Today’s “marketing stack” really consists of three individual layers.

Data management contains all of the “pipes” used to connect people and identity together; orchestration ties all the execution systems together to reach customers at the right time and channel; and AI is the brains behind the stack. 

This technology layer cake was presented at this year’s Industry Preview by Brian Anderson of LUMA Partners who talked about the future of marketing technology.

Anderson's unifying marketechture drawings looked like an amalgamation of various whiteboarding sessions I have had recently with big enterprise marketers, many of whom are building the components of their marketing “stacks.”

Marketers are feverishly working to build a vision that can be summed up like the image below. Let's discuss each layer in a little more detail..

tech layer cake 

The Data Management Layer

The first layer, Data Management (DM), contains all of the “pipes” used to connect people and identity together. Every cloud needs to take data in from all kinds of sources, such as internet cookies, mobile IDs, hashed email identity keys, purchase data, CRM attribute data, ecommerce data, and the like.

Every signal we can collect results in a richer understanding of the customer, and the DM layer needs access to rich sets of first, second, and third-party data to paint the clearest picture. 

The DM layer also needs to tie every single ID and attribute collected to an individual, so all the signals collected can be leveraged to understand their wants and desires. This identity infrastructure is critical for the enterprise; knowing that you are the same guy who saw the display ad for the family minivan, and visited the “March Madness Deals” page on the mobile app goes a long way to understanding marketing attribution.

But the data management layer cannot be constrained by anonymous data. Today’s marketing stacks must leverage data management platforms (DMPs) to understand pseudonymous identity, but must find trusted ways to leverage personally identifiable information (PII)-based data from email and CRM systems.

This latter notion has created a new category—the “Customer Data Platform” (CDP), and also resulted in the rush to build data lakes as a method of collecting a variety of differentiated data for analytics purposes.

Finally, the data management layer must be able to seamlessly connect the data out to all kinds of activation channels, whether they are email, digital advertising, social, mobile, OTT, or IoT-based.

Just as people have many different ID keys, people have different identity keys inside of Google, Facebook, Pinterest, and the Wall Street Journal. Connecting those partner IDs to an enterprises’ universal ID solves problems with frequency management, attribution, and offers the ability to sequence messages across various addressable channels.

You can’t have a marketing cloud without data management. This layer is the “who” of the marketing cloud—who are these people and what are they like?

The Orchestration Layer 

The next thing marketers need to have is an orchestration layer, also thought of as journey management. This is the “When, Where, and How” of the stack.

Email systems can determine when to send that critical email; marketing automation software can decide whether to put someone in a “nurture” campaign, or have a salesperson call them right away; DSPs decide when to bid on a likely internet surfer; and social management can tell us the best time to Tweet or Snap.

Content management systems and site-side personalization orchestrate the perfect content experience on a webpage, and dynamic creative optimization systems have gotten pretty good at guessing which ad will perform better for certain segments.

The “when” layer is critical for building smart customer journeys. If you get enough systems connected, you start to realize the potential for executing on the “right person, right message, right time” dynamic that has been promised for many years, but never quite delivered at scale.

Adtech has been busy nailing the orchestration of display and mobile messages, and the big social platforms have been leveraging their rich people data to deliver relevant messages. However, with lots of marketing money and attention still focused on email and television, there is plenty of work to be done before marketers can build journeys that are fully connected and communicating across all touchpoints with a consumer.   

Marketers today are looking to better connect various systems and gett them to talk to each other to figure out the “when, where, and how” of marketing. 

The Artificial Intelligence Layer

When every single marketer and big media company uses a DMP, and has figured out how to get journey management working, it is clear the next big initiative to tackle is how to make it all smarter and efficient with the AI layer.

Artificial intelligence represents the “why” problem in marketing—why am I emailing this person instead of calling her? Should I be targeting this segment at all? Why does this guy score highly for a new car purchase, and this other guy who looks similar doesn’t? What is the lifetime value of this new business traveler I just acquired?

While the stacks have tons of identity data, advertising data, and sales data, they need a brain to analyze all of that data and decide how to use it most effectively. As marketing systems become more real-time and more connected to on-the-go customers than ever before, artificial intelligence must drive millions of decisions quickly, gleaned from billions of individual data points.

How does the soda company know when to deliver an ad for water instead of diet soda? It requires understanding location, the weather, the person, and what they are doing in the moment. AI systems are rapidly building their machine learning capabilities and connecting into journey management systems to help with decisioning.

