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May 16, 2019

Adam Biehler, VP of Partnerships and BD at mParticle, and Matt McRoberts, SVP of Global Alliances at Braze, join me in San Francisco to discuss the current state of the marketing ecosystem. Matt and Adam provide a brief history on the evolution of data platforms and the shift toward customer-centric strategy.






PJ Bruno: Hello again, welcome back to Braze for Impact, your MarTech Industry Discussed Digest. This is PJ Bruno, and I'm also with two titans. Adam Biehler, VP of partnerships and BD at mParticle. Adam, how's it going buddy?



Adam: Great, how you doing there PJ?



PJ Bruno: I'm doing real well. And also our very own Matt McRoberts, SVP of global alliances at Braze. Matt, thanks for sitting down with us buddy.



Matt McRoberts: PJ, always a pleasure.



PJ Bruno: And now here we are a week out from MAU. How did it go all-in-all Adam, you felt good about it?



Adam: Yeah, it was definitely a fire conference this week. Not a fire festival, though.



PJ Bruno: Right. Not a fire fest, let's not confuse those. You guys were the presenting sponsor, right? That's kind of a big deal. That's the top-top.



Adam: Yeah, yeah I mean ... You know, we want to make sure our brand is associated with some of the more up and coming businesses for consumer experience, right? And from our standpoint we look at, you know, the attendees of MAU and ... Really just the thought leadership that comes out of that conference as blazing a path for mobile and for what the next generation of the day-to-day and how we as individuals interact with digital technology and devices.



PJ Bruno: It was buzzing in there, man. There was a lot of great energy. And also as the presenting sponsor, what are the perks with that, is it dinner with Diplo, did you get anything, do anything?



Adam: Oh, you're looking for that type of perk.



PJ Bruno: Fun times. All right well what this really is, this is a partner spotlight episode. So we're really eager to kind of like get into it with Adam and mParticle. Adam I'd love for you to just kind of like give us the backstory. Like I've heard a little bit about the Cats brothers, how you guys are kind of forging the way with CDP. I'd love to hear a little bit about that story, what took you guys here.



Adam: Yeah. I mean I think that the team here all kind of come from the same belief system around, you know, a couple core aspects of what's going on in the industry today. Data is kind of at the core of everything. What we're also seeing is as cloud and SAS are just continuing to manifest themselves in multiple capacities from like, an application standpoint, that the number of silos that get created just continue to proliferate. And so we've got, you know, a team of people that just believe that business users should be able to take advantage of this wealth of customer data to create competitive advantage; as opposed to being in its place where they know they've got these tools that they potentially could be taking advantage of, but because of some of the past investments or legacy investments you may have made, you're actually more hamstrung and you're watching other businesses that are smaller, more nimble, just pass you by. So ultiMattely, kind of simplifying all that. It comes down to like we want to empower business users to take advantage of customer data they have access to, and we want to allow the developers and engineers of businesses to focus on the core competencies of their business, not worrying about building and maintaining integrations, which are, you know not necessarily the core of their business.



PJ Bruno: Right. Just Band-Aids all the time.



Adam: Yeah.



PJ Bruno: Was that the vision pretty much from the start?



Adam: I mean, again, I think like even when you look at us in day one we were mobile-centric and, you know, really most of our customers were only doing things on mobile at that point. And, you know, people talk about all the other use cases and, you know, [inaudible] and all this stuff. And it's not about that. It was about the ability to collect customer data for our customers for their ability to collect their customers' data from the place that's as close to the customer as possible, and the most relevant, and to use that to power marketing with great tools like Braze,. And the story is evolved because the channels have evolved. And, you know, web has always been there, but we saw the next generation of customer experience really stemming from mobile. And so you see a lot of investment around OTT and voice. And so all of these other places that, you know, are the next generation, the modern customer experience that we want to be delivering.



PJ Bruno: It's an exciting time and people are finally starting to catch on, I think.



Matt McRoberts: Yeah, no, they very much are. Very much.



PJ Bruno: So Matt, this article you wrote recently "The Six Pillars of the Ecosystem", is there a reason that data and infrastructure is number one? Was there a method to the madness there, or?



Matt McRoberts: Great question. And Adam addressed a lot of the rhetoric. It's like the idea of silos and keeping your data beholden to different legacy systems. It's prohibitive to really the times of transforMattion. It's now about speed to market, speed to insight, speed to business value. Where CDPs have assumed this position within the new ecosystem it becomes quite critical. Because what they allow in concert with the Brazes of the world is this idea around agility, and agility, it obviously is synonymous with speed. Being able to be agile and focused and democratize that data across all those systems. So if anyone's putting together an ecosystem strategy, they have to look at "How do they standardize data?" "How do they break down the silos?" "How are they able to pump that data into the key parts of their business?" And I think the place, the position, the power that CDPs provide is quite impressive in terms of where they sit today in this ecosystem.



