How Banks Can Avoid Being Fooled By Marketing Technology Acronyms

The world is fixated by acronyms and buzzwords. But when it comes to marketing technology, the trend has become rampant. The right 'tech stack' is not the solution, but part of the means to achieving it. Seven key concepts can help marketers deal with the confusion.

Acronyms and buzzwords without context create confusion. At best, the confusion results in wasting 33% of your marketing technology spend. At worst, it results in your financial institution’s marketing being 50% less effective and efficient, which impacts your business at a magnitude greater than your entire marketing technology budget.

The needed context is understanding how the proposed acronym or buzzword fits in your conceptual understanding of your marketing solution. It is understanding that the different components of your solution have different values. Some are foundational, while others are ancillary. Some are part of the platform, while others are supporting products.

Acxiom was one of the pioneers of database marketing — we created the space in 1969. Since then, the conceptual platform of intelligence-driven marketing has not changed. However, the supporting products have been disrupted by at least five different generations of technology.

If your focus is on the platform, you adapt. If your focus is on a product, you get disrupted.

Acronym Overload

Here is a partial list of the acronyms in use in the marketing technology world today:


How many of these can you identity? Of those you know, how important is each of them to your institution’s marketing success? Now add all the buzzwords in the marketing technology space. Then add the product names for each capability from each provider. It makes your head spin.

Unfortunately, there are many providers who take advantage of the confusion. Because they can “talk the talk” it is assumed they are experts. Many of these providers actively strive to add to the confusion to increase dependence on them. They tell you that their product is the only answer to cut through the confusion and solve your problems.

Too often, you are soon left wondering how to recoup the underperforming expense. It does not have to be this way.

The acronyms pull you in and you want to understand them. You think they represent important technology. Many of them do. Many of them do not. They also cause you to start with the technology.

Financial Marketing Simplified:

Do not start with the technology. Start with your marketing needs. Recognize that you need a marketing solution. Technology is not the solution. It is the means for implementing the solution.

Many will tell you your marketing solution is a “tech stack.” Others will say “marketing environment” or “marketing ecosystem.” All those terms imply technology. The right starting point is the conceptual model of your marketing solution.

Conceptual Marketing Solution

We opened this article with 40 marketing technology acronyms. If we tried to make it complete and added buzzwords and product names, the number would climb into the hundreds. That is complicated. Thankfully, the conceptual model of your marketing solution is simple. It has only seven areas.The seven essentials of marketing technology

  1. Internalization: This is everything related to inbound data. Internalization happens via a batch transmission or a real-time API. It is being able to receive raw data in any form from any channel.
  2. Identity: This is recognizing a person, whether a customer or a prospect. Identity enables the association/linkage of a person’s different data. It turns data into information. Identity includes data hygiene and normalization that makes data usable.
  3. Data of Record (DOR): This is your database. Data of record is your complete view of a customer or prospect. It includes first-, second-, and third-party data as well as the results from legacy and ongoing marketing. Data of record is a comprehensive and centralized view that maximizes the probability that you have captured the data elements that influence customer behavior.
  4. Analytics: This transforms information — your data of record — into understanding and intelligence. Analytics isolates data elements and derives attributes that measure value and inform marketing strategy and operations. It runs parallel to marketing with the goal of continuously improving marketing effectiveness and efficiency. Analytics has many parts including segmentation, modeling/scoring, machine learning, artificial intelligence, and measurement/attribution.
  5. Marketing: This is determining the customer interactions that will meet people’s needs and create connections with the brand. Marketing is designed for speed by focusing on decision drivers isolated by analytics versus the entire data of record. It has many parts, including audience creation, suppression, treatment determination, episodic/batch campaign management, real-time business rules and integration, and results/feedback capture.
  6. Externalization: This is outbound channel integration. Externalization is getting in-market. It is transmission to the lettershop as well as digital activation and syndication. Externalization is getting the next interaction in front of the customer or prospect to create a connection.
  7. Data Ethics: These are the values, policies, and access controls that respect consumer privacy and ensure fair treatment. Identity, data of record, analytics, and marketing are all governed by data ethics. This is doing the right thing even if the law does not require it.

All marketing technology products fall into one of these seven areas. If you understand the conceptual model of a marketing solution, you can quickly add context when trying to understand and evaluate the latest acronym, buzzword or product. It is important to understand, however, that all seven areas are not created equal.

Isolating Platform

Three of the marketing solution areas are more important than the others. They are identity, data of record, and data ethics. These three are foundational to the other four. They are the foundation of the marketing solution.

