Oracle makes formal pitch for Marketing Cloud with integration candor

Stuart Lauchlan Profile picture for user slauchlan May 4, 2014
Oracle sets out its Marketing Cloud stall in New York with some candid admissions to the marketing audience from President Mark Hurd.

“We have historically had great relationships with IT. We don’t historically have great relationships with Chief Marketing Officers.”

As blunt statements go, that could be read as a slightly unfortunate admission at a time when we’ve all had it drummed into us via almost every keynote presentation and webinar over the past 18 months that it’s the CMO who’s set to be the major IT buying decision influencer over the next few years.

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Mark Hurd

But that’s the situation Oracle finds itself in according to President Mark Hurd, who used his keynote address to an audience of marketers in New York for the formal launch of the Oracle Marketing Cloud last week to outline some of the challenges that the firm faces in what has rapidly become the cloud equivalent of the arms race among enterprise software firms.

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Regular readers will need no reminding of the main players in this race, such as Marketo, Infor, Adobe and Oracle’s chief ‘frenemy’, with the last of those being particularly aggressive in its courting of the CMO of late.

Like, Oracle has fleshed out its Marketing Cloud ambitions through acquisition with an 18 month shopping spree that saw Eloqua, Compendium, Responsys, and BlueKai on its list - all in pursuit of that elusive relationship with the CMO.

Marketing pragmatism

To be fair, while CEO Marc Benioff is a fully-signed up evangelist for CMO-as-decision-maker (completely in tune with the Gartner argument that kicked of this latest marketing

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officer focus), Hurd seems to see it as a logical conclusion, but one that is perhaps still evolving as the old marketing maxims are questioned. Hurd explains:

“The paradigm that guys like me learned have to be revisited. There will always be bad customers, always be lunatic customers that are continual, habitual complainers who are not happy. ‘Don’t worry about them’ made sense to me. Now I’m not so sure.

“Take our business. We have 400,000 customers. Let’s say I got 20,000 unhappy customers. If they start tweeting, if they go to Facebook, if they make a YouTube video, I got 20,000 problems. And the 20,000 problems will overwhelm the 380,000 happy customers.”

So there needs to be a new approach. But is it one necessarily led by the CMO as Gartner suggests? Hurd suggests we follow the money:

“It will be interesting by company where the power sits. In most companies the power sits with the guy who has the revenue. Whoever has revenue has power and typically gets the IT projects.

“Go talk to someone over in HR. They typically don’t get a lot of IT attention. Why? The CEO is concerned with their job and their survival. What drives CEO survival? Financial performance, revenue, customers.

"So therefore marketing is going to get funded. The more impact it has on revenue performance and customer behaviour, it’s actually going to attract more dollars.”

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His overall message to marketers in the audience: you’re in a good space. That’s followed up by a pragmatic commercial admission:

“It’s the same reason that attracts a company like Oracle. We can now help automate that process and make it simpler. We believe it will attract a lot of funds. It will change brands futures. Therefore it attracts us.”

Hence the shopping spree. But it’s all part of a wider vision, insists Hurd, and one that’s increasingly important:

"This has now become a big business for us. From a cloud revenue perspective, this is hundreds of millions of dollars for us. This is a material, core vertical and it's a material part in terms of where we think profit will grow.

‘We buy the best in the space at what they do. We do not have a strategy to buy a crummy company and milk it for cashflow. We buy the technology leaders in the space they’re in . [Customers] buy the best. So do we. We tend to buy the best. Our view has been if you do that, then you integrate, then you feature strength, very good things happen to you.

“We try to have a strategy before we buy one. Imagine we have a theory about what we want to buy before we even buy the first one. We try to be patient and get the right property.”

The Oracle Marketing Cloud

Integration we shall return to shortly. But with its purchases under its corporate belt - or soon to be in the case of BlueKai - Oracle’s now at the stage of pulling its various acquisitions together under the Marketing Cloud banner - a name that the company did admit was hardly original.

There are four main planks to what is the Oracle Marketing Cloud:

  • Cross-channel marketing - based on the Responsys acquisition and centring on creating consistent personalized experiences across web, social, mobile, email, and any other digital channel.
  • Content marketing - from the Compendium acquisition and pitched as helping marketers plan, produce, and deliver their content to customers that are at a certain stage in the buying cycle.
  • Social marketing - which is based around the Oracle Social Cloud.
  • Data management - the BlueKai acquisition will provide the data element to tie the various marketing data sources together.