PJ Bruno: And last we spoke you mentioned about us being in a wash of data. And I guess a CDP could be number one because you need to get that stuff in order, you need to clean house.



Matt McRoberts: Yeah, I mean think about the integrations, the depth of integrations that a provider like mParticle is going to need to promote. You know, you've got ad ecosystems, you've got martech ecosystems, you have proprietary data warehouses. And to be able to, again, is get that data to work together in concert so you can get to market faster, you can uncover insights, drive business outcomes. Without that layer within the ecosystem it becomes quite difficult. So you can see, like, you know Adam and I joke quite a bit, is the legend and lore and thought leadership and content that is come ... It's a brand new category, it didn't exist, right? And so I think it shows just how quickly this idea around breaking down silos becomes the future is here, and it's now, and we're in a wash of data.



Adam: Yeah. It, I mean, putting a pin in some of this, like what the CDP ... The Brazes of the world in today's ecosystem are enabling, it's instead of building your business based on what, you know, the technology that you've decided to use, unlocks for you, it's more about build the customer experience that you want to deliver. And then, you know, work into the technology that supports your use cases. So it kind of flips the paradigm for how you actually think about what's important to your business. Not just tech for techs sake, it's tech because it supports an outcome that we know we want to go deliver. And, you know, I think, again, it's all about data, so [inaudible] CDP, CRM, whatever acronym you want to use, I don't care. Let's talk about what you want to do and which tools are going to get you there. And there's always going to be a great tool that can get you there. You know there's this notion of foundational CDP which is where ourselves and a couple others in this space play, and yeah, I think essentially it, again it kind of comes down to we're never going to have an application. We're all about making it super easy for business users to take advantage of data associated to a customer. Because that's what unlocks true business agility.



Matt McRoberts: Spot on.



Adam: I talk about customer data agility as a big aspect of where, you know, we help businesses kind of put this foundational piece in place that they now can respond to changing consumer behavior and not have to go, you know, unpack you know, twenty years of legacy investment. They are able to operate nimbly, kind of on top of their stack and bring in the technology that's going to get them to the next generation of growth and compete with, you know, a startup that doesn't have that legacy investment. Like, I don't care what the acronym you want to use is, like what are you here to do? Right. What's the job you perform? What are you unlocking for the business, and it's infrastructure. Some of the guys in the CDP space tend to say that like they've got built in modeling and use cases. That's great. I mean are you really unlocking agility or are you just solving a point application for somebody? And that's a lot of what we say. You know, are you focused on the right systems, the right outcomes for the business that's like ... That's what it all starts with, so let's not talk about tech for tech's sake. I'd kind of just like to get away from that in my perspective. Ecosystems are important because there's so much technology but, you know, they've got to be the right partners and they've got to be the right use cases and the right outcomes that you're trying to drive.



Matt McRoberts: To Adam's point, being consumer, customer-focused, business outcomes focused, you hear about the retail apocalypse, you hear about disruption, you hear about transforMattion. And then just the associated fear mongering around that, I think we all get our fair share of subject lines that are quite startling in nature, you know, every category is under some massive disruption. And I think with any disruption comes opportunity. And I think, to Adam's, is helping customers understand and educate themselves on these literally new age paradigms around the idea of an ecosystem. I mean we've long talked, I loved Adam's point around what's the acronyms come with a tremendous amount of equity, and they also come with a tremendous amount of debt, right? CRM, right place, right channel, right time, has been around for generations, right? Decades. People have been talking about the construct of what CRM really is. I think Adam hit it on the head is like you can't deliver against that in days of old. Batch data, not in the right channel, not orchestration across channels. And now you have this expectation, especially from the consumer, is like there's all the importance of getting it right, but there's also the importance of getting it wrong, as well, as we will all talk about experiences as consumers, as well as business professionals, where we feel the experience was broken. And Adam hit it on the head. If you're data strategy is standardize, is uniform, is agile, then you're just inherently going to be able to deliver against these higher expectations with, as it relates to consumers. And so I think there is fear, right? It's like we've all seen the social amplification of a poorly executed campaign that consumers will again, is will very much put you out into their domain and talk about what went wrong. There's the idea of the death of retail and how over-pronounced that is. The evolution of direct to consumer brands, is like all that can be quite startling and scary to the traditional marketing organizations. So I think the opportunity for, that I think is incumbent upon out organizations, "How do you educate customers in a really powerful way?" "How do you make them feel informed, derive insights, so that they can start to make the best decisions, the best investments?"