If you get them right, you get results. If you get them wrong, you miss out on opportunities and increase your risk. Here is why these three solution areas are critical:

  • Recognition. Without reliable identity, it is obvious to people that you do not recognize them. It looks like you are not trying. It appears you are throwing offers at them, just hoping one will stick.
  • Understanding. Without a comprehensive data of record, you have limited understanding of your customers and prospects. You are likely to create negative moments of truth such as barreling forward with marketing when the customer or member is having a service issue. Or you might miss positive moments of truth like understanding your customer or member is having temporary financial trouble that can be eased by increasing the credit line. Such an experience can be the basis of lifelong loyalty. Identity and data of record are interdependent. One is not possible without the other.
  • Ethical intelligence. Without explicit data ethics, you greatly increase the chance you will misuse people’s data. The possible legal issues are not even the worst of it. The real consequences would be the PR hit to your brand. The resulting loss of trust could put your business at risk.

We are not contending that the non-platform areas of your marketing solution are not important. We are saying they must be built on a strong foundation or they will not deliver their promised value.

Product Turnover

Depending on where they sit in your marketing solution, products turn over at different rates. Platform-related products change every 7 to 15 years, while non-platform products change every 2 to 5 years. Why the dramatic difference?

Platform products are foundational, more deeply embedded in your marketing operations, and likely more deeply integrated with your non-marketing operations. As a result, they are significantly more difficult to swap out. They are your basis of consumer truth. It is critically important to get your platform product mix right.

By contrast, non-platform products reside in spaces that continue to change. In 1995, identity and data of record were just as relevant as today. The non-platform space, however, looked dramatically different in 1995. Some examples include:

  • APIs: The concept of an API was still new and not widely adopted.
  • Machine learning: The concept was well-known in academic spaces but was a long way from having commercial applications in marketing analytics.
  • CDPs: The digital world in which the customer data platform (CDP) applies real-time rules barely existed in marketing.
  • Digital activation: Online onboarding and syndication were waiting for programmatic advertising and smart phones to be invented.

Those are just four examples. The products in these areas have gone through significant disruption to arrive at where we are today. For example, the CDP came after batch campaigns evolved into marketing automation and then into data management platforms (DMPs).

What Is and Isn’t Platform

Many products will overpromise, at least based on how we are defining “platform.” For example, many view a CDP as a replacement for the data of record. While the CDP has lots of database functionality, most CDPs would struggle with the industrial data management required to construct a true comprehensive view of the customer or prospect. Further, the “as a service” pricing model would quickly make a CDP platform too expensive. Beware of companies that say their products can do it all, especially if they pose as the entire platform.

All this said, the CDP plays a critical role in the marketing area of your conceptual marketing solution. It is the primary digital real-time engine. Without a CDP, you would likely miss out on some moments of truth, such as consumers exploring HELOC rates across multiple digital properties, indicating they are “in market” and open to your offer.

Enterprise and Regulated Industry Needs

There is a long history of products not working in the financial services industry. This is especially true on the tier 1 level. The challenges tend to fall into three categories:

  1. Rigid functionality: Products strive to automate functionality to gain economies of scale and efficiencies. Financial services companies tend to have widely varying needs. As a result, the standard functionality rarely covers more than half of the tier 1’s needs. In short, workarounds and inefficiency abound.
  2. Packaged solutions: For my 15 years working in financial services, product companies have been trying to sell packaged solutions. This overlaps with the point above. If the base product cannot meet the tier 1 needs, then a packaged solution is even less likely. Tier 1 financial services providers consider their modeling and offer assignment to be their “special sauce.” Packaged solutions are trying to sell sauce.
  3. Black boxes: Only healthcare is as regulated as financial services. As a result, full transparency into business and technical rules is critical to manage and mitigate risk. If a product contains any “black boxes,” it does not clear this regulatory hurdle.

Understanding where your conceptual marketing solution has the flexibility to leverage a product more fully versus where you need full transparency and customization is important. Far too often financial institutions get far down the implementation road only to realize the product does not fit. They bought into the acronyms and buzzwords. Instead of admitting their mistake and changing direction, workarounds are put in place to justify the sunk cost of the product. That only compounds the problem and lengthens the ultimate remediation, which is generally led by someone other than the original decision maker.

Follow Your Own Path

There is an old marketing saying that goes “half of my advertising spend is wasted. I just do not know which half.” That also applies to your marketing technology spend.

Do not get fooled by the acronyms and buzzwords. Understand and evaluate them in the context of your conceptual marketing solution. Know if you are assessing platform or non-platform products.

Do not head down a path just because that is what your competitors are doing. Instead of giving in to the fear of missing out, maybe your understanding of platform can put you in a leapfrog situation.

Do you understand your marketing solution on a conceptual level? Is your marketing platform strong?

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