IBM Buys Unica – Marketing Analytics play

IBM is making some exciting moves into the marketing and analytics space. They have already purchased Cognos (TM1) and the SPSS statistical software company. Now they have also acquired UNICA, a company offering software my colleagues have termed as a more usable mechanism for conducting sophisticated analytics and predictive modeling.

Unica was a clear choice for IBM based on its power to automate a broad set of marketing capabilities and its established reputation for delivering customer success in marketing to organizations around the world,” said Craig Hayman, general manager of IBM Industry Solutions.

This move is intended to compete with the very successful software company SAS. My prior background includes time as a SAS programmer, using the SAS software to conduct marketing analytics. SAS is the reputed leader in this space, particularly at the high end with its product offering called Enterprise Miner for predictive modeling. Predicative modeling has been the bread and butter for driving increased ROI from direct mail campaigns all the way to telesales and even email marketing in blue chip companies. I used SAS to make a lot of money for Bank of America and even Commonwealth Bank in Australia through the direct mail channel.

In this context, IBM’s purchase of Unica will be more of an attack on SAS Enterprise Miner on the high end as I see it. My colleagues who do analytics in states position Unica as a better alternative to SAS on the high end from the angle of usability. In that light, SPSS may be more positioned to attack the low to mid end of the value chain. SPSS is capable of delivering results for better marketing through high end analytics, but the software was not primarily developed for this purpose. Truth be told, SPSS and Unica play in somewhat similar spaces, but note the subtle differences I mention above.

Where is this all going?

One thing I see the industry waiting for is a magic combination of these things into a single offering:

  1. Data visualization (i.e.. Cognos TM1) combined with…
  2. An analytics tool with power and ease of use such as Unica combined with…
  3. A cost effective and dynamic publishing platform for online content combined with…
  4. Effective ways to manipulate campaigns on websites, publisher networks and ad networks while…
  5. Not having to be a rocket scientist to use one application to do all of this

Marketo is one example of a marketing automation software solution that taps into this idea, leveraging the CRM system of Salesforce with the email engine of Strongmail as well as a few easy publishing tools for non techies. Marketo, however, is nowhere near as sophisticated as SAS or Unica and does not offer the data exploration capabilities of a Cognos. Marketo also has a bias towards email when there are many other channels to consider.

More to the point, purchases like what IBM has made with Unica is all about taking the “Marketing Automation (MA)” game to another level. The perfect (MA) solution does not yet exist but the industry is going down the right path with acquisitions such as Unica combined with a portfolio of products that IBM has.

I am currently working with clients to develop applications to capture what I have coined as the “magic combination” above and user based design is a pivotal part of what will make the solution succeed. Merely stitching up a disparate collection applications is not going to get it done. Cross functional applications working in tandem through user based design will be the new game changer for marketers.


Rick Speciale
MyCMO – Director
Twitter: Zemlak

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