What is rich media and why is it instrumental in the end user experience?

Sanjay Sarathy, VP Marketing of Cloudinary, talks rich media and how marketers can get better outcomes from developing a practical approach to their non-text media strategy.

2/3rd of the web is images, or non-text content. And the world of non-text content is evolving fast- what with video, voice, AR-VR etc. all vying to play starring roles in most marketing strategies today, and users themselves evolving how they interact and engage with these non-text formats at different stages of their buyer journey.

What are the 4 key things we see brands that ‘get’ rich media are doing? Here’s a hint:

  1. They do an optimal mix of video, audio, devices, UGC and studio etc.
  2. They recognize that different channels require different forms of media
  3. They are constantly iterating and improving and evolving both - media that performs as well as media that underperforms
  4. Well before they reach the stage of defining technology and processes, they have figured out the personas and their priorities

In Section 1, Sanjay Sarathy, David Raab, Anand Thanker and Chitra Iyer delve into the 7 most common questions’ marketers want answered about rich media:

  1. What is rich media and how can it impact customer experience?
  2. Can we automate the creation and delivery of variations of one really great rich media asset?
  3. What are the performance implications of rich media and how can I balance engagement with the cost of content creation?
  4. How can I move beyond relying on our own content and manage and scale user generated media and content safely and intelligently?
  5. How should I optimize for all possible touchpoints and formats that rich media allows? What trade-offs should we make to help decide our rich media content creation and distribution strategy?
  6. How impactful can using search optimised rich media be for brand discoverability
  7. How do you quantify engagement to make a business case for rich media? Focus on
    • Usage metrics (time on page, conversion, sharing)
    • Performance metrics (is my page or app or content asset performing better than it did X months ago in terms of streaming speed, page load and all the things that ultimately improve engagement rates)


  1. Sanjay Sarathy shares Cloudinary’s own martech stack
  2. David (who was recording from Germany) plays his AI drinking game (see the pic if you don’t believe us)



Section 2: A New CDP Trend

We take a look at what even David Raab has called a trend in the CDP space - the acquisitions of AI based predictive tools by CDP vendors in November. There were 3 in November to be precise, but its getting more common. Is it because marketers want predictive capability out of the box without additional integration; just another way for vendors to differentiate themselves in a confusing and crowded market; or is it about plugging the analytics gap between data organization and data activation at two ends of the customer data spectrum?

We delve into why that may be and what is pushing CDP vendors to shore up their solutions in this direction.

PS - the 3 Novemebr acquisitions were:

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[00:00:00] Welcome to Talking Stack Martech Advisors Weekly News Podcast. Join us as Martech experts David Raab , Anand Thaker and editor Chitra Iyer talk about the things that mattered this week in Martech

Chitra [00:00:14] Welcome back, everybody. Today we have with us David and Anand. Welcome back, gentlemen. And then I'd also like to welcome our guest for today who Sanjay Sarathy, the V.P. of marketing at Cloudinary, which helps marketers make the most of rich media. Welcome, Sanjay.

Sanjay Sarathy [00:00:32] Thank you very much. Chitra Iyer. Glad to be on it.

Chitra [00:00:36] Let's dove right into the basics of the subject to begin with. Sanjay, what is rich media? Why does it matter? And how does something like Cloudinary help?

Sanjay Sarathy [00:00:45] For us, the way we describe rich media is, you know, it's very simplistic, it can be anything that is oftentimes not textual.

Sanjay Sarathy [00:00:57] So it can be images. It can be video. It can be audio. It can be 3-D can be some combination thereof. You know, when you're when you're integrating, those are VR. So for us, you know, it's probably a very simplistic way of looking at it. But all the additions to typically textual content can be probably labeled as rich media.

Sanjay Sarathy [00:01:22]  To Explain what cloudinary does. It's probably useful to provide a little bit of context in which we operate. If you look at the web today, two thirds of the web by waiters is images. If you look at HP archive and that percentage is probably even higher if you include video. And so the reality is, whether youre a producer of content or a consumer of content, invariably images and videos can be part of it. And the founders of Cloud Dairy realized that there was an opportunity to automate the process of managing those rich media assets for four companies. And so we provide essentially a platform to help companies sort of automate that entire management process, everything from upload to storage, but all the way through transformation of those media assets. Manipulation of those assets and delivery of those assets in its optimized form to to end users. Our customers include basically any company where media is critical to user engagement and ultimately revenue. So StubHub is a customer. Trivago is a customer. Door dash, Bleacher Report. Two of the largest sports apparel companies in the world. So basically companies realizing that rich media is instrumental and in that end user experience.

