Why Oracle ModernCX 2019 Had a Troll (Temporarily)

Let me start with full disclosure that my travel and ticket to Modern CX was paid this year by Oracle Marketing Cloud. You can read my recap post here. I was deeply involved in this year’s event, speaking 2X, filming video, and conducting research with attendees and customers.

But, as someone who wears the nickname “unapologetic marketing truth-teller” proudly, I can’t stay quiet about something that bothered me at the show.

When doing research for my post-event recap article, I came across a provocative statement from an Oracle CX executive in The Drum. He said:

“The customer journey is dead… Marketers don’t have time for push-oriented communications to pre-planned segments. How do marketers survive today? They have to respond to customers in real time.”

I read the quote at the end of the article touting all of the company’s recent product announcements with a mix of amusement and concern.

The customer journey isn’t dead.

It’s definitely changing as the technology available to marketers evolves.

“Push-oriented communications to pre-planned segments” is still very much the reality many B2B firms experience. I spoke with quite a few B2B marketers on-site using Oracle Marketing Cloud products across various industries: SaaS, manufacturing, government, professional services.

To them, a customer journey is still the best framework they have to impact growth at their organizations.

Hell, many marketers are still working to fix the perception internally that they are just “the Powerpoint people.”

Now, I know our industry is at various stages of maturity with marketing technology, and variations in the adoption curve will exist based on the industry and culture of an organization.

But there’s an enormous gap between where the majority of marketers are today, and claims like this that the customer journey is, all of a sudden, DOA.

Note: I don’t want to pick on this particular Oracle executive personally. This is intended as commentary on the larger state of the marketing technology industry, and the vendors within it.

The last time this exec tweeted was one year ago from ModernCX 2018, in which he said:

“…for the first time, CMOs are now holding revenue targets as their goal.”

So, have marketers managed to perfect revenue management and evolve to purveyors of real-time, personalized interactions, so much so that they no longer need the customer journey framework — all in only 12 months?

I doubt it.

And, I do get it. I do this for a living.

Oracle has a damn compelling vision for the future where, indeed, we won’t need the one-dimensional customer journey / funnel framework to restrict our marketing efforts in such a linear way.

That, in fact, we’ll be able to meet the customer wherever they are with a relevant experience powered by Oracle’s framework of “connected data, connected intelligence, and connected experience.”

That’s nirvana. That’s awesome.

But the truth is, marketers have a ways to go internally to realize this vision.

There’s a reason Oracle had a troll this year.

Statements like “the customer journey is dead” are meant to help a vendor indicate to buyers where things are going. They’re exciting, and they challenge the status quo that many of us hold so dear.

But, disruption is only effective in context.

These provocative statements can be equally dangerous when they’re just another in a long line of provocative statements.

I’ll be frank: This is unnecessary hyperbole within a world of 7,000 other martech vendors all trying to “kill” something.

ABM vendors will tell you that “inbound is dead.”
Social advertising vendors will tell you that “email marketing is dead.”
Data vendors will tell you that “you’re dead, unless you fix your dirty data.”

You get the point.

A colleague once shared her observation that when many attendees sit through keynotes and sessions at marketing industry events, they don’t relate to what’s being shared on-stage. They sit, feeling shame that everyone around them has this stuff figured out, while they’re left behind.

It’s just not true.

Our industry’s rampant hyperbole is a major problem.

This is one reason, temporarily, a troll emerged on Twitter during this particular conference from inside the event, tweeting shade and mocking some of the more forward-looking, broad-based sayings shared by executives from the account “@oraclemcx4real.”

Was it an attendee? Was it an employee?

Hard to tell.

Their account is now deleted, but for a while during the keynotes, theirs was a sobering voice of dissent, albeit inappropriate. It was full of cheap shots, and anonymous hot takes on our industry’s predictions and tendencies.

Someone who was, for better or for worse, fed up.

A similar situation occurred at Content Marketing World 2016. You can read my take on that, here.

What I said then, I believe now. The same sentiment applies:

Disillusionment is a real risk in this community.

All vendors, even a behemoth like Oracle, needs to remember the emotional state of their marketing buyers; overwhelmed, uncertain, and skeptical of bombastic rhetoric.

OMC should be real with marketing buyers by practicing what they preach: “meeting buyers where they are.”

What’s the outrage about?

Truly I think this brings up an important point.

What is the responsibility of an event? My take:

  • To move the industry forward.
  • To provide actionable insight that help attendees solve their most pressing challenges.
  • To challenge their status quo and give them new ways to approach old problems.

Look, if our industries weren’t changing, fine. But every single industry is being impacted by drastic change and transformation — it’s doing your attendees a disservice to shy away from speakers who won’t call it like it is.

I believe the most important thing a vendor can do at their own conference, like this one, is to be exceptionally honest about where their customers are, today.

Do you agree with my take? Who does it well?

Let me know on Twitter. I may be wrong, and I may have pissed off Oracle executives (…oops), but alas. That’s what a truth-teller does.

See you next year ;)