Q&A: Adobe CMO on its obsession with 'experience' and rivalry with Salesforce
Ann Lewnes, Adobe CMO, has the unique position of having the company's full suite of creative tools at her disposal when marketing to, well, marketers. Products such as Photoshop, Campaign Manager, Dreamweaver, Analytics and Illustrator are regarded by many as staples within the ad industry.
"As marketers, we have creative that we need to make fabulous," she says. "We understand the best part of the product because we use it, but we also give feedback so we can share things or features we'd like to exist. And that gives us a good vantage point to market what we make."
Lewnes, a mother of two, is fluent in Greek. Ad Age caught up with her about two hours after she managed to get Oscar-award winning actress Reese Witherspoon to shout, "I love data! I love analytics!" during a keynote Q&A at Adobe Summit last week in Las Vegas, which was live streamed by some 800,000 people.
Overall, more than 16,000 people attended the summit this year, up from 10,000 in 2018. Those who went – or have even spoken to Adobe or shopped its products – are fully aware of the company's rampant use of the word "experience."
The summit is "the digital experience conference," according to Adobe. It's also where it debuts new products, such as "Adobe Experience Platform" and "Account Based Experience." Those offerings shouldn't be confused with the company's other, pre-existing products, like "Adobe Experience Manager." There's also an "Experience League," and, of course, "experience" is said countless times on stage, in ads and at Adobe's many events.
Lewnes spoke to Ad Age about Adobe's obsession with the word, how the company pitches CMOs and its rivalry with Salesforce. This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.
Has Adobe ever tried to trademark the word "experience?"
No, I don't think we have ever tried to trademark the word "experience." No.
So it's never crossed Adobe's mind?
I will say this: We were talking about "experience" before everyone else. Clearly, there is something to it. Look, creative is the 'thing' that sucks you in. That is the beginning of an experience you have with a given company, organization or human. We reinforce it because the way to make experiences better is by understanding what the other person wants – it's a two way relationship. So if you're able to asses the motivations, and the desires of the person on the other end, it is going to be an inherently more satisfying experience for them. That is the basis for all the products we make.
On stage you said Adobe has "9.2 billion visits" to its website each year. Where are they going?
They're going everywhere.
But are most of them updating Flash or something?
(laughs) One of the biggest places they are going, quite frankly, is to get help. It is a very big site and it is very, very highly populated. Adobe has professional-level products and our customers like to learn how to use those products more successfully. So it's important that when you come to our website, we should know enough about you and what you are going to do. You shouldn't be bouncing around all over the place.
You guys pitch a lot to the CMO.
Yes, we do.
So, when you talk about end-to-end implementation – Creative Cloud, Experience Cloud, et cetera – what will that mean for the CMO?
The customer journey is completely contiguous, it is all interconnected and we bring people into the overall customer journey.
What does that mean?
You need a lot of wonderful creative to do that. You need the ability to understand the effectiveness of each of the media sources. Then, it's all about bringing people to your website, which some businesses might not think is important, but it's very, very important because it's not only where you communicate your message, but also where you understand more about your customer and their behavior on and off the site; we have the tools that can do that. Web testing to optimize content, CMS, email, social, campaign management – it's all one continuous motion.
The Adobe-Salesforce rivalry gets a lot of play in the press. What effect has that had on Adobe's business, if at all?
This is a big, booming category and we are the leaders in the creative space, document space. In this experience space, it is an incredibly burgeoning category, and there is going to be competition in every large, growth category. There's room in this category for multiple players, but we are the ones who excel in the area of experience.