Chitra [00:02:53] So what sort of questions do your prospective planes ask you about rich media use cases and optimization?

Sanjay Sarathy [00:03:00] Interestingly enough, we were as a company, the product addresses both developers and marketers. And from a marketing perspective, there are a number of questions that that tend to be use cases that we. We support, you know, a couple of them are, hey, we have multiple campaigns that we want to launch simultaneously over social, over email, over the web that use the same asset. Right now, the same core asset. And oftentimes we're asked the question, how can we automate the creation and delivery of the variations of this asset for each of the channels? And rather than manually having to do the cropping and filtering and creating overlays for different channels, etc.. So that's one use case. I think the second increasing trend is I think marketers are also starting to understand some of the performance implications of rich media. How do you deliver highly engaging experience without without necessarily creating bloat on the delivery side? And and then I think another trend that's occurring in very specific industries amongst marketers is not just relying on your own media, your own created media, but relying on user generated media. You can see this in the worlds of travel and hospitality, commerce. And so how do you manage user generated content and scale? That content can be coming from a variety of different devices. The variety of different formats. And so that's something else that's hugely relevant to marketers.

David Raab [00:04:44] Yeah, I really don't doubt for one second that non textual content is more engaging. It's also a lot more work. Or maybe it's a lot more work. Is it a lot more work? There's a lot more things I could do wrong with video than with writing.

David Raab [00:05:02] I mean, with writing. Yeah, it's got to be complete sentences. You know, you're kind of coherent and stuff, but there's a limit to how many stupid things I can do. And it's pretty clear, pretty easy for someone else to look at it and say, no, you know, this really isn't well-written, but with the video, like just a number of things I can do is just wrong. Therefore, the number of mistakes I can make us so broad. I suppose the number of brilliant things I could do is broad too, but I'm more likely to make tHe mistake of doing so.

Chitra [00:05:29] So yeah, I'm actually going to I'm gonna jump in and add to David's point. It's the same question that, you know, because, you know, even though two thirds of the web is like you said, non text thinks that a lot of it is just plain bad. You know, a lot of the video content, especially in the marketing side, and sometimes you are amazed how bland some of the videos from the hippest and coolest brands are. You know, and there's just, you know, I'm wondering, what is it? What are the, you know, different, you know, would you say the core pieces of getting your rich media strategy together? Is this you know, there's a planning piece or fair? There's a strategy. There's, you know, the technical part, integrating it with the right, you know, design tools and flow. And then there's the creative element, of course. And then finally about, you know, getting it out there in front of the customers. So you need to some be integrated with the whole customer experience. Stack, if you will, whatever you're using to do to bring those touch points or Moments to life of the customer. ake us through what are some of these these aspects of putting together a rich media or a successful multimedia strategy?

Sanjay Sarathy [00:06:42] I mean. I mean, you've touched on a lot of the lot of the core points there. I think the complexity that you and David have talked about oftentimes crops up when you realize that your audience is very dispersed. Right. And can be engaging with your content in a variety of different ways. I could have David sitting in a room in Germany looking at content on his mobile phone, whereas Chitra Iyer, you're behind your desktop on a high speed network looking at it, you know, of off a particular browser. People don't quite realize the to your to the point both of you made the complexity of all those different touch points. So. So I think there is there is a notion of are we trying to optimize for everything or do we believe that 80 percent of our audience is going to touch our our content through these means? We're going to optimize for that. And in some ways, you what you do choose to make tradeoffs. And and I think the. And what types of tradeoffs you choose to make, I think determines the type of content you're going to you want to build the blandness. You a reference to Chitra Iyer at the beginning of the question is, is a function of I think. Being a little bit nervous around, maybe trying to optimize for everybody and trying to and trying to see if we we don't. Brazenly, potentially, potentially has nothing to do with technology. To be honest, that's that that has everything to do with the front end side of. Maybe we haven't put ourselves we haven't differentiated ourselves enough to make it compelling. Right. And the data on that on those engagement scenarios should tell you. Are we. Are we making a difference or not?

Anand Thaker [00:08:38] I feel like the hardest thing is this idea of what is the narrative and then evoking an emotion. And then I think to your point is what is the take away, which means you need to understand who your audience is. Where are you seeing some of the your best customers or the people in the industry who are leveraging, you know, visuals? How are they handling this part of it? Are they are, you know. Are they getting help or do they just have really good talent? Or do they know themselves well? Can you share a little bit about where you're seeing some of the best performing types of rich experiences out there? What really is the common thread, I guess? Or if there is?

