How to Leverage the Cloud to Build Marketing Campaigns That Scale

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Last year Gartner made the seemingly odd prediction that by 2017, CMOs will spend more on IT than CIOs. The fact is that marketing departments are dependent on technology to drive their critical online, social, and mobile marketing initiatives. Increasingly they are turning to cloud computing to provide the speed and scale necessary to support successful campaigns.

While some marketing teams will work with internal IT departments, many are working through outsourcers and agencies. At this year’s RightScale Compute conference, RightScale Vice President of Marketing Kim Weins shared with an IT audience some insights about how marketers think and how they can create fast-to-market campaigns using cloud technology.

The cloud is a good fit for marketing, Weins said, because of its unique characteristics: elasticity, instant on, high performance, global availability, redundant architecture, and pay-per-use cost model.

“From a marketing point of view, we don’t want a flop — whether it’s a campaign, website, or social media,” Weins explained. IT needs to ensure that the technology will keep pace with consumer demand generated by a successful marketing campaign so that “we don’t succeed so well that we fail [when] the technology breaks. Everybody wants to think they’re going to have that huge successful campaign. If they do, they want to know it’s going to scale up. And speed to market is also critical, because often times marketing is driven by events, by launches, by holidays — things that are not allowed to slip.”

Kim Weins’ presentation at RightScale Compute

So how do you implement a cloud-based campaign? You can do it in-house or hire someone to do it for you. Weins said that in marketing, “We’re used to having large budgets that we typically spend with outside contractors or agencies. That can help marketers gain the agility we want and need to get to market quickly. But it can have downsides, especially if IT must maintain something that somebody else built.”

Either way, as Weins has noted previously, running marketing campaigns in the public cloud requires significant expertise to ensure that the campaign can automatically and efficiently scale up and down under highly variable demand. In addition, the tight timeframes and fixed budgets of marketing campaigns don’t allow a lot of room for a gradual learning curve. If an organization doesn’t set up its cloud infrastructure correctly, it can experience delayed launches, blown budgets, and even technology failures.

In addition to scaling and reliability, marketers also need tools that are responsive, Weins said, because “marketers change their minds all the time.” And because of the fast cycle times, marketers need the ability to make changes as they go.

Cost effectiveness is also important. “Marketers are used to knowing how much they’re going to spend,” Weins said. “We don’t like to have surprises. The variable cost model of the cloud is a little bit challenging for us.” However, cloud vendors provide options for making costs more predictable. For instance, AWS offers Reserved Instances that let organizations lock in a price for a given number of servers. And in the end, marketers may be able to live with a little uncertainty in price in exchange for the agility with which the cloud allows them to deploy their campaigns.

Weins encouraged the IT professionals at her presentation to talk to marketers in terms they can understand: “If you start talking to marketers about cloud and cloud management, they’re going to lose interest quickly. You need to talk to them about what they’re trying to achieve with their campaign and how you can help them.”

Weins shared highlights of several of the digital campaigns that RightScale has helped with, including the launch of the “Twilight” movie, an online game for Conde Nast, a virtual world for American Girl, and a time-limited Mars candy giveaway. Watch the video of Weins’ talk for details about these campaigns, as well as several Lady Gaga campaigns that RightScale helped enable, including one that was up and running in just 14 days.

RightScale delivers several benefits that marketers are interested in, Weins told her audience: “We want a good consumer experience, and the RightScale technology can help enable that. Speed to market — get things running quickly. Flexibility — we can make changes. And reusability from campaign to campaign — if I have a standard way to deliver campaigns, I can repeat and replicate that.” RightScale ServerTemplates™ are pre-built and customizable technology stacks “that help in all those areas,” she explained. “They get you up and running quickly, and monitoring helps you with reliability.”

Weins also talked about using RightScale APIs to create an “IT vending machine” for user self-service. With this approach, you can embed your standard technology in a web page and give users push-button service to start up any kind of application. This allows individual marketing teams to start instances of common applications — a blog, for instance — and launch new ones that follow all the corporate standards.

RightScale additionally helps marketers auto-scale up or down to meet the changing response to a campaign based on any of several monitoring metrics. As an example, businesses can allocate a minimum number of servers and increase those automatically based on actual demand or pre-provision ahead of some known upcoming events, such as advertising, that will drive increased response.

To help marketers understand the costs of using the cloud, RightScale offers, a free tool that enables organizations to forecast their cloud spend. PlanForCloud generates a cost report that tells you what your total costs will look like over time. You can also apply growth or seasonality patterns to your forecasts to see how they will affect your usage, and hence your costs. The report breaks down the costs of all the components so that you can look at ways to optimize. You can also specify different scenarios — best and worst cases, for example — to get a range that can guide you in planning your budget.

“RightScale can also help with services to get your marketing campaign launched on time,” Weins said. “We’re offering some new services packages specifically for people who are doing campaigns and marketing initiatives. The goal is to assist organizations through the whole process, from the plan phase through develop, launch, monitoring and support.”

If you’d like more information on the expertise RightScale can provide to help you plan for and manage cloud technology to support successful digital advertising and marketing campaigns, contact us.