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The marketing cloud battle between cloud-based software companies Salesforce, Adobe and Oracle has intensified over the past year as all three companies have made significant acquisitions.

Salesforce bought Datorama for a reported $800m to enhance its Marketing Cloud with expanded data integration, intelligence and analytics, while Adobe purchased Magento Commerce Cloud in a deal valued at $1.68bn to boost its Experience Cloud with digital commerce capabilities.

Meanwhile, Oracle added contextual targeting to its Data Cloud through Grapeshot to complement its acquisitions of Moat for analytics and measurement, and for machine learning.

While Oracle has strengthened its martech stack, it is keen to ensure that its clients do not treat the company like a ‘7-Eleven convenience store or a Giant supermarket’, where they pick out one or two tools to use without understanding what they do, Stephen Hamill, vice president of Oracle Marketing Cloud in Japan and Asia Pacific tells The Drum.

“If and when that happens, it is easy say, “Okay, here it is.” However, because we own more than 22,000 products, it makes more sense that we say to our customers, “Look. Stop. What exactly is it you're trying to do?” he says.

“When we understand what their problem is, we say, “Look. We have a 7-Eleven full of products that we can bring to bear.” If your question is, what is it you really want? You want a chocolate cake. We'll get the right amount of cocoa and sugar and milk and we'll put that together and we'll get you the chocolate cake that you want.”

Hamill is also keen to stress that in terms of products, Oracle is trying to move away from talking about specifically about products and take on an approach where it is clearer about what the client is trying to do as an organisation.

For example, he says a much more intelligent conversation to have with Oracle is - “We've got 40 bricks and mortar stores that we're looking to close down. At the same time, we're looking to expand our marketing to India, and we don't want to drop our revenue.”

“That's a conversation we can say, “What do we need to apply to that problem in terms of digital marketing and in terms of data, not just digital marketing, in terms of any kind of engagement to get you that outcome?” explains Hamill. “Whether it's Grapeshot or whether it's Responsys, all that, it doesn't matter. That's just the milk, the sugar and the chocolate. That's what that is.”

Oracle also wants its clients to use its martech stack to solve challenges like talking to their target audience across channels like email, chatbots, search and display any point in time, in a way that makes sense to the previous conversations that occurred across other channels,

This is because stitching the data and experience together in a single tone of voice that makes sense is tough, explains Hamill. “If you're an airline, you have a tone of voice. If you're a brand, you have a ton of voice. You can't have a different tone of voice on an app than the one you have on your website, because you answer different questions as people don't go there for the same things.”

“As a marketer, trying to get your head around that is a really tough thing, particularly when you add personalisation in the mix because now it says you've got all of these channels and then you multiply them by all the different conversations you can have. It is phenomenal. Without artificial intelligence and machine learning and deep learning, that's just not possible,” he adds.

Changing the conversation

With the marketing cloud battle staying in the headlines for the foreseeable future, Hamill wants a shift from the conversation on the targeting and measurement capabilities of Oracle’s martech stack. He notes that as a ‘massive organisation’ known for data and storage, it is very often that that the message on its martech capabilities overwhelms some of Oracle’s other messages as a company.

“I think a lot of that has to do with so many organisations now whose entire business is digital marketing. They are a digital marketing company and nothing else effectively. The challenge then becomes for the organisations that were never there that are trying to become that is, how do they make that shift, and how do they compete in this new world?” he explains, noting that chief marketing officers’ focus has gone from brand awareness to focusing on revenue.

“We have got all these startups coming up that are digital first, using all the technologies to their best, and these guys are still trying to figure out, how does that apply to us, how do we become one of those?

When, and if the conversation changes, the former Accenture and Adobe exec is confident that Oracle will remain relevant because the company has been in digital marketing ‘forever’ and has been providing martech solutions for the last 15 years.

“The fact is that we do very well because we have got $70 billion worth of revenue. We have got clients doing more than a billion dollars a year of revenue on our marketing platforms. I think we've been a bit of a quiet achiever,” says Hamill.

“You know what's really interesting to me? It is that there has been this reconciliation of technologies in different spaces. Marketing said, okay, we need to bring together our marketing stack and start to connect all of that. You have got the service and call centres saying, we need to bring together our marketing and data stacks.

"In different parts of the organisation, everyone is clustering their technologies, and those clusters are starting to connect now so that the entire business is a connected digital business.”

Another reason for Hamill’s confidence is that Oracle is now a connected digital business, which he predicts will be a challenge for others. “It is where suddenly, organisations that have created a hub of technologies actually becomes a point solution. It used to be end to end, but now, it has become a point, because connecting all those other things is where their critical piece is, particularly with customer experience.

“Your organisation is saying, we need customer experience, but that is such a broad topic. If you're an airline, customer experience means that the engagement you have through the flight attendant in the flight. That's all customer experience. It’s all part of brand. It’s all part of tone of voice. How do you bring all those things together?”

Hamill also points out Oracle does everything from e-commerce to loyalty platforms, digital marketing, supply chain management. “We do call centres, everything. Actually, that's all customer experience when you look at it.”

“If you buy a package and you find out to send it back, the experience of getting that package back to the company and on to the shelf, the experience you have on the call with that same company, it’s all part of the customer experience. It’s so much bigger now than just marketing. That's where Oracle really is in a unique position to play.”

Marketing the Oracle way

Customer experience is also at the heart of Oracle’s marketing message to market through its Data Cloud, which Hamill claims has changed organisations it works with fundamentally, because it is built around helping the chief information officers and the chief technology officers.

“Those guys know us and love us,” he says. “We have all these great products in that space, but what has really changed is how we brought that to connect to the backend products so that the message goes to market together. It's not even just about marketing. It's about customer experience and driving that.”

What rankles Hamill, is brands and companies saying that they are doing digital transformation, but just applying technology to things that were done before. It is not, he argues.

“Transformation means changing what you fundamentally do as a business, and technology might help you do that. The transformation in reality, is in the business. It is not in the technology. All of the technology is, is upgrading existing technologies to do better things,” he explains.

For example, if a company sells DVDs, that is its business, but if they are selling DVDs and want to sell more DVDs to more people, that is not transformation, that is just more marketing, Hamill asserts.

“What we want to do is transform that company to compete with Netflix who don't sell DVDs at all, but they fulfill the client’s need, which is access to content. That is transformation. Buying a whole bunch of technology connected together, is just buying technology.”