Adobe Journey Optimizer vs Adobe Campaign Classic vs Marketo

10 Sep 2023 » MSA

In the marketing automation space, Adobe currently has three offerings: Adobe Journey Optimizer (AJO), Adobe Campaign Classic (ACC), and Marketo. If you are wondering why so many options or what the difference between them is, you are not alone. This is a typical criticism that some customers give. However, when you understand them, you realize that they make a lot of sense and each one has its own space. Sure, there are overlaps, but there are also important differences. My hope with this post is to help you navigate these options and help you choose the best one for you.

Before I continue, one disclaimer. This is my personal view, not Adobe’s. I know that most of you know it, but I just want to make it clear. Besides, what I am going to explain is just directional, not a black-and-white differentiation.


Let’s start with what they have in common, which is a lot.

Marketing automation

As I said at the beginning of this post, they are all marketing automation tools. If this is the first time you have seen this term, the Wikipedia defines it as:

Marketing Automation is a subset of customer relationship management (CRM) or customer experience management (CXM) that focuses on the definition, segmentation, scheduling and tracking of marketing campaigns. The use of marketing automation makes processes that would otherwise have been performed manually much more efficient and makes new processes possible. Marketing Automation can be defined as a process where technology is used to automate several repetitive tasks that are undertaken regularly in a marketing campaign.

I know, this can still be a bit too much to digest. The way I see is that these tools allow you to do things like:

  • Message personalization. Instead of sending the same message to everybody, you can configure it to be different depending on the recipient, based on events or attributes. For example, an airline will suggest the most appropriate destination (beach, city, adventure) depending on previous flights.
  • Message triggering. You send the message only when your customer has done (or not done) something or when some events have happened or will happen. The typical example is the cart abandonment use case, where you send an email after X minutes/hours the customer added the last product to the basket, without purchasing anything.
  • Journeys. I will explain it a bit more below, but it means that you plan a series of messages for a recipient and decide what to do next based on actions. I am working with a customer now, who is sending 3 offers, one every 7 days or until the customer converts.

Imagine that you had to do any of the previous activities by hand. It would require an army of people working 24/7 to prepare and send messages. With marketing automation, you configure it and leave it to work for you.


You will have noticed that I have mentioned “message”, as a generic concept. The idea is that you could use any channel to communicate with your customer, trying to use the best one in each case. Let me give some examples:

  • In the case of an airline, it could send an email 24 hours before the flight departure, but an SMS 2 hours before this flight. It is unlikely that the traveler will read emails while at the airport, but will happily read a text message.
  • Some companies offer an app as the main interface with their customers, in which case a push notification makes more sense. However, for invoices, email is a better channel.

Typical channels are email, SMS, and push notifications, all of which are supported by the Adobe tools we are discussing in this post. There can be other standard channels and some companies even create their custom channels. You will need to check how to connect to them from Adobe tools.


I have been meaning to write a post where I deep dive into the concept of journeys. The summary is that you should not just send a message and hope for the best (spray and pray), but you should follow up with additional messages and modify them depending on the actions taken by the customer.

Both AJO and ACC have a journey canvas to create such journeys. I am not aware of such canvas in Marketo, but you can achieve similar results by configuring nurture campaigns.


I have written quite a few times about segmentation and its importance in digital marketing, so I am not going to repeat myself. Suffice it to say that all 3 tools have segmentation engines and can use segments coming from other tools.


I think I have spent enough time on the commonalities. I am sure there are more. However, when you compare things, you are more interested in the differences, to know when to buy or use each tool.

B2B vs B2C

The first fork in the path is about your customers: are you selling to individuals or other companies? This difference is crucial, as the approach for each case is very different. Consider the following comparison:

Question B2C B2B
Who are the decision-makers? One, two, maybe three people Multiple people in a company, sometimes dozens
How long does it take to secure a sale? From minutes to days Weeks, months, and even years
How big is the deal size? Small Big
How do you win a deal? “Wow” factor Building trust
What is the marketing goal? Sell products or services Create leads for sales

With such clear differences, you need different tools. Marketo is a tool that has B2B at its heart, whereas AJO and ACC were designed for B2C use cases. We have had customers using ACC for B2B, but I would highly discourage it.

Adobe Experience Platform

The next difference between the tools is how they relate to Adobe Experience Platform (AEP), as it is becoming central in many of our customers’ MarTech.

If you are in the B2C space, you have two options:

  • If you already have an AEP implementation, AJO is your tool, as it is a native AEP application.
  • If you do not have AEP and have no plans for it in the near future, then I suggest ACC. You could still use a connector with AEP, but I do not see what benefit you would get from it over using AJO.

If you need a B2B tool, do not try to use anything different than Marketo. If you already have AEP, do not attempt to use AJO for B2B use cases; I have yet to see a customer who has succeeded in doing so. I would suggest you look into the RTCDP B2B edition and connect it to Marketo through the standard connector.

Transactional messages

The first time I heard this concept, I did not have a clue what it meant. If you are in this situation, these are messages that you send to recipients, which are unrelated to marketing campaigns. Typical examples are order confirmation emails, appointment reminders, survey requests, or bank statements.

Both AJO and ACC are very well suited for this type of message. AJO has something called event-based journeys and ACC offers the message center. Marketo was not designed for them, although I have had a customer who used this tool for this type of message. However, the project I had with this customer was to move these messages from Marketo to AJO for performance reasons.

Customer database size

Again, there is a clear distinction between Marketo and the other two. Although there have been some recent improvements, Marketo was never meant to be used with big customer bases. And this makes sense: the B2B world is smaller than the B2C arena. On the other hand, I am working on an AJO project where AEP’s Real-time Customer Profile has more than 100 million profiles. At the same time, with ACC v8 being based on the Snowflake database, size should not be an issue either.

Summary table

Let’s put the previous information in a table, for easy consumption.

Feature AJO ACC Marketo
AEP integration Native Connector Connector
Transactional messages Event-based journeys Message center Custom
Database size Huge Big/Huge Medium

I hope that now you have a clear view of the different options.

Update for B2C

My former colleague Atif has made a very good comment on my LinkedIn post. The differences above between AJO and ACC are just a simplification of the full picture. My goal was to provide some guidance, not an exact decision tree.

In order to choose between one or the other, a thorough analysis of your requirements and use cases should be conducted. This is beyond the scope of a blog post.


Photo by Nikola Johnny Mirkovic on Unsplash

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