Adobe CMO Ann Lewnes on making big bets on digital, cloud and AI

  •   August 29, 2019


SAN JOSE, CA — Adobe CMO Ann Lewnes took the stage as a keynote speaker at MarTech Conference Thursday morning. Lewnes has defied industry norms when it comes to short-lived CMO tenures with 13 years leading Adobe’s marketing organization.

“My secret is a lot of focus on results,” said Lewnes when asked how she has been able to maintain her CMO role for more than a decade. She said everything she knows about marketing she learned while at Intel, where she worked for 20 years before coming to Adobe.

What Adobe got right. Lewnes credits Adobe’s success to doubling down on digital, early on when digital marketing was still considered a fad.

“Clearly, digital changed everything,” said Lewnes. As early as 2010, Adobe decided to put three-fourths of its marketing budget into digital. Lewnes said the move gave marketing legitimacy early on by helping drive measurable business results.

Adobe was not only an early adopter in terms of digital marketing, the company was on the cusp of a massive transformation within the industry when it decided to take its packaged software business and turn it into a cloud-based platform.

How Adobe’s martech team serves the company. Lewnes said her marketing technology team is data-driven. The team’s leader is responsible for martech enablement, but also does a lot of internal consulting on new technology and industry trends for Adobe’s varying business divisions.

“He’s also the tie to the IT organization,” said Lewnes, “We have one of the best relationships with our IT organization.”

Overall, Lewnes’ martech team tends to be very tech focused, “They’re all super tech-ie, which we like.” She said she measures her martech team’s success by asking the question, Are they satisfying the needs of the organization?

When talking with her peers, Lewnes said the primary struggle for marketers comes down to getting the right people and processes in place. Her take: the most important thing is train your people and implement processes.

“The tools themselves will not solve anyone’s problems,” said Lewnes, “I believe, without changing the way you view your talent, the technology is not going to work for you.”

Where martech is headed. During her keynote chat, Lewnes addressed what marketers should expect AI and machine learning to deliver in the coming years. “Marketing is never going to be done by robots,” said Lewnes. Marketing requires instinct, intuition and creativity. Robots can benefit marketers at a task level. That’s how Adobe thinks about automation in its products, she said. AI and machine learning tech is about eliminating the mundane tasks, streamlining processes to make marketers more efficient.

“Adobe has years upon years, millions of millions of interactions,” said Lewnes about the company’s Photoshop product. This data, said Lewnes, can help predict what marketers want their technology to do — the predictive nature of the systems helping remove repetitive tasks that take so much time. (This week, Adobe rolled out content-aware fill in After Affects for video production, giving video marketers a new feature that will cut down on tedious frame-by-frame object masking.)

On creativity and data. In all that’s changed within the marketing industry over the years, Lewnes believes creativity is the one thing that remains the same, and that it is inter-connected to data analysis.

“At Adobe, the creative people are constantly reiterating on their work based on what analysts are telling us,” said the CMO who advised all marketers to keep being creative because that’s what brings in the customers.

She also connects data analysis and marketing automation to a brand’s humanity and ability to connect with their audiences.

“I think automation leads to humanity,” said Lewnes, pointing out that if a marketer can use its data to better understand the customer, the can deliver better customer experiences — a win-win for the brand and the audience.

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