[CMO] Adobe CEO: People Buy Experiences, Not Products

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On this subject, here is an article about Experience MarketingDo you remember the last vacation you took? Shantanu Narayen, Adobe’s CEO, does, and he shared that experience—a trip to New York City—on stage at Adobe Summit 2018.

“We saw Hamilton, via StubHub, and visited a number of sites,” he told the 13,000 attendees in Las Vegas for the conference. “It was 48 hours, and when I think about that experience, it still brings a smile to my face.”

When customers look at all of the experiences that stand out to them, of course they remember some of the details, Narayen added. But it’s usually the sum of the experience that stays with them and builds affinity. These experiences in their entirety influence where consumers spend money and time and who they give our loyalty to.

“Consumers are seeking phenomenal experiences,” Narayen said. Successful companies recognize that “experiences rise above everything else.”

Think of NFL fans, as an example, he pointed out. The majority probably never go to a game, but they are loyal to their teams and consume massive amounts of content online about their favorite players.

“Today, people buy experiences, not products,” Narayen said. “Products [aren’t the main] differentiator anymore.” Instead, he told attendees, companies are competing for the hearts and minds of all customers and should aim to exceed their expectations during every point of the journey.

Narayen’s advice to businesses: Think as if you are a subscription model, where people can cancel or grow their subscriptions with every click.

According to Narayen, organizations have to break through the noise and speak to the customer to make a lasting impression. To do that, companies need to design for brilliance, rewire the entire organization for intelligence, and create an architecture for action. The latter will enable them to deliver customer experiences across all channels, break down silos, and rip out the costly “duct tape” that is holding so many back.

It’s a tough challenge to master, one that takes multiple years of investment but is worth the effort, Narayen added.

With that, Brad Rencher, Adobe’s EVP and GM of digital experience, came on stage to challenge brand marketers to “make experience your business.”

He pointed to brands heeding the experience business call, such as Delta, with its mobile notifications; Marriott, with its mobile key feature; and Adidas, Nike, and Vans with their “personalize your own sneaker” functionality.

“Making experience your business is good for business,” said Rencher, who had the stats to prove it. According to a study by Adobe, in partnership with Forrester Research, businesses that have made that commitment have 1.6x higher brand awareness, 1.5x higher employee satisfaction, 1.9x higher average order value, 1.7x higher customer retention, 1.9x return on spend, and 1.6x higher customer satisfaction rates.

“Modern consumers are everywhere: on mobile, social, and in your store,” Rencher said. “The experience business wave requires a new system of record to unify the enterprise. In fact, it requires a purpose-built tech that can manage and make sense of data and content. [We’re calling this] an experience system of record. It is the center of gravity within the organization.”

Rencher then introduced what he called “the next generation” of the Adobe Cloud Platform, which he said will provide customers with a new system of record for unifying customer experiences.

Beyond technology, Rencher said, organizations “need to transform from the inside out, and that starts with people.” Every organization has change agents, he added, who can be found everywhere, from the intern pool to the C-suite. Generally speaking, these folks have spent a ton of time thinking about the types of experience customers want and need, “but we need to change from experience thinkers to experience makers,” Rencher said. “We need to be customer-obsessed, not customer- centric.”

Rencher then brought out John O’Sullivan, managing director of Tourism Australia. Tourism Australia recently launched a $30 million campaign to invite people globally to experience the Australian wildlife, and to make Australia the most desirable and memorable place in the world.

“[To me], great marketing is great creativity with clear purpose,” he said.

O’Sullivan discussed his company’s digital transformation, which he said began with using data to become more efficient and effective. For example, he said, if a consumer already booked a trip to Australia, the company wants to make sure it serves that person content around the fun things that can be done in the country, not content to get them to book a trip.

“We’re putting the customer at the center of everything we are doing, and technology is helping us do that,” O’Sullivan said. “We’re using technology and analytics to do that. In fact, 80% of our marketing team has access to Adobe Analytics. And they are using those insights to make better decisions.”

Digital transformation also has been a cultural journey, he added, with a huge focus on driving a culture of innovation.

“We are excited by emerging technology, such as virtual reality, voice tech, and augmented reality,” he said.

Next up was James Sommerville, VP of global design at Coca-Cola. When it comes to digital transformation, he said, Coke thinks about experiences, technology, and talent, of course, but the “experience ultimately starts with the product.” That’s why Coca-Cola partnered with Adobe to “invite the creative community to reimagine the [Coca-Cola] experience,” he said.

David Godsman, Coca-Cola’s chief digital officer, also spoke about the organization’s transformation, which began in 1886, when the company first launched its product. In the 1950s, the company went global and then expanded its portfolio of brands in the ’60s and ’70s.

“[Today] we are facing a new digital world, and it is somewhat unknown to us,” Godsman said. “We need to learn more about our consumers, understand them, and personalize at scale. It’s a world where we need to bridge the physical and digital worlds together.”

Coke’s aim with its digital transformation? To become a digital-first business, Godsman said.

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