Adam: It's an interesting dynamic, too. Because, you know, as we look at just how this all plays out, you know. There is so much noise. And, you know, our opinion on all of this is like, we've got to just cut through the noise. Like we're going to help these businesses understand that this is not a threat or a risk, this is actually your opportunity to take your business to the next level and become the leader. It's' a competitive advantage, if done right. And so from us it's about how. We all know, that everybody wants their customer 360. You've got data silos, that's been around forever. The reasons are because the channels continue to proliferate. The platforms are continuing to proliferate. So what do you need? You need to have people that have really good understanding of the data that powers these different pieces, and great technology that can scale with your business, and then that can help you get to the end state that you want to get to. Label it whatever you want to.



Matt McRoberts: Now it's a really good point is where CDPs have assumed a position of prominence is in the fallout of DMPs, right? Like [crosstalk]



Adam: Take us back there.



Matt McRoberts: Yeah, and like Adam, I'll kind of borrow from his story, right? Like see whether it's customer data platform or see whether it's customer relationship management. Like customer's at the forefront of that, and I think where DMPs lost their way was third party data. The world has very much calibrated around the power and the prominence of first party data. And I think, the idea of probabilistic models, that it's like "Ahh, I think maybe PJ is this person?" Is very much moved into this idea of really deterministic, and like the lifeline of that is literally around first party data. And so whether it's a CDP or a, you know, a new-age CRM tool like a Braze, is the literal lifeline is the ability to leverage first party data and it's been startling to see how quickly the concept of a DMP has distilled away into, again, the power of a CDP and again the juxtaposition is the data set. Like, how do you start to really leverage first party data, as opposed to make assumptions off dated antiquated third party data, which was historically the foundation of the DMPs of the worlds.



Adam: The stakes if you do it wrong are just too high at this point. Like we talk about CX and customer experience, you know it definitely starts there. And that has business impact. But when you start talking about, you know, compliance and regularity impact and how you market to customers. And you look at GDPR and CCPA and just [inaudible] that's not going to stop either, right? So, again, when you kind of talk about the customer ... Centricity aspect of it, you have to have data at the core of how you build your business. And DMPs, they just didn't have those challenges. And again, they were great, and they still have some very applicable use cases. Not going to say like, you don't need a DMP for a lot of things. Like there's a lot of things they do do really well, but they weren't built to give you a framework for how you associate customer data to a user profile and to dynamically be able to use identities that are those customers that are provided in a compliant and regulatory safe way, with your first party marketing systems. It's' a very different challenge. And they're also not built in a way where it's like "That's going to change again". Like, what you got today is absolutely going to be different six months from now [crosstalk], twelve months from now. And so, do you want, yeah, kind of like your insurance layer, to a [crosstalk]. You've got to future proof, right? That's the move.



PJ Bruno: Right on.



Matt McRoberts: Yeah, no, I mean picking up on that, you know the kind of ongoing compliance environment is again is that in itself to be scary, right? Because it comes with the consumerization of that. There's a more pronounced understanding at the literal consumer level, right, like I know "Hey listen, as a consumer I want to be sensitive to what type of data is being tracked regarding me." And then you have this regulatory fear that if you get it wrong is like there's tremendous fines associated with that. So I think that kind of fear mongering, you can flip that and make that empowering and how do you help enterprises understand this ongoing onslaught of compliance evolution. And how are we all good corporate citizens to advance an all boats rise philosophy. We're dropping it.



PJ Bruno: Dude, you guys are just firing shots across the table right now. So since we're in the way back machine a little bit here talking about DMPs, Adam I'd love to hear a little bit more about ... You know, what brought you to mParticle? Some of your time at MuleSoft, how did that world compare to this? Even like, three or four years ago, it seems like it was an entirely different business, right?



