TMCnet Feature
August 21, 2013

Digital Marketing's Race for Third Place: IBM and Adobe Lead the Pack

By Steve Anderson, Contributing TMCnet Writer

A new report from Ovum (News - Alert) provides insight into the broader market for enterprise digital marketing platforms, and that insight reveals some stark truths about the market as a whole. Specifically, in the short term, the current frontrunners by a fairly wide margin are IBM's digital marketing and Adobe's, leaving most every other firm in the market struggling for third place.

The Ovum report goes on to show just why IBM (News - Alert) and Adobe have the pride of place the firms currently enjoy; more specifically, it's an issue of branding proposition, which includes not just the overall functionality of the products—which at last report is sound—but also in terms of breadth and depth of service offerings as well as overall strategic direction.

Ovum evaluated the offerings of the six leading firms in the field—IBM and Adobe, of course, but also those offered by Salesforce, Oracle, Teradata and SAS (News - Alert)—and evaluated same in terms of how an enterprise CMO or a head of digital might respond to the various offerings. According to Ovum's study, while Adobe (News - Alert) led the pack from a CMO standpoint, IBM took over in terms of the reaction of a digital authority. IBM will be exhibiting its offerings at next week’s ITEXPO event in Las Vegas, Nev., August 26-29 at booth 712.

However, while the top two were pretty clearly established, the race for third almost seems like a four-way tie, with all of the vendors reportedly comparable in terms of just how the overall product works.

Features and functions, according to Ovum's senior digital marketing analyst Gerry Brown, should be lower down on the list in terms of deciding who to go with, as it's fairly easy for other vendors to bring in features that started life as unique and proprietary, but quickly became standard fare. Instead, Brown advises, focus more on those platforms that best work with the entire company, which explains IBM and Adobe's current positions in the field. 

This advice actually goes double for vendors, who instead of focusing on the product delivered should instead focus on how the vendor can better fit into the overall operation, distinguishing itself as a provider of solutions as opposed to products. It's almost clichéd advice when it comes to the marketing field, but “solutions not products” is still a watchword for marketing efforts. With products fairly easy to approximate for sale, trying to differentiate on the strength of a product alone is a difficult proposition at best.

Indeed, based on Ovum's study, IBM has a bit of an edge even over Adobe as it has reportedly mastered a three-sided look at being a vendor: the vendor / CIO / CMO approach that gives it a sound position with all sides of the equation. The Ovum study offers one final nugget of information: with a strategy of vendor integration, building things like trust and strategic relationships give a better overall chance of success.

While it's impossible to succeed without a good product, it's about much more than the product itself. Indeed, what the Ovum study seems to suggest is that a digital marketing product itself needs good marketing behind it, a way to show businesses how valuable it is in comparison to the alternatives. Since the product itself is so easily replicated, the way to show that value is by using the entire company, not just the product itself. When other digital marketing providers get a better handle on marketing, IBM and Adobe's status as top of the heap may end up threatened.

Edited by Alisen Downey
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