In marketing and advertising, the core problems we face are fundamentally about people and complexity: how do we communicate with a person in a way that inspires and moves them to action? How do we help someone with a problem navigate a complex customer journey to find the solution they need? And as marketers, how do we navigate the complexity inside our own companies and out in the world to make our messaging rise about the noise?

Marketing Resource Management History

In the 2000s, marketing resource management (MRM) first emerged as a software category to help marketers better manage complexity. Providing features designed to help with channel planning, marketing operations, creative production, agency collaboration, and budgeting, MRM offered enterprise marketers the promise of a system that would simplify workflows, centralize data, and reduce complexity. Initially, signs were encouraging. In 2003, the Financial Times reported that 450 of the world’s 1000 largest brands had, or were in the process of implementing, MRM software.

Today however, the MRM landscape seems to have fallen into disrepair, highlighted by Teradata’s announcement to divest its MRM business. Teradata, considered by many to be a leader in MRM, has nonetheless decided to walk away from the category at a time when marketing complexity is at an all-time high, leaving few alternatives.

Get the Best Parts of an MRM and a Whole Lot More – See it In Action

Is marketing resource management still relevant? And if marketers need simplicity and centralization more than ever before, what’s the right answer if it isn’t MRM?

Where Marketing Resource Management MRM Hasn’t Delivered on its Promise

Although many MRM offerings boast strong feature capabilities, the category in general has consistently struggled in three important places:

(1) Usability

(2) Flexibility

(3) Customer Success

The first, usability, is a common issue with earlier-generation enterprise software offerings, particularly ones from on-premise providers who prioritized feature depth over user experience design. “This slows down the creation and execution (running) of the campaigns, as well as causing a longer learning curve for new users,” says one MRM customer. Overall, almost every offering in the MRM space lacks responsive and mobile app access, features visual and information-dense product views, has inconsistencies across environments, and requires a high technical learning curve for new users, making adoption, deployment, and training recurring challenges.

Second, because most MRM offerings are components of proprietary marketing clouds intended to be used within a larger, single-vendor software stack, MRM platforms rarely integrate well with 3rd party systems. With many vendors like Oracle and IBM, this even extends to database compatibility. In other words, unless your customer data sits in a database provided by your MRM vendor, it isn’t easy to access. While marketer’s technology needs have evolved [rapidly], this lack of integration flexibility has slowed down many organizations’ abilities to adapt to change.

Get the Best Parts of an MRM and a Whole Lot More – See it In Action

Finally, because many MRM offerings are non-core products offered by large technology vendors, service and support has been a consistently-cited customer challenge. For a company like Teradata that offers dozens of products in different categories, the simple reality is it can be a challenge to resource smaller-revenue product lines, such as MRM. As a result, many MRM customers have publicly cited issues with onboarding, training, configuration, upgrade releases, and issue resolution response time. Virtually all MRM deployments need a dedicated 3rd party training resource — and often, a systems integrator like Accenture, Deloitte, or IBM — to effectively deploy MRM throughout a marketing organization. “[Teradata is] very difficult to learn, confusing language and practically no help to speak of,” says one reviewer on TrustRadius.      

Because the feature depth of MRM came with a critical tradeoff — low agility and adaptability — at a time when marketing continues to undergo immense digital transformation, many offerings ended up overqualified to manage some areas of the marketing process, and completely unprepared for other operational must-haves.   

Marketers (Still) Need a Single System

Just like you wouldn’t trust half your company’s HR department to operate off WorkDay, or track a third of your supply chain with SAP, we’re well past the point where it makes sense to purchase marketing technology for sub-department or channel-level execution that isn’t guided by a thoughtful view of the overall system.

A global marketing organization should have one shared calendar for planning across every channel, one place where every brand, sales, and agency employee knows where to find the files they need to work with, one supply chain where creativity is channeled, one process for evaluating if the content they’re making accurately reflects the brand, and one source of truth for customer interaction data.

Get the Best Parts of an MRM and a Whole Lot More – See it In Action

And the benefits of having this in place are clear. Recently, we’ve seen a global retailer win back $5.1 million each year by centralizing and streamlining their marketing technology. Unilever reduced its marketing budget by more than $10 million a year just by consolidating technologies to make its teams more productive, consistent, and creative. The need for complexity management still exists, the innovation is there, and the change is coming — how do we go the last mile and bring order to this chaos if it’s not with traditional marketing resource management?

The Last Mile to a System of Record for Marketing

As with many things, the change has to start from within. CMOs and management teams need to shift focus away from buying media to building systems for media. Just like the brand itself needs a central identity and global purpose, the technology taking that purpose to market needs a unifying vision. A marketing system of record has to consider the entire customer journey, along with the marketing supply chain that brings the brand into their day-to-day lives.

But this isn’t all on the shoulders of the marketers — technologists have real responsibilities here too.

The first one is offering an open, flexible, and well-documented API (application programming interface). For less technically-inclined readers, think of an API as a common communications standard for one software to talk to other software. Why APIs are so important is that they help the core underlying elements of marketing — files and data — to move from one place to another instantly. To put this in perspective, if the digital team needs a file from an agency DAM (digital asset management system) to be in the tool they use to publish to Facebook, there are three workflow options:

(1) They deal with the manual headache of downloading, uploading, and emailing the file around (This takes at least several minutes but could take hours)

(2) They use the two APIs in each software to transfer the file (This takes minutes)

(3) They use one system of record that functions as a single, unifying API to move from one step of the creative process to the next (This takes no minutes)

The solution that takes zero minutes is the best solution, and that’s the benefit a system of record offers, particularly when you multiply these time savings across dozens of teams and markets, and thousands of process steps.

The other major benefit of a robust API is the flexibility to adapt to change, as well as connect and elevate the marketing department with other key company systems. When customer interactions move from marketing to sales to customer service, APIs let data move seamlessly across the company. For a marketing system of record to join vendors like Oracle, WorkDay, and ZenDesk at the table, it needs a well-designed API.

The second technology requirement for modern marketing resource management is more a matter of philosophy and design. The latest research in the field of marketing science finds brands win customers by capturing mental and physical availability. In other words, they get consumers thinking about their product, then make sure the product is located all around them so there’s as little friction as possible to purchasing it. The way to build mental availability — the reinforcement of memory and the ultimate goal of all advertising — is by repeatedly showing potential customers new, distinct, and emotionally-engaging communications. New, distinct, and emotionally-engaging is basically another way of saying ‘creative,’ so what marketing executives really need is a flexible system for replicating creativity, then sharing it at regional or global scale. You can’t make a movie studio with one hit movie, just like you can’t build a brand with one good ad campaign. Creativity isn’t a department, an agency roster, or one successful activation in one market, it’s a system. A true marketing system of record needs to be designed to support and enhance the entire creative process, not constrain it, or automate away the essential human elements.

The path to solving modern marketing complexity isn’t the easiest road to travel, but it must be navigated in order for creativity, business objectives, and technology to work together, rather than hold each other back. While MRM has fallen short of delivering on this promise, its underlying vision — one central operating system for the entire marketing department — is needed now more than ever before. Only when that promise is realized in the form of a true system of record for marketing will marketing leaders be able to use technology in a way that moves the brand, their career, and their people forward.