When Clorox Co. picked new ad agencies last month, another service relationship played a role in the decision.Clorox is two years into working with the Oracle Marketing Cloud, a platform pieced together through a series of 10 acquisitions in recent years. That has in turn helped foster Clorox's shift toward data-driven marketing led by communications planning and rapid-fire adaptation of ads based on consumer response, said Chief Marketing Officer Eric Reynolds.
"What we've learned in partnership with Oracle broadly informed what we listened for and the questions we asked" in the review, Mr. Reynolds said. "Media and communications planning is so essential we wanted to know, [what was in] in these agencies'
Mr. Reynolds is a big advocate for the tech company, having appeared alongside Oracle Marketing Cloud General Manager Kevin Akeroyd a conference last month even as he was finalizing the review. He credits Oracle with helping Clorox brands get better at programmatic digital media buying, consumer segmentation and even fostering data-sharing with retailers. But he's also the first to admit Clorox – and the broader marketing industry – has a long way to go.
"It's an overhyped area with a lot of unfulfilled promises, so it does take people who are going to roll up their sleeves and get their hands dirty," Mr. Reynolds said of marketing tech. Oracle has done that with frequent meetings, he said, where "they don't walk in acting like they have a monopoly on the truth."
The partnership began in part because Clorox already had a lot of Oracle technology in place and grew as the tech company acquired such companies as BlueKai, which serves as Clorox Co.'s data management platform, and Datalogix, which is helping Clorox link its marketing efforts to brick-and-mortar sales results – at least in limited tests. Clorox is also starting to use Oracle's "Maximizer" customer relationship management tool to automate marketing processes, such as delivery of messages or offers based on what people click on or buy.
Clorox is using BlueKai in combination with a client-specific trading desk developed by its digital media agency AKQA for programmatic digital buying, an increasingly big part of a media mix that's more than 40% digital. And it's using insights gleaned from the data to refine brand segmentation strategies, which in turn shape creative and media planning beyond digital, including TV, Mr. Reynolds said.
For example, Brita used insights from the data to discover that college students at four-year residential campuses were a substantial part of its consumer base, beyond the brand's general "healthy living advocates" psychographic profile.
Finding new undiscovered target segments is something Clorox and AKQA analysts do today by analyzing the data themselves. But one exciting -- if now unfulfilled -- promise of the BlueKai DMP is applying machine learning to scour the data automatically for new segments that humans wouldn't even think to look for. Mr. Reynolds said that could help Clorox "get to those final 2 to 4 percentage points of growth that always seem to slip through our fingers."
Clorox first-party data from its websites or other sources is shielded from other Oracle customers, he said. But one advantage of going with BlueKai rather than a custom system is that it can ease the process of collaborating retailers also on the platform, such as Target. One recent example has been a Brita program in which the retailer "opened up their data on a very narrow aperture of Target guests" who were buying baby products.
"Because people use Brita a lot for baby formula, we were able to target Target guests through the DMP, because we were given access," he said.
Beyond Clorox, and despite the industry's reputation as a tech laggard, CPG is actually one of the fastest-growing spaces for Oracle Marketing Cloud, said Mr. Akeroyd. One reason is just the amount of money CPG marketers spend relative to sales, which is higher than most other sectors, and he ranks the industry with automotive and finance among the biggest adopters at this point.
He believes the "network effect" demonstrated by Clorox's work with Target is something that will be a growing advantage as more marketers join, with similar possibilities for other sectors, such as airlines and credit card companies – where being on the same tech platform with common ways of managing customer identities makes the collaboration smoother.
But while being on BlueKai with a retailer make make things easier, data sharing isn't limited to that platform, Mr. Reynolds said. Clorox has also shared data through the Walmart Exchange digital buying platform along with Procter & Gamble Co., which is its joint-venture partner on Glad. To market Glad bags with Gain scents, he said, "Walmart let us see Gain users, and they let Procter see Glad users. And we were able inside the Walmart data to go to people who loved Gain but hadn't tried Glad."
Mr. Reynolds said he hopes success of such tests leads to a lot more data sharing – with all necessary privacy safeguards in place. But he's realistic about how much and what kind of data will get shared.
"We have a lot or respect for Facebook," he said. "They have a lot of tremendous data. They're going to be reluctant to share data, because that is their competitive advantage. I think most of the world will go to sharing with some very key players wanting to hold onto their walled garden of data as long as they can."