Ian Michiels
Ian Michiels 30 October 2014

What's Under The Hood In The HP Marketing Hub?

A marketers guide to navigating "what's cool" about HP's Marketing Hub. HP has been busy, particularly over the last 18 months, and continued innovation, integration, and investment in the HP Marketing Hub tells a compelling story.

Here’s a sure way to get a shrug: ask the average marketer what the HP Marketing Hub entails. It’s hard to believe a company like HP could be lost in the noise when it comes to conversations about marketing technology platforms, especially after the $11B acquisition of Autonomy. But when I say “marketing cloud” to the average marketing executive, nine times out of ten they are expecting a conversation about Adobe, Oracle, or (despite being the first to market, IBM has taken a back seat in recent years for reasons we won’t explore here). That said, HP may not be the noisiest in the bunch, or the first to market, but sometimes it’s the quiet ones you need to watch out for. HP has been busy, particularly over the last 18 months, and continued innovation, integration, and investment in the HP Marketing Hub tells a compelling story.

This Market Insight will explore my takeaways from the 2014 HP Engage event and why I believe enterprise marketers might want to keep an eye on the HP Marketing Hub.

There are probably a dozen globally known software providers pursuing marketing and customer experience platforms. But there is an elephant in the room that we should address: marketers remain skeptical about the promises of platform solutions. The vast majority of enterprise buyers are slow to divest of legacy marketing technologies in favor of comprehensive marketing solutions. That’s to be expected; integration and innovation need to play catch up with acquisition strategies for companies like HP, Adobe, Oracle, IBM, and Acquisition strategies? Isn’t this a marketing platform? Yes, therein lies the challenge. Every marketing platform offering is a byproduct of a strategic roadmap that was accelerated through best-of-breed acquisitions. In most cases, the nature of these acquisitions will dictate the competitive differentiators for various marketing cloud/hub/platform offerings.

In the case of HP that unique differentiator is the ability to ascertain context from data and rapidly adapt marketing communications based on the next best action. That means the HP Marketing Hub can not only analyze data, but machine learning can actually make recommendations to marketers about how to improve performance and deliver the right content at the right time to the right buyer. Powerful stuff, and it’s not a cliché. Let’s talk about how that happens and some of the challenges HP may face along the way.

What’s Inside The HP Marketing Hub?

Back in 2011 HP bought Autonomy for $11.1 billion. Over the years the acquisition led to some criticism about what HP would actually do with Autonomy, and later a write-off of $9 billion on the deal due to “serious accounting improprieties.” I don’t mention this to revisit things HP would probably rather put to bed for good. But I think there are some very important aspects of the Autonomy deal that were overlooked at the time, and are now playing a more strategic role in the 2013 launch of the HP Marketing Hub. Autonomy took a lot of hits for being an “old” technology, and in truth Autonomy was still working on transitioning to SaaS when HP acquired them. But the company had no debt, operating margin of 41%, average deal sizes north of $800k, and most importantly some very compelling innovations, including an intelligent data operating layer (IDOL), video-to-text extraction, facial-recognition-based search within video, augmented reality, and many more.

But what I find most compelling about the Autonomy acquisition is the rich and established history with the office of the CIO and IT. Autonomy was a safe bet for IT; it’s why today HP TeamSite powers over 10,000 websites. In addition, HP MediaBin is one of the most robust and innovative digital asset management solutions on the planet (it’s got features no competitor has matched even now), but it requires heavy IT customization and support. In a world where the CMO may spend more than the CIO, you’d better believe the CIO will be a part of those conversations if it’s about a “marketing hub.” Autonomy’s relationship with IT may be the traction HP needs to land and expand with a broader Marketing Hub offering, especially with continued investments in innovation, integration, and partner alliances. But to do this, HP is going to need to start talking in a language marketers can understand. Scratch that: HP needs to help marketers buy into their vision. IDOL, HAVEn, DMH, big data, augmented reality – who invited the nerd to the marketing party?

So let’s take a stab at explaining the HP Marketing Hub (and what’s cool about it) in a more approachable way for marketers. To my mind 2014 was the first time I looked at HP and thought, “these guys actually have something unique.”


The foundation for the HP Marketing Hub is the consumption, centralization, and contextual understanding of big data. HAVEn stands for:

Had Hadoop/HDFS: Catalogue massive volumes of distributed data.