Sanjay Sarathy [00:09:19] Yeah, I think there are a couple of things that are occurring that we're seeing one. The companies that are doing some really interesting things are ones that are are looking at a mix of rich media. Right. They're not focused just on one type of media there. They're experimenting with different types of media. Sometimes it's it's textual it's textual with images. Sometimes it's videos that are that are sort of on their product display pages. Sometimes it can be cinema graphs times Zale. They'll be user generated content, but very optimized for just mobile, for example, where we've got Quick Hits. So the the. I think one of the things we're seeing is with our successful clients is the realization that different channels require different forms of potentially media that that they want to that they want to work with. It's not always one size fits all the the other the the other thing that we see with some of the more progressive, more successful and progressive customers is the constantly iterating, you know, there. They don't sit there and say they do one thing and go, oh, this works great. Even if it's something is working, they're saying, how can we make it better? What are the what are the ways in which we can improve on this? But a lot of these companies also do well before they get to the technology side. Have have really spent time understanding the demographics of who they're trying to reach. And and well before they get to technology and process processes, they know the personas that they're trying to reach and figuring out why does you know what multimedia form or what rich media form is going to drive that engagement with that particular persona set? The best brands aren't ones that are constantly chopping and churning. They're their overall brand story. They they know who they are, how they get that story out there is what they experiment with most

Chitra [00:11:37] How do you quantify engagement? How do you bring engagement back to revenue? At the end of the day, how do if I was a marketer and I wanted to invest in rich media, how would I make that case?

Sanjay Sarathy [00:11:50] Sure. So there are different ways to think about the world of engagement, and part of it is driven in part by what type of company you are. Right. So you could have potentially a media firm whose business line could be based on subscriptions and advertising. One part of the engagement could be conversions to subscriptions for that particular media. But one part of it could be engagement time on page or time in video that drives potentially advertising dollars if that happens to be a business model. Right. Statistics you're looking at. So I think you could probably break down the types of metrics into two buckets. One is around usage, usage being around, whether it's time on page, whether it's conversion rates, whether it's basically sharing of particular types of content. All of those are you're using the the rich media and interacting with it. The second sort of block of metrics oftentimes is is around performance. Right. Is is my web page or my mobile app or the asset associated with with my. With my application performing better than it did three months ago, six months ago, eight months ago in terms of low times, in terms of the ability to stream that at a rate without any buffering in terms of, well, all the things that essentially ultimately improve engagement as well. And so what we find marketers thinking about our metrics around usage and metrics around sort of performance, if you will, of the underlying asset themselves and the combination of those two, depending on who you are as as as a company, oftentimes drive whether you think you're being successful or not.

Anand Thaker [00:13:56] Lately, a lot of the search engines and search capacities and capabilities are incorporating richer media, so it's not just the textual I think, you know, maybe we've gotten capabilities to recognize what you've shared with us earlier about rich media represents two thirds of the Web. How are you seeing a lot of customers or brands start to make the you make use of video in a way to improve their search visibility?

Sanjay Sarathy [00:14:23] SEO is is again another big driver for a lot of a lot of comfort for a lot of marketers, obviously. And it's one of the things I learned actually after coming to cloud dinner is just how impactful. Using rich media and optimizing our CEO within the rich media can drive, you find ability of your brand across across different channels and we're seeing an increasingly larger number of use cases, even inbound questions. And I assume that's going to be true. Whether it is to us or just in general about how do I take this this imagery, this video content and then other rich media and make it more searchable, make it more accessible and searchable for four companies. So there the ways in which to do that is automated. Within the context of what you produce and deliver. So it's not just 25 different letters and with a MP for at the end of the suffix or your your you're spending more time thinking about it. But the other piece of it is also understanding what channels you're using to distribute that content as well. Right. And where how people are are used are getting access to that content. And that's another part of what goes back to the earlier point we were chatting about, which is the strategy around how your brand is reaching the audiences you care about. So part of it is the you know, the basic block and tackling of of. Making your content search friendly and part of it is understanding the channels through which you want to reach your audience. And that's you know, that's that's something that's not technology driven. That's something that's just strategy driven.

David Raab [00:16:28] I think when we talked about how how easy it is to generate bad content, you know, how hard it is to generate good content is they are going to solve that problem, I guess, is what I was asking.

Sanjay Sarathy [00:16:41] Yeah, I don't know if AI solves the problem. I think it helps you recognize where there are issues in and sort of. I think sensitizing people to the fact that there is a problem out, you know, hey, this is a huge wrong. Here's where it is before it becomes something that could spread throughout throughout the Internet. So I think it's a tool to help raise the visibility of the problem as opposed to we're going to solve the problem completely through AI.