All together now 

The layer cake is a convenient way to look at what is happening today. The vision for tomorrow is to squish the layer cake together in such a way that enterprises get all of that functionality in a single cake.

Sooner than you think, the marketing technology stack will have some kind of built-in DMP. Journey management systems will all have built-in artificial intelligence as a means for differentiation. Look at email orchestration today. It is not sold on its ability to deliver messages to inboxes, but rather on its ability to provide that service in a smarter package to increase open-rates, conversion and provide richer analytics. 

It will be fun to watch as these new components come together to form the marketing clouds of the future.

Chris O'Hara

Published 4 April, 2017 by Chris O'Hara

Chris O'Hara leads global marketing at data management platform Krux, a Salesforce company, and is a contributor to Econsultancy.

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Comments (7)

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Pete Austin

Pete Austin, Founder and Author at Fresh Relevance

Great article but it's not all about customer identification and the customer journey. Business data such as stock levels is vital too, as is competitor data.

The answer to questions like, "How does the soda company know when to deliver an ad for water instead of diet soda?" is that their marketing is aware of stock levels in each location. If water is low on stock, then there's little point in promoting it, so their marketing rules will deliver an ad for diet soda instead. Or promote water at a much higher price - you decide.

When stock levels are back to normal, that's the time to market the temporarily-unavailable product to deprived customers.

over 1 year ago

Chris O'Hara

Chris O'Hara, Head of Global Marketing, Krux at Salesforce

Pete, that's a great point. It's simple to suppress creative based on product availability but gets complicated to automate that at scale--especially at very granular geo levels. That's a great argument for setting up automated journey paths in the orchestration layer, fed by real time stock level triggers.

over 1 year ago

Simone Castello

Simone Castello, Digital consultant and trainer at

An interesting view. I have co-written about CRM from a martech approach and it's all about data and how you manage it (lead conversion, customer retention, etc). Fingers crossed the academics like it, we are humble practitioners undergoing peer review, which is quite an experience.

over 1 year ago

Tom Winstanley

Tom Winstanley, Head of Consulting, VP | @wisetothenew - NTT DATA UK at NTT Data UK Consulting and IT Solutions Limited

Great summary marchitecture. Looks like a worthy candidate for Scott Brinker's "Stackies" awards (!

I do think that it underplays the complexity of physical / digital channel cross overs and their implications for each of the layers outlined to deliver genuinely joined up campaigning.

We are finding with our clients across industries that this is one of the most significant challenges, but therefore also the real opportunity to create experiences that differentiate against the competition.

over 1 year ago

Ashley Friedlein

Ashley Friedlein, Founder, Econsultancy & President, Centaur Marketing at EconsultancyStaff

Great piece as ever Chris. A few points/thoughts:
- I think ideally we should be consistent in terminology. Are you suggesting that 'orchestration layer' is a better term for the 'journey management layer' or are these two different things?
- The diagram has Data then AI then Journey Management. You have Data than Orchestration then AI? I would have thought the AI 'thinking' needs to be based on data but come before the actual execution?
- In the past I've tried to explain this stack using the human body as a metaphor. Not sure how well it works but it goes like this (and it is concentric circles if visualised):
-- (centre) Data = DNA, the basic building blocks that drive behaviour and action
-- (inner ring) Artificial Intelligence = Brain, the decisioning engine that processes signals and decides what to do
-- (outer ring) Execution = our Functions and Senses, which allow us to capture data and execute the instructions from our brain.

over 1 year ago

Chris O'Hara

Chris O'Hara, Head of Global Marketing, Krux at Salesforce

Ashley. Thanks for your insights here.

-- I love calling the orchestration layer "Journey Management." Ultimately, we are trying to nail building customer journeys. The current term of art seems like "orchestration" however. It's not bad if you think of the dozens of channels and hundreds of inputs required to launch a campaign.

-- I love your human body metaphor. It's a very compelling way to think about how sense and sense-making drive the appendages of marketing. I am going to steal this with your permission for a presentation (with full attribution)! Has anyone published this graphic yet?

over 1 year ago

Ashley Friedlein

Ashley Friedlein, Founder, Econsultancy & President, Centaur Marketing at EconsultancyStaff

Glad you like my metaphor Chris. I've never actually created the graphic... it is in my head only ;) So if you could do it for me then that would be great. I can then attribute your design skills :)

over 1 year ago

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