Autonomy IDOL: Process and index all information.

Vertica: Analyze at extreme scale in real time.

Enterprise Security: Collect & unify machine data.

nApps: Connect your apps to the nth degree.

Bottom line, HAVEn provides the ability to pull in any structured or unstructured source of data that is relevant to marketers. It’s massively scalable, fast, and it literally helps the user sniff out areas to investigate based on trends and relationships.

What’s cool for marketers? HAVEn will actually find patterns and relationships in the data that are worth exploring. It’s not going to do your job, and it will still require resources with analytical skills, but it might help accelerate the time it takes to uncover issues and areas for improvement- which is more than competitive marketing cloud offerings can say. Most of the solutions on the market today (and certainly any of the traditional BI tools that marketing may have access to) will allow you to pull in any data, but someone has to know how to slice and dice that data to derive insights. With the HP Marketing Hub the system will literally uncover trends and relationships for marketers to explore. You can also create rules to trigger actions or alerts based on changes in the data.

Thoughts on HAVEn. Placing data at the core of the marketing hub offering is a unique differentiator for HP, especially since they can take it a step further and derive insight from available data. But today marketers are struggling to execute campaigns in a multi-channel setting because of fragmented legacy marketing applications. According to Top Performers, limitations of existing marketing technology and availability of data are key drivers behind marketing investments in 2014 (in fact, solving big data challenges was noticeably absent). Both of these limitations would inhibit the return on a big data solution. If available systems are insufficient at managing customer engagement and trusted data isn’t available, is aggregating and analyzing that data all that compelling?

I think the harsh reality is most marketers might see intelligent insights on big data as an extremely interesting capability, but it will take a back seat to addressing other customer engagement issues… namely acquisition and orchestration of the cross-channel experience. I’m also not sure HP should be jumping on the “big data” messaging bandwagon (at least not for positioning to marketers) since most marketers dismiss it as a buzz word. Plus, HP actually has a legitimate solution that would prove otherwise – it’s best not to trigger reservations on the part of the CMO. Besides, it’s not about the size of the data, it’s about the insights you can derive and the action you can take from analyzing that data. Don’t get me wrong, big data is hugely compelling, just not to marketing – yet.

HP Explore

HP Explore is a data visualization and analytics platform offering customer insights across all channels: web, mobile, social media, email, contact center, database, and storefront. HP Explore leverages IDOL (Intelligent Data Operating Layer), a machine-based learning capability that came out of the Autonomy acquisition.

What’s cool for marketers? HP Explore is essentially a command console for exploring customer data. But IDOL takes that exploration to a whole new level by providing context within the data. IDOL helps marketers isolate relationships, trends, and insights from the data through machine learning. Unlike traditional BI that tells you what happened, IDOL literally helps marketers dive into why something happened. That means both structured and unstructured data (from ERP, CRM, social media, and other data warehouses) can be loaded to the system and you can automatically derive insights from that information.

Thoughts on Explore. I actually think HP has a wonderful opportunity to elevate this offering in a packaged cloud-based solution. While they use all the right buzz words in positioning (voice of the customer, marketing analytics, contextual insights), they don’t really mention the one critical topic area buyers are actively researching – social media monitoring platforms. I think that’s because everyone is convinced that it’s much more than that. And it is. However, marketers are investing big money in extracting insights from social, particularly enterprise marketers. The fact that HP Explore can do much more is icing on the cake, but you’ve got to target a single problem that is getting budget thrown at it to land and expand.

Here are a few things that will make this more accessible to marketers:

Offer a turnkey solution, hosted or on-premise. If I need a checklist of pre-installed things (IDOL 10, etc.) it’s a turnoff.

IDOL is confusing for marketers; they don’t think in terms of acronyms like this, and knowing what it means doesn’t explain what it does. Yet marketers generally have the budget for social insights. Back up and start talking in terms the CMO can understand. Also, IDOL will resonate with IT, so you don’t want to dump it altogether.

Lead with contextual insights at scale. The fact that HP Explore and IDOL can automatically extract meaning from data is HUGE for marketing and for IT. It’s also a unique differentiator for HP. I’m still trying to figure out why I know more about Radian6 and Adobe Social than HP Explore. A simple line like “you’re currently spending millions a year to monitor social media, but we have a solution that can do a lot of that work automatically through machine learning” will go a long way in this market.

