Adobe details how it's transforming into a digital-first marketing organisation

VP of brand, John Travis, outlines how the vendor has transformed people and process to become a 24/7 digital marketing organisation

Adobe VP of brand, John Travis, at the Adobe Digital Marketing Symposium Sydney 2014
Adobe VP of brand, John Travis, at the Adobe Digital Marketing Symposium Sydney 2014

Adobe’s transition to a digital-led marketing team was not only about technology innovation but also a transformation of organisational processes, data unification and an array of new people skills.

Speaking at the Adobe Symposium event in Sydney, the technology vendor’s vice-president of brand, John Travis, detailed how the company has made the move to being a digital-first and data-driven organisation over the past few years using its growing Marketing Cloud solutions portfolio, and the changes that had to be made to people and process.

Today, 74 per cent of Adobe’s total marketing budget is spent on digital, triple the current average across the industry, Travis claimed. To make this shift, the company had to move to a 24/7 marketing mentality, which meant adjusting processes to respond in a more real-time way, he said.

One of the ways Adobe did this was by bringing a lot of digital and marketing skills back in-house from agencies. For example, using its Media Optimiser, Adobe has brought all search marketing and display optimisation in-house, Travis said.

“This is the only way I can react quickly in a 24/7 environment,” he told attendees. “While bring resources in-house might not be right for every company, but it was right for us. And the effect has been stellar.

“This doesn’t mean we don’t have relationships with or value our agencies, but that relationship is changing. Previously, agencies managed day-to-day and I would worry about long-term strategy. Now, I am managing the campaigns day-to-day and relying on agencies for the long-term vision of where it’s all going. So requirements have changed.”

Adobe also had to employ new skills and different types of people, stretching from data analytics and search professionals to mathematicians and social media experts.

“We had to build an entirely different marketing team,” Travis said. “You still need creative people and those skills. But we also had to reskill a lot of people and drastically change our teams.”

Another major pillar in becoming a digital organisation is unifying customer data, and at Adobe, this meant bringing total data responsibility into its marketing and insights operations group.

“It’s hard to get people to stop using their own data or protect it... but you have to have a single source of truth,” Travis said.

While annual and quarterly marketing strategy is still relevant, the changes have fundamentally changed the daily and weekly approach marketing teams take to delivery and execution, Travis said.

Every Monday, data is now pulled from the previous week’s activity and all sources of data, and the insight team also chats with customer care and support teams, Travis explained. The team then meets with each data or media owner to discuss what is happening in each channel. This is augmented by insights from stakeholders in campaigning, product marketing and even IT, who review the data, drive insights.

“By Monday afternoon, our insights team has published an executive summary to the team including what’s happening, key learnings and suggested changes that needs to be made,” Travis explained.

“On Tuesday morning, we review it and start making changes, or discover bigger issues that another team needs to solve by the end of the week.”

At end of campaign period, Adobe rolls up the insights, which it then uses to compare against the goals set for the quarter, spend, mix of channels used, the ROI delivered, what went well and didn’t, and changes needed.

“I can now show the value of our work, which is great,” Travis said. “I also have an understanding of what’s beneath the numbers. Now I have the answers and much more info than I had before.”

Media modelling

During the conference, Adobe also previewed its new Marketing Mix Planning offering, an econometric tool that uses historical spend and data and combines this with outside variables such as economic factors, or growth in certain categories, to help them optimise their online marketing spend.

According to Travis, this tool helps Adobe to predict optimal spend and charts where it wants to go.

“We now have much better idea of results before I do anything,” he said.

What’s surprising is what the marketing team has learnt from the tool’s insights, Travis said. For example, its public relations spend, which he previously believed was a top of the funnel, awareness activity, was shown to have a huge impact on credibility.

“The more you have reach and PR strategy delivers, the more credibility it gives you with customers,” Travis commented. “This is right down to before people make a decision on the purchase.”

John Travis: What’s next for marketing

  • More math. “This is not going away anytime soon,” he said. “My internal nerd is now out there and I love it.” He highlighted the now predictive nature of what data can provide as a major opportunity, as well as better digital attribution.
  • Building trust. “In the age of digital, we are in a never-ending conversation with our customers,” Travis pointed out. “That requires transparency – if you are going to have relationship with someone, the transparency is important. It’s also about our employee practices and environment philosophy – these connect people to our brand and the expectation customers now have.”
  • Powerful communities. “The more you can create around your brands, the better,” Travis advised. “Digital helps you achieve that. We are trying to bring in community to all aspects of the company, such as product development feedback, and engaging with artists to redo our brand identity.”

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