To support the overall message about the functional capabilities of the various parts, assorted client success stories were trotted out:

  • Thomson Reuters which saw a 175% increase in revenue attributed to marketing.
  • The NBA’s Golden State Warriors which boasted a 300% growth in Twitter followers.
  • Zurich NA’s 10% improvement in customer retention rates.

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But it was Oracle itself that was posited as a prime example of how marketing technologies can transform a business. Time for another of Hurd’s blunt statements:

“We had no marketing automation system at Oracle. We went by instinct.

“It’s a great process. We did things that we’ve come to feel were pretty good. About 15 months ago we started our evolution and I’m still not sure we’re great at it. There’s a whole other level of improvement that we can make.

“But we eat our own dog food. We’re a very scaled company. We have roughly 30,000 people in our front end sales organisation. We spend [hundreds of millions] on marketing for the sole reason of making those people more productive.”

Hurd wants fewer, but better, leads for them:

“The last thing we need is more leads[coming in] slowly. I’d be glad to get less leads but get them to the sales person immediately when they’re fresh. Our data says the buyer who gave us the lead has a very short attention span. The ability to get down from 3.5 days [to pass through a lead] to two hours is a huge change for us.

“Our ability now to get a 50% increase in our click through rate by having a better qualified lead that we’re getting to has been a huge improvement for us. We’ve typically splattered our advertising out saying ‘this looks like a good place to be’ and we get a low click through rate.”

Not integrated yet

All of this good theory of course, but in practice there is a way to go before the Oracle Marketing Cloud is a fully-integrated offering. For example, the Responsys deal only closed last month while BlueKai is still underway.

So there is, at present, not a single integrated Marketing Cloud platform.

In fact, when called out on this by an audience member, Hurd was refreshingly candid on that front:

"The fact that everything ever works perfectly together, anybody who tells you that is pulling your leg.

"There will never be a day where the depth of integration, unless it was all built from the bottom ground up, will ever be to the degree [integrated] as any of us would like.

"We always will have the battle of depth of integration versus feature strengthening that goes on continually in the software business.

“Take Responsys and BlueKai and Eloqua. The day before we bought them, they weren’t integrated. The day after we bought them, they’re still not integrated. All those companies have commitments to customers for feature screening that we have to make sure that we execute on. We have to continue the depth of integration.”

But he added:

“If all we do is integrate you’re not going to be very happy with us. We have to feature strength forward. We have to lead. We have to drive this Marketing Cloud and continue to add breadth and depth. The question will be timing. But we will over-resource to execute and drive it.”

It’s a good admission, states Peter Kim, chief strategy office and principal analyst at Constellation Research:

Oracle can’t walk into a CMO’s offer with a menagerie of acquired point solutions — the single Marketing Cloud product allows sales to offer an enterprise-level platform.

Oracle openly acknowledges there’s additional work to be completed in building out the Marketing Cloud solution.

Although AppCloud offers connections to a wide variety of point solutions, Oracle still needs a tightly integrated solution to deliver on the need for marketing metrics tied to business objectives.

And not just social media measurement or web analytics — marketers need customer-focused omnichannel metrics with proper attribution to understand campaign performance.

With the ongoing competition in the Marketing Cloud space, it’s all to play for, he added:

The cloud competition is becoming increasingly expansive and the stakes can’t get much higher. James Bond fans might remember the video game that Sean Connery plays in Never Say Never Again called “Domination,” that delivers electric shocks to the loser. Except in this case the price of defeat is going to cost a lot more than $267,000.


Such is the ongoing high-profile of the various Marketing Cloud efforts - how did we ever get by without that name? - that I confess I hadn't even twigged that Oracle had yet to formally announce its own roll of the dice.

The New York gig gave a good overview of the roadmap and was commendably upfront about the long journey and challenges ahead, most notably the candid comments on integration. This is going to be key clearly. Anyone with a bank balance like Oracle's can go out and buy lots of marketing functionality, but making it work seamlessly will be the differentiator in a rapidly crowded sector.

As regular readers will know, I've become somewhat immune to the 'CMO rules OK' mantra - thanks for that, Gartner! - that's been trotted out by almost every software industry exec put in charge of a PowerPoint clicker over the past couple of years.

But clearly the marketing cloud - lower case! - is one of the toughest frontline battlegrounds at present. With Oracle's skin in the game, the talking will get tougher and the stakes higher.  


Disclosure: at time of writing, Oracle and are premium partners of diginomica and Marketo is a partner. 

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