HP Exstream

HP Exstream is a customer communications management (CCM) solution for managing multi-channel communications with customers and front-office workers. Unlike campaign management solutions that generally focus on outward multi-channel engagement via campaigns, Exstream is generally used by large enterprise organizations (over 850 to date) to personalize interactions with known customers via transactional engagements such as billing, statements, quotes, order information, etc. HP also recently launched HP Relate, which is a app exchange solution for managing content.

What’s cool for marketers? Over the last 12 months HP Exstream gave some much-needed attention to the user interface to help make it more accessible to marketers. The system is also available on-demand. Exstream allows marketers to create branded templates for engagement across a variety of online or offline channels (really, any channel a customer prefers). Marketers can then dynamically pull in relevant information from source or transactional systems on a one-to-one basis and make them available online or offline. The solution can reduce production and postage costs, save time, and help manage brand consistency.

Thoughts on HP Exstream. With over 850 mid-to-large customers using Exstream, clearly this is a well-established and well-liked solution. But it’s also still an IT-centric option, meaning marketers will need support from IT to manage templates and integration with data. That said, Exstream now has a very intuitive editing interface and on-demand access for front-line workers. The HP Relate integration with was a smart move for expanding this capability with a much broader audience. I found it interesting that HP and even the HP Engage audience were largely unaware of a burgeoning landscape of competitive solutions Gleanster covers under the topic areas Localized Marketing Automation (LMA) and Marketing Asset Management (MAM). LMA and MAM technology is designed exclusively for distributed marketing environments where local sales or marketing resource need to customize communications for a local target audience. LMA and MAM solutions largely address marketing and sales related creative communications, not necessarily transaction-oriented (billing, statements, etc.) customer engagement, but there’s enough overlap to suggest to me the same buyers are looking at solving similar problems. This might be an interesting opportunity for HP to expand the brand into topic areas that are clearly gaining traction with buyers in financial services, manufacturing, insurance, franchises, retail, pharma, and healthcare.

HP MediaBin

HP MediBin came with the Autonomy acquisition, and it’s a powerful digital asset management solution for managing, distributing, and publishing customer-facing digital assets. MediaBin was designed for marketers to own and manage the creation, production, and archiving of images, documents, rich media, and other digital content.

What’s cool for marketers? For organizations that are looking for innovative ways to manage rich media there’s really no substitute for MediaBin. Long before HP acquired Autonomy they had out-of-the-box powerful capabilities for video search, including automatic video-to-text conversion (so you can search text that exists in video clips), facial recognition inside video (so you can search for a person’s face in video clips), video annotations, collaboration, and strong workflow. Here’s where MediaBin shines inside the HP Marketing Hub. The hub allows marketers to derive insights from the data, but it can also be used to automate and optimize content delivery based on individual behavior, preferences, or demographic attributes. TeamSite and MediaBin allow marketers to configure rules and dynamically deliver content in real time on websites and mobile devices. That’s huge. Centralize all internal customer data in a datamart and trigger next-best offers and content via TeamSite and MediaBin.

Thoughts on HP MediaBin. MediBin is powerful. It’s not the cheapest option and it takes time and IT expertise to implement and support, but it’s got an established user base that will demand continued HP investments and innovation. For marketers that need to manage digital assets (especially rich media) it’s a compelling offering, particularly when integrated with TeamSite. The video management capabilities are second to none in the market. I think we are still early days in terms of what marketers can actually do with dynamic content delivery. The challenge today is dreaming up the customer experiences that solutions like the HP Marketing Hub can already support. That’s a huge barrier to investments in integrated capabilities. But eventually marketing requirements will catch up, and companies like HP can say, “yeah we’ve been able to do that for years.”

HP Optimost

At the core, HP Optimost is a landing page optimization tool for testing and optimizing online interactions in real time. Today the solution is capable of helping marketers optimize multichannel engagement via the web, mobile, social, and search. Optimization is done via two types of very common testing methods: A/B testing and multivariate testing (you can learn more about each via the CheatSheets on

What’s cool for marketers? At first the idea of testing and analytics around customer engagement was a bit hard for marketers to swallow. Today it’s not only the norm for Top Performing organizations, it’s essential for a multi-channel customer – there are simply too many channels to support and each demands unique copy and creative for optimal performance. For example, the best creative on the web may perform terribly on mobile. Optimost provides an intuitive marketing-centric interface to take the guesswork out of digital optimization.