Chitra [00:17:17] David obviously brought AI upbecause he's playing his drinking game again and he's going to have two sips of his doing it. They will. There you go. See, it's empty. But, you know, just before we wrap up and move on to the next section where David can and is still in a position to go after that name, shame. Talk to us a little bit about a new trend that we see in CDP. But just before I come to that, Sanjay, you're a market as a put on your market, a head room in it. And tell us a little bit about the tech stack. The Martech that you use to, you know, to effectively get the cloud energy message out there.

Sanjay Sarathy [00:17:57] Sure. So we have like. You know, like any a lot of companies out there are over a variety of tools that help us engage with our prospects and customers. We are just going through the list. We use Marketo as our marketing automation system. We use Salesforce in conjunction with our sales team as our CRM system. We track engagement on a Web site through Google Analytics, Google Tag manager for analysis of all the various interactions that occur through different channels. We we use Click Senses  thats a BI tool that's integrated into Snowflake, which is our data warehouse. Obviously we use Cloud Neri to manage all the assets that we deliver on on our content. We use WordPress as our CNS and then there are a number of things that are somewhat behind the scenes, if you will, that we use to enrich data that comes in from our various campaigns. We use strike, hire and we use data FOX in conjunction with the sales team. We use Discover to understand who are who our customers are and in the relationships within an organization. And then obviously we that obviously we use go to webinars, our webinar tool, and there are a number of tools we use internally for internal productivity, Slack and Confluence and JIRA, which I think could be relatively common stock across, especially in the tech space. So that gives you there. There's certainly a number of other tools that are out there that we have internally, but that gives you a pretty good sense of our of at least the marketing tech stack that's used day in and day out for for our purposes.

Chitra [00:20:03] Absolutely. I can see a lot of marketers nodding in familiarity there because, you know, these these cover most of the blogs so far. Then I guess whatever comes top of mind is what you really need and can do without. And given the fact that everyone has many overcrowded stacks to the correct. You hear about that. So, you know, and since you mentioned data, I'm going to use that to Segway into this next piece of the conversation we get to talk about today, which is, you know, we see something happening in the customer data management space with CDP specifically. David, you already called it a trend and you have to be careful of the words you use because, you know, I don't want to see three acquisitions of A.I. based predictive tools by CDP vendors in just the past couple of weeks. And very quickly to round that up and parity board customer out for predictive modeling and campaign creation and then CDP month in tied up or will consolidate with rich relevance, which is, you know, maintain is a retail oriented sort of CDP. They specialize in that. And then net core bought, which has a built in CDP actually bought. And the AI driven personalization when the call box EAI for possibly for a stronger player in personalization and recommendation for their messaging platform. So, David, let me start with you. And you know, on an incentive, please feel free to jump in. But I really want to talk about what's going on with customer data management. Why are why? Well, customer data platforms and why do you think they're we're seeing so many of these kind of buys to to shore up the product.

David Raab [00:21:46] Well, I think what we're seeing is the vendors recognize that the clients want more capability within the CDP. They you know, in theory they could, of course, have bought all those products separately and integrated with the CDP. But what the vendors themselves, the CDP vendors are hearing from their their customers and their prospects, as you know, we don't really want to do these integrations. We really just have one tool that does everything or at least does more in particular activation in this case predictive. These are all predictive vendors is something that people really just want to have kind of available out of the box that they want. You know, my data that I get out of my CEO shoot him should include these predictions in these scores, sort of his part of it just to be just simply as much a part of the data as the e-mail address. So I just want to, you know, just just give that to me. So there's a bit of an arms race among the vendors, right? One guy does it and the other ones will also have to do that to remain competitive. Apparently, the vendors are continually striving to differentiate themselves. And I suppose you could differentiate by having fewer features, but mostly you differentiate by having more features. So something they keep trying to leapfrog. You have this. Well, we have that, too. I think that's what's going on. Why? Three in one week? I maybe have some insight that there's like some quarter closing activities or something like that that drives these things to all happen at the same time. And they just want to haven't gone before GM. I think half of the industry deals happen relative to Dreamforce. But, you know, it's it certainly was an interesting set of deals and quite unusual. And CDP vendors as a group haven't really done a lot of acquisitions. So it was quite interesting to see three of them do it.

