Adobe’s Own Digital Transformation

Everything’s Changed but Nothing’s Changed. Let’s not try to fool any­one today. There are many words we use to rep­re­sent change. Whether we call it trans­for­ma­tion, rein­ven­tion or reimag­i­na­tion, it’s an exer­cise in seman­tics. The bot­tom line is that some­thing hap­pened that drove the need to change how you do things. I’m a mar­keter and from the mar­ket­ing per­spec­tive, what has changed is that cus­tomers are demand­ing a supreme­ly per­son­alised and 1:1 expe­ri­ence. We no longer afford to play on hunch­es, edu­cat­ed guess­es or even broad demo­graph­ic gen­er­al­i­ties. We have use the huge amounts of data we have to demon­strate a per­son­al knowl­edge of the cus­tomers enabled by the data that’s freely giv­en and avail­able to us to slice and dice any way we see fit. With knowl­edge comes pow­er and with pow­er comes respon­si­bil­i­ty. How we apply that knowl­edge becomes the agent of change which dri­ves reimag­i­na­tion, rein­ven­tion and even­tu­al­ly, transformation.

I had the plea­sure of pre­sent­ing a talk on Adobe and its trans­for­ma­tion to a data-dri­ven mar­ket­ing pow­er­house at the recent Fes­ti­val of Mar­ket­ing gath­er­ing in Lon­don. There’s only so much you can say in 30 min­utes, so I thought I’d share some addi­tion­al thoughts in a blog post. I made the point dur­ing my talk that all this new knowl­edge com­ing at us is both a bless­ing and a curse. It’s the source of our new found pow­er and influ­ence in the board room, but it also dri­ves change that is uni­ver­sal­ly gazed upon as evil by the rank and file. Chal­lenges abound just as the new oppor­tu­ni­ties to reach the cus­tomer at new touch points are mul­ti­ply­ing faster than we can secure mar­ket­ing bud­get to fig­ure out if it’s a valu­able mar­ket­ing chan­nel or not.

What’s Changed?

At the CMO lev­el, C‑Suite expec­ta­tions have risen in real terms. Attri­bu­tion and ROI from the mar­ket­ing efforts must now be quan­ti­fied and proven to be of val­ue. I’m not the CMO, but I will tell you that proof of val­ue rolls down­hill in most mar­ket­ing organisations.

Peo­ple. Data does not pro­vide knowl­edge in its raw form. It must be processed, cleansed, and sub­ject­ed to var­i­ous forms of data min­ing and sta­tis­ti­cal treat­ment to glean the insights the data is try­ing to tell you. That requires new skills and tal­ent to become part of the mar­ket­ing team. Data sci­en­tists, com­put­er mod­el­ing exper­tise, IT (yes, the “nerds”) and data ana­lysts become part of your mar­ket­ing team. You have to learn a whole new lan­guage (geek & data speak) as well as teach all these new team mem­bers mar­ket­ing speak. If you can’t com­mu­ni­cate, you’re pret­ty much dead in the water.

Tech­nol­o­gy. All this new infor­ma­tion requires the soft­ware tools to enable you to under­stand what the data is try­ing to tell you. The speed and vol­ume of the data com­ing in requires an auto­mat­ed analy­sis capa­bil­i­ty on an inte­grat­ed mar­ket­ing plat­form. The geeks will build the plat­form but you, as the mar­keter, must learn to oper­ate the dash­boards that are telling you how your mar­ket­ing cam­paigns are per­form­ing. In our case, the Adobe Mar­ket­ing Cloud had to be rolled out and inte­grat­ed enterprise-wide.

Process. Yeah, the one nobody wants to talk about but it lies at the heart of mak­ing the trans­for­ma­tion suc­cess­ful. Data silos and its accom­pa­ny­ing organ­i­sa­tion­al iso­la­tion must be torn down. There can only be one set of data, a sin­gle source of truth. Some­one has to mind the store 24/7. The web is glob­al.. It nev­er shuts down. The cus­tomer like­wise is “always on.” Wait­ing for per­fec­tion in your mar­ket­ing cam­paigns is no longer an option. Time to mar­ket out­ranks per­fec­tion. How­ev­er, it doesn’t relieve you of the respon­si­bil­i­ty to mon­i­tor per­for­mance, test and iter­ate until the cam­paign per­forms up to expec­ta­tions or scrap it for plan B. Peter Druck­er summed this up well with this quote, “Doing the right thing is more impor­tant than doing the thing right.”

What’s the Same?

Fun­da­men­tals of Mar­ket­ing – the game hasn’t changed. It’s all about under­stand­ing your cus­tomers, and build­ing rela­tion­ships that are mean­ing­ful to them. It’s not about you. You have to make sure you’re shar­ing the right infor­ma­tion at the right time and in the right place. In their lan­guage and on their terms. You are who you have been. All those years of expe­ri­ence have taught you many lessons that are best not for­got­ten. Your intu­ition and risk-tak­ing qual­i­ties are the same. That reminds of anoth­er eter­nal quote from Peter Druck­er, “Peo­ple who don’t take risks gen­er­al­ly make about two big mis­takes a year. Peo­ple who do take risks gen­er­al­ly make about two big mis­takes a year.”

Brand Man­age­ment – brand basics still hold true. You need to know who you are and what you stand for. We had to spend a lot of time under­stand­ing who we are and what our val­ue propo­si­tion and dif­fer­en­ti­a­tion was. You can’t move for­ward until you know. How can you pos­si­bly build a rela­tion­ship with cus­tomers until you under­stand who you are. This has always held true.

Com­mu­ni­ty not cus­tomer – you still can’t do it all your­self; Co-cre­ate, col­lab­o­rate and Open Up. The new wrin­kle here is that the cus­tomer is now part of your mar­ket­ing team. The com­mu­ni­ty, not the cus­tomer, is king. Its an impor­tant dif­fer­ence to how we think, We are no longer the sole own­ers of our brand. Our cus­tomers want to play a role in cre­at­ing what Adobe is. So to that extent we are the cus­to­di­ans, not own­ers. After all any brand today is no more than the com­bined expe­ri­ences of its customers.

Mar­ket Research – your com­peti­tors are still out there, and just one click away from you when your cus­tomers are online engag­ing with you. Busi­ness intel­li­gence is still a pri­or­i­ty. Cus­tomer sen­ti­ment must be mon­i­tored and mea­sured. How we do that has changed and the con­sumer pan­els of old have been replaced by real-time behav­ioral data.

The changes to mar­ket­ing will keep on com­ing. Trans­for­ma­tion is just the begin­ning of being able to adapt to the new order of things. The key to keep­ing up is to learn how to evolve as the changes affect your abil­i­ty to reach your cus­tomer. Organ­i­sa­tion­al struc­ture, cor­po­rate cul­ture and the process of doing busi­ness were nev­er meant to be etched in stone. You must be agile, open-mind­ed and accept­ing of the need to fos­ter a cul­ture of change with the company.