Thoughts on Optimost. If you ever want to be humbled by how little you know about the human psyche, make guesses about which offers and creative design actually win inside Optimost. You will lose that game and realize you have to test; humans weren’t built to do this well. Optimost sort of feels like it could be a stand-alone offering outside of a marketing platform and still create the same value – which is also why it makes sense to include it in the Marketing Hub as a unique and differentiated solution.

HP TeamSite

HP TeamSite is a web content management (WCM) solution that came with the Autonomy acquisition. TeamSite gives marketers control over content authoring, multichannel delivery, site design and layout, multivariate testing, content targeting, rich media management, advanced analytics, social content management, workflow and approval, and archiving.

What’s cool for marketers? Today TeamSite has over 10,000 installations, proof that HP has continued to innovate and invest in this solution. TeamSite is a core module inside the HP Marketing Hub because it represents the point of engagement with the customer. HP has invested considerable time and effort in the ability to deliver content in context using available customer insights (and remember there’s data from multiple systems informing these optimizations). Over the last 18-24 months, HP continued to invest in TeamSite through an improved interface, mobile optimization, responsive design capabilities, security, integration with MediaBin, and analytics. In addition, there are now out-of-the-box capabilities for agency collaboration and simplified integration of agency page designs – a common challenge among enterprise marketers (the agency dreamed up a design that can’t be rendered). Marketers can also render pages across hundreds of different devices before pushing them live to test how they will display.

Thoughts On TeamSite
TeamSite has a loyal and eclectic customer following. What I like about TeamSite is the fact that it’s actually embraced by IT. While that might not be a value proposition for the average CMO who wants less dependence on IT, the simple fact of the matter is that WCM requires IT support, no matter what. The challenge is knowing where to draw the line between flexibility for marketers (and their ability to customize their own templates and creative in WCM) and support from IT. Bottom line, TeamSite still checks many of the boxes that will be required for it to continue to support next-gen digital engagement in the future – things like mobile responsive design, HTML5, optimization, and an intuitive interface are critical to keeping marketers and IT happy. To me, when we talk about optimizing the customer experience TeamSite is where the rubber meets the road in the HP Marketing Hub; it’s where insights derived are put into action and it’s where exceedingly difficult to please customers will evaluate a “great” brand experience.

HP Qfiniti

HP Qfiniti is a contact center workforce optimization tool. The product includes tools for workforce management, quality monitoring, liability recording, coaching and eLearning, performance management, surveying, desktop analytics, and multichannel analytics.

What’s cool for marketers? In a world where the CMO is increasingly expected to manage the entire customer experience, it’s interesting how little a CMO can actually control. For example, when marketing is working on creative campaigns for up-selling and cross-selling to existing customers, do they have access to customer service data that would inform the optimization of those campaigns? In most cases the answer is no. At the core Qfiniti helps optimize agent engagement, but for marketing it’s a critical source of insight and data about customer behavior.

Thoughts on Qfiniti. Every marketing cloud provider on the planet will say they can access and use content from different sources. So incorporating customer service data in the marketing datamart isn’t a unique differentiator. But when HP Explore and HAVEn can actually isolate trends in that data for marketers, things get interesting. It might not answer every question, but finding trends can be very difficult when marketers are exploring foreign data from sources like Qfiniti. Consider the alternative: a bunch of data in a database, and a blank slate inside a BI tool. That’s going to give most marketers a rash.

HP Aurasma

HP Aurasma is a web-based platform for creating, managing, and publishing augmented reality content. Given that it has over 70,000 users I find it hilarious that not one person I have talked to was aware of this solution from HP. Some had interacted with it, but they weren’t aware it was part of HP. It’s quite honestly one of the coolest things I’ve seen since my first-born’s sonogram. Augmented reality is a live view of the real world via a digital device (like a smartphone camera or tablet camera) with elements that are augmented by computer-generated sensory inputs such as sound, video, graphics, or location data.

