Marketing in the 21st century is, in a word, complex. Trying to get ads and messaging into the world in a timely, targeted, efficient manner requires a lot of technology and moving parts. While all of the tools that marketers use in their stack provide value, the modern marketing tech stack has come to resemble the classic Mouse Trap board game, the quintessential Rube Goldberg machine that helps marketers reach consumers, all the while praying that everything works the way it’s supposed to, when it’s supposed to.
If you’ve played Mouse Trap more than once in your life, you know that pieces go missing. If you’re lucky enough to have all of the components and get everything set up, you may get to the big moment where it’s time to catch the mouse… and then nothing happens. Inevitably, something in the trap was misaligned, so the big payoff never comes.
This is marketing in the modern age, managing a complex web of CDPs, DMPs, data clean rooms, first- and third-party data providers, data onboarders, media buying and selling platforms and optimization algorithms, all with varying approaches to customer identity resolution and data management. The goal is still to catch the mouse – or in this case, reach the right consumer with the right message. But marketers are struggling to accomplish that task because they’re stuck with a set of tools that is practically designed break, and lack a predefined design at the onset.
If the mouse is the customer here, the ball rolling down the chute is the customer data that marketers pass along to trigger each step of the process. With so many handoffs and different processes, somewhere along the line, the ball rolls off the track of the Rube Goldberg machine and the plan goes awry. The customer is not reached, and the marketer’s customer data is now rolling around out of control.
This happens more and more often, and marketers are stymied when they try to fix things. The truth about this complex system is that lots of people make money along the way, because marketers need each component to succeed. Mouse Trap costs around $25 on Amazon right now. If you had to buy the pieces individually, it would inevitably cost more and become a much more laborious process, between having to go to alternative suppliers and retrofitting the close –but not exact–piece If something goes wrong and you try to contact the company who sold you the piece, you might hear “Sorry, I’m just responsible for the seesaw.”
This all sounds a little silly, but it’s not far off from what marketing teams are experiencing right now as they try to execute their current marketing strategies and prepare for the future. The mar-tech stack has gotten out of control with too many moving parts. If brands are going to fully buy into a future built on first-party data and transparency, they need to advocate for simplicity and control. The fewer data handoffs they need, the better off they’ll be. It’s time to redesign the game.