Some have relegated the marketing database to an electronic filing system. Others simply characterize it as a central repository of customer and prospect data. Is that all it is?

I suggest that such simplistic, myopic definitions of a marketing database are reminiscent of the wagon and carriage industry in the 1890s. Some remained steadfast in making buggy whips and died, some prolonged life as being in the “personal transportation” business, while survivors thrived in their technical expertise reapplied to the automobile.

In the prevalent banter of the “demise of marketing as we know it today”, is the marketing database to remain steadfast in simply being a structured collection of data? Or is it time to think about adapting?

Interestingly,the demise of marketing is almost exclusively discussed in terms of digital and media. The CMO Council suggests a “new marketing ecosystem” relative to media, the Mobile Marketing Association a “mobile marketing ecosystem”… but what about the marketing database? If we are going to talk about a marketing ecosystem, how can the marketing database not be core to the ecosystem?

After all, in scientific terms an ecosystem is a complex set of relationships among the living resources, habitats, and residents of an area. Therefore, a marketing ecosystem is a complex set of relationships among customers and prospects across channels and media with a specific organization, its products and services, its employees, its suppliers, as well as independent social communities.

To say that the organization of the volumes of data generated by these complex relationships across channels and media presents a challenge is an understatement. Thus, we see the emergence of channel-specific ecosystems to monitor social communities, to manage mobile marketing – trending away from a single, comprehensive view of customers and prospects and their interactions with an organization. It’s hard to understand this trend to a fragmented customer view when for decades leading marketing organizations have depended on the marketing database for a single view of their customers and prospects. 

It doesn’t make sense to think that smart marketers want fragmented views of their customers so perhaps it’s that smart marketers see the marketing database stuck in its own buggy whip – direct marketing. Perhaps the clamor for mobile marketing ecosystems and the like is a result of marketing databases being thought of as “so yesterday” direct marketing. It’s time to put the “marketing” back in the marketing database – to adapt the marketing database from its origins in direct marketing to the totality of the new marketing ecology of customers and prospects. It’s time to elevate the marketing database to being the central repository of relationships across marketing channels and media – providing a single, comprehensive environment of marketing intelligence.

Do you believe that marketing databases stuck in direct marketing will be obsolete? Do you expect marketing databases to adapt beyond its traditional direct marketing role?