Starting a new transition is a daunting experience, but if you allow yourself the discomfort of change, the evolution on the other side is worth it. Foundry, formerly known as IDG, knows that from experience.
IDG announced it would change its name to Foundry at the start of the year. Already a powerhouse in the tech space, the name change and several new acquisitions were only the start of the company’s progression into a MarTech empire.
To get the scoop on the new and evolved Foundry, AdMonsters spoke with the company’s President, Kumaran Ramanathan. He discussed the process of the name changes and acquisitions, how the company could help bridge the gap between the sales and marketing teams, and his advice on how the industry should move forward in such strenuous times.
Andrew Byrd: IDG recently rebranded, changing its name to Foundry and focusing more on data, B2B software, and tech. What was the driving force behind this rebrand, and how do you think it will benefit your company?
Kumaran Ramanathan: What we’ve tried to do is reinvent ourselves. Our old brand IDG communications just wasn’t reflective of the business we were becoming. We got together with everyone around the table–the strategy, marketing, and revenue teams. We discussed our different views of the brand strategy, and some people wanted a huge investment in our visual identity. We took a step back because we needed to understand the connection point between the business, our teams, our customers, and our market.
We didn’t initially set out to change the name. We realized several months into the process that it was essential to turn ourselves away from the very thing that defined us, IDG. IDG is known as one of the world’s biggest media companies. Still, we have the courage of our convictions to understand that if we didn’t make a move ultimately down the line, it would cripple our ambition and ability to be identified as a MarTech powerhouse.
We had a brand purpose, and that was to make tech real. We will give people real data and results, which will help us shape the naming process and the naming architecture. Foundry was great because it gave the nod to our media heritage. That’s where we made the original fonts. It helps us create a new company that’s not too different from the old DNA.
AB: A major part of the rebranding and the acquisitions that Foundry undertook seems to center heavily around pairing the company’s first-party data with acquired and homegrown marketing technologies. How do you think this will help improve the ad tech space?
KR: Tech is going to be powered by robust data. We need to have an integrated model of marketing that focuses on activating real intent signals to drive accurate results. We’ve brought together the best tech data from our acquisitions to innovate. You know, I don’t think we’re the new sheriff in town, riding in on our horses to clean things up. That would be incorrect positioning, but there is much noise around the space on the technology side of things, and the barrier to entry is shallow.
So many players in our space don’t have access to the audiences they claim to. Customers are confused. With the effects of the bid stream and the US Senate’s role in trying to clean up privacy, all of these things are coming together as environmental factors for the industry.
In reference to how we can improve the ad tech space as a whole, I think the only question that customers should ask their suppliers is how do they really reach their audience. Trust and integrity are so important, but as I said, we’re not here to do the cleanup. We will continue with our DNA of doing the right things, not the easy stuff, and I feel that our customers will benefit from that approach.
Think about it as if you are a customer. You have people coming to your website all the time, and they want to understand the context of that data. They don’t just want our data. People that are in our environment are also in our customer’s world. Clearly, they’re downloading their content. How can we bring those two data points together? That’s where MarTech fuses it beautifully. If you’ve got access to the audience, and you’re doing it in an open, transparent way, surely that will win in the long term.
AB: In your press release, Foundry’s Chief Strategy Officer, Jason Tenenbown, said there is a “growing disconnect between the sales pipelines and marketing funnels.” Why do you think there’s a disconnect between them, and how will Foundry play a role in bridging that gap?
KR: I love that question. Even though we talk about it, I’ve not been asked to think about it that way, but I think there are a couple of things. The sales and marketing departments have always had a tense relationship. Sometimes they are in sync, and other times they clash.
The people buying technology and public companies in our sector have gotten larger and more complex. For instance, if we think about the geography of the data pull. Our data shows that company X is downloading and reading assets around a particular topic. That one company could pull data from anywhere–it could be London, Germany, or California. So clearly, there’s a message going out that we should be looking at something new, and people are starting to do their work.
We know it’s hard to reach the buy team, but the data can be used as a bridge between the two functions. If we think about intent data, it must be complete and accessible through a MarTech environment. Sales and marketing use the same intent data and tools to align strategies, and that’s an arrow.
We’ve been very comfortable selling to the office of the CMO for many years. We believe the office of the CRO is equally important, and the data bridges those two areas. They will have a much more complete view of their potential prospects. Will it help them determine the right time to send marketing materials and for the BDR team to nurture those leads? When is the right time to get Field Sales involved? It gives us some comfort that the strategy of bringing together the best of media and the best marketing technology to create something new and actionable based on data.
AB: In February of this year, Foundry announced that it acquired Selling Simplified, a MaaS platform that provides lead generation products, data services, and analytics. How does this acquisition of B2B data help improve generating sales leads and engage with the path-to-purchase?
KR: It would be nearly impossible to do anything we just talked about without the acquisitions. We would only have one side of the equation: the media side. The four companies fit well into the overall strategy when considering where the Foundry media brands fit in. When you think about all four acquisitions, they’re enabling us to have a proprietary tech stack under one roof. As a company, it is our philosophy that we want to do these things ourselves.
With Selling Simplified, they were great for our first-party data proposition due to its technologies. They are great at demand generation, and we’re delighted to have those capabilities, but that wasn’t the reason we acquired them. The software makes the data we’ve got richer in depth and quality. It’s helping us keep our current data more accurate. It would help us refresh data in real time. It ensured that we weren’t using third party sources.
Then there is the commercial perspective. The CRA is interesting because it helps activate our data in a tight, very targeted manner across our commercial stack. Whether that’s media, face-to-face events, our data business, or software business, they all benefited from that holistic view.
AB: What new things does Foundry have in store as you look forward to growing more next year? What advice would you give to other publishers looking to do the same?
KR: I will say that you need to know your customers and know your markets. Learning the rhythm of both simplifies everything. Understand technology, both for going to market that will help your customers increase their output, and that’s ultimately what we’re all trying to do.
But I will say, there was one mantra that I’ve always said: You should stand up for your vertical, for your community, and invest in the revenue model. Don’t take any backward steps there. You know you’ve got to put money into the content. The editorial people are fundamental because there is no business without that. Clearly, the technology is only there to leverage the data and relationships you create from brilliant journalism. AdMonsters is an excellent example of that. But then you need to invest in the revenue model to get your bang for your buck. If not, you’re going to be swept aside.
It’s been a tough few years for many people. All of us have had to work through the last couple of years. You have to have some fun and not lose sight of that. I don’t think we’re in a position to be given advice, but that’s the kind of thing I’m trying to do daily. You know, remind my managers and get as many people as possible to feel they are part of trying to be on the journey to do something that everyone thought was impossible.