What’s cool for marketers? Here’s an example of a campaign to clear this up. A user takes a smartphone and launches an app that activates the camera on the phone. When the user hovers over a page in a magazine the page comes to life on the phone screen with interactive branding, buttons, and digital content that is displayed on top of the real-world image. If the user clicks on a button to learn more about a watch, for example, augmented reality brings up an image of the watch and allows the user to hover their own hand between the catalog and the phone camera to see what the watch would look like if they were wearing it. Mind blown. Bottom line, this is very cool stuff, and today it’s largely free. It’s being used by big brands like Disney, Marvel, GQ, Universal, and Vanity Fair to engage customers in a whole new way.

Thoughts on Aurasma. We are early days with augmented reality. But I can see a world where a user walks into a meeting wearing Google Glass and capabilities already inside the HP Marketing Hub scan the attendees’ faces and automatically notate customer records or trigger the creation of a quote. The possibilities are endless. From an HP Marketing Hub perspective, Aurasma will likely transform how marketers engage with target audiences via mobile devices. More than anything I think augmented reality and the other capabilities in the HP Marketing Hub underscore the HP commitment to long-term innovation and support  – not just for the customer engagement of today, but the customer engagement of tomorrow.

The Marketing Cloud Derby

The pursuit for the marketing cloud among large suite providers plays out like a horse race where competitors fight for a lead only to fall behind seconds later. It’s anyone’s game and it’s hard to predict a winner. Fortunately, there’s probably not going to be a single winner. But there’s certainly a strategy to winning any race. In the case of HP, continued innovation and a focus on data may just give them a unique competitive edge (and stamina) to come up from the rear. As I said earlier, I do think HP needs to do more to resonate with current marketing challenges and CMOs. But what?

More big picture. I look at the HP Autonomy website today and it generally says the right gobbledygook words about what marketers struggle with, and it’s a crisp presentation from a product standpoint. But what’s the vision behind the platform? Marketers aren’t trying to solve for big data today. I think HP needs to focus on some core value propositions such as social media monitoring, content in context and at scale, and future-proof WCM. But more than anything the notion of a “marketing hub” is going to be a turnoff for marketers unless they really understand the big picture behind the strategy. Otherwise it comes across like a label HP slapped on a bunch of different products – and it’s not that. When you look at competitors like Adobe, generally buyers are investing in the vision and buying one or two products. At present, the HP Marketing Hub offering doesn’t check all the boxes for marketers (campaign management, CRM, email, etc.) and it doesn’t have to. In fact, those are addressed via the partner strategy that grows stronger every year (Marketo, Brightcove, Digital River, Experian, Ooyala, Aspera, Limelight, etc.). HP needs to call this out more effectively, show marketers that they really do understand that other solutions are being used, and demonstrate that they can continue to be used. It’s okay not to provide every capability, and in some respects marketers would rather have best-of-breed in certain areas.

Cater to the CMO and the CIO. I don’t see a world where CMOs can suddenly go off the rails spending money that the CIO isn’t intimately involved in. The trend we so frequently like to reference merely points out that the CMO will be a key driver behind technology investments now and in the immediate future. HP has an opportunity to address both sides in powerful and secure products that can be invested in slowly or all at once. But HP can also rely on deeper relationships with the CIO to help champion innovative differentiated products for the CMO.

Then what? In talking to attendees at the HP Engage event, it was clear to me that most of them used one or two core applications (Exstream or TeamSite) and were very happy with them. It might be very helpful to bridge the gap and demonstrate how integration between the products can improve performance, ease of use, or the customer experience. For example, if you are a HP TeamSite-only client, what are the reasons to invest in HP Explore or HP MediaBin?

PDF Version – No Form, #Click2PDF


Bottom line, I am quite bullish on what HP is trying to accomplish with the HP Marketing Hub. But I don’t think marketers are investing budget to solve big data challenges – they need insights. The simple reality is marketers don’t have access to the data they need and they are limited in analytical talent to extract insights. If a solution can identify relationships and trends automatically, that’s a leg up for marketers; at least they are spending time investigating something worthwhile. But when a solution can use that data to inform and optimize customer engagement, that’s invaluable – and that’s where the HP Marketing Hub really differentiates itself from other marketing cloud solutions. HP is clearly invested in empowering the marketing function, but they have an opportunity to shape how marketers map their future success. We hope they stay focused on that goal and continue to ignore the noise from competitors. A clear and compelling vision for marketing enablement is a magnet for marketing budget.

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