Chitra [00:23:32] But but don't you see it sort of plugging that gap in the middle? Because, you know, remember when CDP just became a big thing, it was more focused on the whole data piece. Right? It was about managing your data. And then, of course, we heard a lot about activation in the last six or seven months. So you don't make even your report, half yearly report last year spoke about how the activation CDP are really sort of exploding right now because that's a need. So obviously the analytics piece in the matter was kind of a gap waiting to be plugged, right.

David Raab [00:24:05] Yes, you could certainly look at it that way. You know, most of these guys are not doing message delivery. Still they're still pushing the message sent out to someone else. So now they're pushing out more intelligent messages, if you will. That's what what they're getting from these vendors is a way to not just oh, here's a list. Here's a list with some recommendations about what to send to each customer service. The logical next step,.

Anand Thaker [00:24:31] You when you re sort of reorient where the data is housed. There was two parts that were going to come out of this immediately. One was going to be the eyepiece, because when we talk about A.I., at least initially it was we can figure out we can understand our customers better. But that was going to be one of the first notions always right out the gate, because we have the data and we have it centralized around a customer as opposed to there's a social media piece, there's a marketing automation piece. There's an e-mail piece. There's these different channels. And we have different slices of the customer. And when you play a to those, they don't give you the full picture of what the customer engagement looks like or what that rich experience looks like across the different channels. The other piece, which is obviously kind of quieted down a little bit, has been that the the data management or the trust management side of things. How do we centralize a lot of these mandates about data, customer data and then respecting, you know, what do people who wants to hear from us, who doesn't and how the responsible use that data? Again, when you have diverse technologies across different aspect, you know, different being used by different groups and different channels. That becomes incredibly different today.

Chitra [00:25:44] I mean, you know, I don't know if you have a CDP in your thick stack yet, but if you did or if you do, you know, how would you wanted to do everything from managing the data plus the analytics in the middle and the activation and delivery or. You know what? Why would you wanted that to me if it on?

Sanjay Sarathy [00:26:02] So we do not have a CDP currently in house could partially be a maturity question. I think part of what's interesting for us is and I think this is a challenge that many marketers faces. You know, data is coming in from so many different sources and we're always balancing how do we optimize the tool sets we use and the integration points we have versus having a one on one. I wouldn't say one size fits all, but a single infrastructure to manage all customer data. We're always trying to we're balancing even as a small company, the needs of having an integrated system where we can do analytic analysis and and ultimately make decisions based on that analysis vs. segmenting data that should be seen by everybody, because it's things that I don't need to see the credit card information of somebody that that that purchases a clown or a subscription. And so we I don't necessarily know if that's a. A common use case, but we face that all the time, and so today we've chosen to have segmented systems that we use, as I said earlier, the combination of our click sense and snowflake to have most of the customer data that we care about, but not all simply because we don't want that data. Necessarily access by everybody. Right.

Chitra [00:27:49] So don't blame us if you get a lot of calls from CDP vendors tomorrow

Chitra [00:27:58] On that note, thanks everyone for your thoughts today and to our listeners. Please like us or follow us or let us know in whatever way that works for you. What do you think about the Talking Stack? Social media is great too. We have one more episode to go before we close for 2020. So watch out for the season finale coming mid-December with the Brant Leary, our old friend Brant Leary, David Alan and myself. Counting down the top five most significant happenings in Martech in 2019. And let us know what you think. So we can plan our editorial calendar for 2020 and bring you episodes that work best for you. Thanks for tuning into here next week.

[00:28:37] Thanks for joining us. See you next week with our take on the big news, the Martech World. Logon to Martech advisor dot com for more expert commentary on all things Martech.

The Podcast Team

David Raab

Founder, CDP Institute and Principal, Raab AssociatesWidely recognized independent expert in customer data platforms, marketing technology and analytics; David specializes in marketing trends, technology strategy, and vendor

Anand Thaker

Martech Industry and Growth AdvisorA recognized MarTech, decisioning and AI/ML expert; Anand advises growth and go-to-market leaders and investors for global brands and funds while also being active in the startup ecosystem.

Chitra Iyer

Editor-in-Chief of Martech Advisor Editor-in-Chief of Martech Advisor and marketing veteran is the host of the show.

Episode Highlights

Guest Profile

Sanjay Sarathy

Sanjay Sarathy is VP of marketing at Cloudinary, a provider of end-to-end digital media management solutions. With more than twenty years experience in leading global marketing programs, his work spans tech startups and established market leaders in SaaS, Big Data, analytics and e-commerce. Before Cloudinary, Sanjay held senior leadership roles at Imanis Data, Sumo Logic and Vindicia.