SO YOU WANT TO BE “ALWAYS ON.” by Charlie Tarzian

Two things happened to me in 1997 that changed the way I viewed the possible. The first was reading Regis McKenna’s book, “Real Time: Preparing for the Never Satisfied Customer.” At the time, this was the seminal book about marketing automation before there was a vibrant, web-based marketplace to attach it to. Regis was THE pioneer that told us that it was possible – that you could connect the dots across a marketing landscape in ways that have people like Larry Ellison proclaiming today – that Oracle truly is a leader in real time marketing – or “Always On” marketing as we now call it.

The second thing that occurred that year was a visit to the UPS Command Center (nuclear hardened at that) in Northern NJ. There in the bowels of a very sophisticated logistics center was the makings of Always On: a map of the US with thousands of lights and lines moving across with data streaming as crawlers and alerts popping up with men and women responsible for timely conveyance arrayed in front of large screens, headphones on, watching intently as a good amount of American commerce flashed across the screen.

THIS was real time, baby!

I was absolutely amazed at how UPS was managing its business – in real time – in 1997. Flash forward 17 years and here we are – finally conceptualizing our own versions of an Always On company. The days of linear campaigns, manual processes, fragmented communications sans governance are coming slowly to a close.

In its place we have real time bidding and data driven digital media – 50 billion impressions a day strong. We have incredibly smart companies inhabiting the LumaScape, creating value in an eco-system that did not exist a mere 3-4 years ago. We have marketing automation players – that have created logic and decision trees that can support Always On activities. We have data and cookie syncing and device and canvas finger printing and we have those evil ever cookies.

It is all there, right before us. And we have an enormous task at hand. Like the RTB guys who had to create the plumbing and pipes for the programmatic revolution, we too, must create the standards that will transform some wicked smart tech stacks into an Always On eco-system. So, while two years ago it was incredibly important to onboard your data so you can target your customers across the Internet (mission accomplished, kind of), now we must lay the pipes, the logic and the creative thinking to take the great effort of the last 5 years and turn it into a real time marketing infrastructure.

That means figuring out how not only to push, compress, sort and analyze data in real time, but also to do something with it – to allow that data to inform just about everything we do – across everything we have that allows for the bidirectional communication flow that is modern marketing and sales.

I am shocked, for example, when colleagues in our industry tell me they really are not doing predictive analytics against multiple data sets that are right there in front of them. With all that investment in pulling social media, page indexing, buying preferences, shopping cart abandons, white paper downloads, etc… very few have integrated it into one seamless whole – producing the empirical environment for Always On.

But we can – and we will. I am just not sure it will be the likes of Larry Ellison or any of the big dawgs that will get it done. I think companies like Oracle will be very helpful laying the pipes but will not be the ones driving the innovation. Which reminds me: I had a very interesting conversation with an incredibly bright architect for a leading B2B publisher who was talking about how they made the decision a year ago to use Blue Kai (Oracle) as their DMP. So I asked him the obvious question: how has that worked out? He smirked and said: Blue Kai doesn’t even know what Blue Kai is – we are using it as a garage right now – parking data. And he laughed.

While that is a ding on Blue Kai – it is a ding on all of us. Walking around with a new lexicon does not a new era of marketing make. This is tough stuff. In the end – we will get there – I am sure of it.

Stick to the practical and take the baby steps first. But never stop dreaming big. That is how you will get to being Always On.

Oh, and the reference to Jimi Hendrix? I think the answer to the question: So you want to be Always On? Is a question itself and is the title track of his seminal album: Are You Experienced?


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Rick Vargas

Rick Vargas is a strategic and innovative marketing professional, who has a successful track record of leading teams and projects through periods of change and transformation. Rick is a metrics oriented marketer and a thought leader that brings ideas to reality. Rick's background and domain areas of expertise are in web, social, mobile, digital, direct, and database marketing. He's worked with different types of organizations, across all sectors, from small start-ups, to large multi-national corporations. "What motivates me most is the role I play and the impact I have on the success of those around me. I love what I do from social to direct." - Rick Vargas

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