Experience Marketing Takes It to the Streets

Adobe marketer Ben Rabner and the late Curt Hecht, then chief revenue officer for the Weather Channel, took a break from the 2013 Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity for a 100-mile bicycle adventure that not only gave them a unique tour of the French Riviera region, but also an idea for a whole new kind of marketing program.

It was during that ride through the southern Alps that Ben, an avid cyclist and head of Adobe’s content creation team in Lehi, Utah, had one of those “ah-ha” moments. He realized that an experience ride, like the one he had with Curt, would resonate with customers.

The Adobe cycling program, which started as a side project fueled by the desire to facilitate “kick@ss experiences and connections” between Adobe and our partners and clients, has evolved into a real thing. More than 250 executives have participated in the Adobe cycling program over the past four years. Up until recently, Ben was a one-man band, handling everything from marketing and logistics to analytics and planning. Now, the program is ready for prime time, with another large ride taking place at the 2016 Summit EMEA this week and an app that will be debuted in the next couple weeks. It’s also on track to become a line item in the 2017 budget.

One Adobe exec who has embraced the program is cycling enthusiast Matt Asay, our VP of Mobile for Digital Marketing. During the 2016 Mobile World Conference in Barcelona, Matt met “on-bike” with Rob Jonas, senior VP for revenue at Factual Inc.

“This program not only obscures the boundaries between virtual and real-world interactions, it blurs the line between business and personal relationships,” says Matt. “In many ways it is the quintessential ‘un-sales’ way to sell.”

Moreover, adds Rob from Factual, “The Barcelona ride was the perfect opportunity for us to talk. Business is not just about great products, it’s about great relationships.”

Another beauty of the cycling events is that they are relatively inexpensive. Certainly less expensive than the usual big, alcohol-centric conference parties. And, taking the interaction outside the traditional business arena makes for a much more personal experience. Selena Larson from The Daily Dot paints a nice picture of her ride during SXSW in this recent blog post.

Adobe’s ride at the 2015 Cannes festival underscores why cycling events are gaining traction. “The program grew 300% year-over-year, and was the talk of the conference,” says Ben. “I expect we’ll have more than 200 participants this summer.”

Blending the Physical and Virtual Experience


With the upcoming launch of the Adobe Cycling app, the team will have a way to convert these experiences into a community in which decision-makers can interact with Adobe team members ‒ and each other.

“For me the big innovation is that we are wrapping Adobe technology around these experiences,” says Ben. “This is much different than traditional marketing. We are leveraging an off-line experience and touch point and connecting it to an online experience.”

The fact that Adobe technology is at the heart of the new app is significant. “This is a big change for Adobe. Traditionally, we rely on mock demos ahead of a product launch,” says Ben. “With the cycling program, we are testing in the wild.”

With the app, which will include features such as online registration for upcoming rides and a list of who else is participating, Ben expects engagement to increase as it flows between face-to-face interactions and a new online community.

The app also will use geo-location to keep users engaged. So, for example, if you are on a business trip in Washington D.C., and need to kill some time before your flight leaves, you can fire-up the app to find out what bike shops and potentially cool rides are nearby. Another mobile feature in the works will provide travel-related information based on user location.

It all goes back to that original epiphany: “That first ride in 2013 was an absolutely amazing experience,” Ben says. “It stands out now because it symbolizes the power of our new experiential marketing program. Curt and I started out as business acquaintances and became really good friends through the commonality of a bike.”