Last September, Lucas sold his company Marketo to Adobe for nearly $4.8 billion. And on Tuesday, all eyes were on him during Adobe Summit in Las Vegas, the company's annual conference that attracts some 16,000 people.
To hear him tell it, the notion of separating business-to-business and business-to-consumer tools is archaic. The future, he says, is to merge the two together and create what he calls "b-to-e," or, "the business to everyone revolution."
Although the concept of converging b-to-b and b-to-c isn't new, it is something that's only recently started to gain traction in the cloud arena. Many observers weren't sure what Adobe would do with Marketo after acquiring it last September, but it's now clear that it wants to be the first among the major cloud players to say the future of the space is to merge distinct tools such as Adobe Campaign Manager (b-to-c) and Marketo (b-to-c) to empower the next generation of marketing.
"It is really important to delineate what we mean when we say b-to-b and b-to-c," Lucas says. "When we say 'b-to-c,' we mean we are going after the single view of the consumer—very high scale, very high reach digital activities. B-to-b, on the other hand, is fundamentally different; you don't have a single view of the individual, you have a single view of the account, and that's composed of a buying team across 10, 20 or 30 people. It's completely orthogonal to marketing to the individual."
Still, Lucas argues the two are converging. "Look at Amazon," he says. "What the heck are they? They're in grocery, retail, AWS, books—that model of business is becoming pervasive everywhere."
Soon, Adobe will have a common platform featuring Adobe Campaign (b-to-c) and Marketo (b-to-b), and the two will live in the same place, thus creating the "business to everyone," Lucas says.
"Companies aren't black and white anymore," he says. "We like to have absolutes, where you are either this or you are that, but we're just not seeing that anymore. Marketers don't wake up and go, 'Uh, am I talking to a person or an account? It changes."
Attendees split on 'B2E'
Lucas' reputation precedes him. One analyst who spoke on condition of anonymity half-joked that Lucas is "crazy," another described him as "wild, but in a good way." An Adobe employee, who asked not to be named, referenced a time he asked Lucas for some pointers for a presentation. "He emailed me 26 pages, single spaced, the next day," the person said. "And it was good. Very thoughtful stuff."
Other Adobe employees, who are in attendance at the Adobe Summit executive event, where ice cubes were literally imprinted with the Adobe logo, also say they've bought into what Lucas is preaching. "He brings so much energy," one person said. "Salesforce has Marc Benioff, but who do we have? We need someone like Steve."
Although his vision on the future of cloud marketing resonates with many inside Adobe, it doesn't seem to apply to Adobe customers in the trenches.
"Saying 'business to everyone' is a dangerous thing to say," Scott Plumb, director of client development at Brooks Bell, an optimization company present on Adobe's showroom floor that helps businesses create personalized experiences for consumers. "The reality is that the majority of brands and companies can't speak to everyone with one message. Personalizing an experience for b-to-b and b-to-c audiences is critical to be successful reaching a global marketplace."
The term, Plumb says, reminds him of other catch phrases, such as "glocal," a term popularized during the late '90s that reflects both local and global businesses.
"It's two different animals," says Ryan Spadaford, enterprise sales exec at Idio, a company that caters to the b-to-b realm. "When I talk to clients, they think b-to-e is nonsense; it just doesn't resonate."
Spadaford's colleague, Andrew Flook, sales director at Idio, disagrees.
"It sounds corny," he says. "But it does pertain to what companies are doing."
Companies such as Booking.com, for example, want to attract large businesses to their platform, but at the same time, also hope to do the same with consumes. Nvidia is no different, nor is Intel and many other large companies.
"There's a lot of commonalities and a lot of differences between b-to-b and b-to-c," says Vikalp Tandon, global CTO at Isobar. "But the tactics between the two are very different. I think we have to better understand what "b-to-e' means first, but I understand the concept Adobe is trying to share."