In the beginning, there were discrete technical and functional silos: an era where various flavors of marketing and their support infrastructure were isolated and disconnected.

In that era it was the marketing channel itself that created a convenient organizing principle: the discipline and tools were centered on how the consumer was reached. Case in point: TV ads. The creation, production, dissemination, and measurement were all specific to this domain. Similarly “BTL,” “B2B” or “PR” were all served by their dedicated expertise and infrastructures, and the tools of these domains did not cross over to other disciplines.

Rapid and profound changes in technology – notably Mobile, Social, Programmatic and Big Data underpinning all – not only effectively demolished barriers meshing together these domains, but also created new ones: just think about anything pertaining to “real time”, “content marketing” or “attribution”.

How can marketers & marketing technology buyers make sense out of this? What organizing principle & framework will help in deciphering not just today’s landscape, but tomorrow’s?

The evolution of “Mobile” offers an effective and convenient framework. Perhaps not a coincidence considering that Mobile is the biggest catalyst in 21st century marketing.

The mobile ecosystem begins with a base layer: the “invisible” but quintessential telecommunication infrastructure: spectrum, cell towers, routers, etc. On top of this sits a middle layer: the glorious handsets and their slick mobile operating systems: But arguably, the most important top layer is what drastically expands utility: applications. Apps are focused, rich experiences individually or connected to other apps “sitting atop” the base and middle layers, the tech stack.

Similarly, today’s marketing and advertising technology space has three layers:

  1. Infrastructure: big consumer platforms (Google, Facebook, Twitter), the Cloud, databases and development tools.
  2. Middle layer: Data/content management and transaction platforms (DMPs/CDPs, SSPs DSPs WCMs/WEMs, ecommerce, personalization engines, etc.)
  3. Finally, drastically expanding the utility of these layers: Marketing Applications. These applications are simple and purposeful but the technology underneath is anything but. As typical with technology it starts out clunky and complicated but it gets simpler as we wrap unified user experience around it.

Marketing Apps fall into two main categories:

  • User facing apps are manifestations of the Brands/Marketers intent; interactive instances of engagement, e.g. mobile apps, displays and video ads, blogs, search ads, social media, call centers, surveys and other VoC tools, promo/contest tools belong here.
  • Marketer facing applications include business intelligence, analytics, dashboards, asset and project management.

These apps are distributed by various delivery networks. Some have their own, dedicated ways of reaching the consumer (e.g. via email) but most will live on content networks, frequently fully integrating with them. Taking the earlier TV example: the once monolith and isolated domain is dissolving into the various layers already facing users: e.g., a freestanding mobile (video) app, a smart tv app, or integrated into various video platforms on the front-end. On the back end, it will mesh into the marketing analytics/measurement platform and asset/content management systems.

Similar to mobile apps the benefit of Marketing Apps is the combination of single-minded focus on specific opportunities while avoiding the recreation of isolated “point solutions” as apps are connected to a common platform and all the 1st & 3rd party data available.

Marketing Apps improve effectiveness as the consistent approach – of possibly very diverse apps – is rooted in a common (data) platform and deliver a fluid user experience while enhancing the 360 visibility of the consumer. Speed and simplicity of execution improves efficiency. Renting only the apps necessary for the time they are needed means additional savings for marketers.

You will be able to build modular toolboxes, quickly swapping specific solutions in and out yet enjoying the benefit of a unified backend system for process management and measurement. Today marketers still must know how “the watch works” but soon apps will just “tell the time”. They will just get the app that ‘Recruits participants for a Clinical Trial” or “Engages Influencers in Category X” and not worry about the mechanics.

Brace for the flood of Marketing Apps. Developers will find many new contexts and use cases in which marketers, brands, and other constituencies can interact with consumers and users providing rich experiences. We don’t know what they will be like and probably will have to invent a few new categories and names. But rest assured, the Appification of Marketing is on its way.