Adam: Yeah. I mean if you look at even, yeah, probably the last eight years at this point. If you go back, this notion of you know, API led approach for how connectivity is accomplished for businesses, you know some companies were thinking about it, APIs were starting to be more proliferated in the ecosystem, but you weren't seeing the rapid adoption, you weren't seeing standardization around how people build APIs and all that. So, you know, we'll go back to that world where, you know, there's a lot of on premise technology and it's very much the world we still live in. So when I say go back, this is very much ongoing. I came from a place where as an operator I'd actually, I was doing a little bit of the marketing, we were 25 people, I was doing some of the sales, I Was doing some of the post sales. And I'm working across our marketing autoMattion system, Amarcetto, and then I've got Salesforce. Again, this is like almost pre-MuleSoft at this point. We've got ZenDesk for case management. And so I'm thinking about all these things, and, you know, I'm 24 years old, kid out of college, I don't really know what's going on here. I'm like "There's got to be an easier way to get the data to flow versus me manually sitting here." Fast-forward a couple years, I'm at MuleSoft, talking to these companies about how the challenges they have at scale, like you're an enterprise you have, you know, 50,000 people that are using employee management systems, Legacy SAP on prem ERP, right? You might have a custom database from IBM. And those challenges are very very different than the world we live in today. That challenge still needs to be accomplished. Nobody's ripping out those, you know, billions of dollars of investment where your data sat on premise and you've fell like you've got, you know, the right level of control over it. But you need to be able to augment that and compliment that. But I look at MuleSoft and you know, I think that they were kind of paving the way for what customer experience can be today, and they still do, right? Like they are helping businesses that have traditionally been very much kind of these on premise oriented businesses that didn't have a digital presence, you know, digitize their offline assets and you know make them available to the cloud through APIs. And what ends up happening is now you have a new breed of developer in the world. And the developers of today can take advantage of the assets that are in these systems that a 21 year old kid out of college would have no idea how to go program against this on premise system, to build a new cool cloud app. But because you've got these APIs that are exposed from the back end, you can now start doing that. Use that data to expose new applications. You know, fast forward a couple of years, you start thinking about "Okay, well there's this next generation of what is the customer experience connectivity challenge look like?" Because the proliferation of all the on prem systems and then these SAAS systems in the platforms that are actually where customers are engaging, it's the same kind of variation in terms of like where data's coming from, where data needs to get to. But the differences now we're thinking about it from a very customer-centric perspective. It's not about just developer re-usability. You know there's a, absolutely a place where [inaudible] compliment a company like that. Like, they're not even in the same space from this standpoint. Like, I know this better than anybody. But I get asked this all the time. Like, they're an unbelievable company and where we think about it it's about "Okay, how do you take it a step further and break down the customer data connectivity challenges?" And so insuring that the integrations that you're unlocking are oriented around the notion of a customer.



PJ Bruno: It's just, it's just as silly to talk about customer centricity as kind of a new thing or like a pivot for companies as a focus. But ...



Matt McRoberts: And that's been our thing, we've been saying that for years now, haven't we? You know that's been our-[crosstalk]



PJ Bruno: I remember the first breakfast we had, it was like week one. Talking about customer centricity.



Matt McRoberts: It seems so [crosstalk] two point, it seems so simple. Yeah. Literally our first breakfast talking about, we're BD guys, like how do you help kind of effectively, again, build an ecosystem strategy manager channel. And I thought, you know I'll give Adam the credit. It was like "Hey the lens should be what's best for the customer." Everyone wins. That's the reality. That's what's driving this growth. This kind of constant evolution of tech and kind of where it sits is like if you run it through the lens of the customer, you know, provides a natural north star, a natural compass for success.



Adam: Yeah, otherwise we just make our own consumer experience shit. [crosstalk] Frankly, right? [crosstalk] Like the term CDP sounds big, it sounds scary, you know at the end of the day it's not about the acronym it's about the outcomes you can deliver for our company. And like [crosstalk] we just, we think about it very much from that standpoint. And ... You know everybody can build software today. Like, there'll be another CDP tomorrow that's claiming it. It's not about that. It's about what're you here to solve for the customer, you're here to unlock the ability to take care of data. That's ... That's what we're here to do. You know I think we've kind of blazed the trail in terms of how for this next generation of consumer facing brands they can do that. Buy you've got to start small, too.



Matt McRoberts: I think you're right, though. The idea of transforMattion is a journey. It's going to be measured, and it's like it gets back to your point around agility, is like the concept of a platform allows you to fail face to iterate SAAS just inherently, because it's high growth, it's sell sell sell. But you also have to be quite realistic in terms of some of these transforMattive agendas are three, four, five years long. They're being driven by a new age services organization [inaudible] management consultancies, the next iteration of SIs. And I think you're right, you know. Again, I'd go back to that customer centricity. But being agile, being realistic, helping people to make those right decisions. Because you're right, if it's about understanding a CDP it's not the right dimension, it's about understanding how you can make your business more flexible, more agile, in these transforMattive times.



PJ Bruno: Adam, Mattt, thanks for being with me today.



Adam: All right, thank you.