stands for (aside from profit), why would anybody want to align with you and your product roadmap? Further, why would they want to help spread the word?

    Finally, let’s ban “consumer.” That describes fungi, mold and bacteria more aptly than human beings.

  2. Stuart MacDonald

    Amen Mayur. Businesses only sell old products to old customers, old products to new customers, new products to old customers and new products to new customers. Employing the 80/20 rule (80% of sales will come from 20% of existing customers) businesses will recognize that top line revenue objectives are most easily met by understanding why customers buy their products and will align their resources “foam the runway” to purchase. So, technology-driven “channels” are really tactics to support a customer-centric growth strategy centered on providing the right customer with the right offer in the right channel at the right time that optimizes lifetime value.