On the question of how far Adobe Marketing Cloud has come, Parkes and Kinomoto agreed on one thing: previous iterations and conversations around the product were just in the realm of “possibility”.
“I think when Adobe acquired Omniture back in 2009 people were confused,” said Kinomoto. “They wondered if we were just going to put an extra tag or logo on our creative suite.”
According to Parkes, it’s taken Adobe years of learning from customers to improve and integrate technology resulting from key acquisitions, such as Omniture. “Adobe was lucky to adopt digital early on,” Kinomoto added. “We are like customer zero and we’ve continued to test solutions.”
The recent announcements, which set Adobe’s 2015 agenda, see the company extending its marketing platform to the Internet-of-Things and wearables; online-to-offline and location-based marketing; an “end-to-end” mobile marketing service; programmatic with an Adobe “algorithmic engine”; and the “integration of data” across its services, as well as the option to input legacy CRM data from Salesforce and the like.
There’s no doubt it’s a huge undertaking. Jerry Jao, CEO and co-founder of Retention Science, made the apt comment during a Millennial Marketer’s panel at the Adobe Summit that Adobe is “trying to do everything”. “I guess Adobe just has the size and the resources,” he said.
The latest product additions to Adobe's Marketing Cloud push the very limits of iconographic design. As Adobe tries to communicate its offering, there’s a limit to what arrows, circles, colour variation and squiggly-lined iconography can convey in a dense product web. The result is akin to an IQ examination, testing the user’s ability to recognise ambiguous patterns rather than an exercise in clear utility. But the fact that the Marketing Cloud is a high-consideration, enterprise-level product and not a consumer one might make this more acceptable.
Even so, Brad Rencher, GM and SVP at Adobe, emphasised the company’s effort to make Adobe Experience Manager as “user-friendly” as possible during his keynote at Adobe Summit.
For Parkes, the complexity stems from and is justified by a higher marketing intention.
“We’re not trying to be everything to everyone," she said. "Adobe is trying to deliver good customer experience and that's at the heart of everything we do. We’re talking about business transformation and so the Marketing Cloud naturally touches on a lot of different areas.”
The setup may also relate to business development, opening up different sales funnels and strategies. “Customers can pick and choose tools from the Adobe Marketing Cloud,” said Parkes. “They don’t have to go for the full suite.”
However, integration will always be a strong pull. “Customers can start with our analytics, then get into Adobe Target and then Experience Manager,” said Kinomoto. “That’s how you evolve.”
Marketing the “Marketing Cloud” in Asia
Adobe Experience Manager Screens will be available in May as the Asia-Pacific team localises a launch plan to “market to marketers” in the region.
During a keynote at the Summit, Jody Giles, senior vice president for product integration at Under Armour, demonstrated how the brand uses the technology to design and display clothing lines.
While the technology has potential in Asia and was noted as a case study for marketers in the region, Adobe will need to do more to overcome barriers to adoption.
“Our strategy is to engage with executives, not just the CMO or CIO,” said Parkes, referring to an Adobe and CMO Council study on the digital skills gap in Asia last year. “We need to have a business conversation about digital change, rather than just a marketing one.”
“Japan for example, is very set on the traditional way of doing business, and there’s a digital divide among senior executives,” said Kinomoto. “We need to discuss the value of new marketing and processes, not just digital marketing. It’s the same in Korea, even though they have infrastructure.”
Kinomoto sees potential in “tier one” countries like Australia, where the product and best practises will be more easily adapted from the United States. I think NAB is a great example in Australia,” said Kinomoto.
In addition, Adobe will focus on customers that already have their feet wet with digital or exhibit digital-first thinking. Partnerships will be also be important. In February Adobe announced a digital marketing partnership with Cheil Worldwide for the Korean market and another with Wipro in India.
The Adobe team will also run leader events, drive “thought leadership” with CMO.com, conduct local webinars across the region and tap into the “camaraderie around the issue of digital advancement”.
“In Asia, network is more powerful than the brand; it’s about community,” said Parkes. "We’re in this era of experimentation with this newer technology, and we need the support of execs and to make sure they understand the journey and to benchmark them against other brands in their space.”
Kinomoto believes that taking advantage of the popularity of mobile to introduce Adobe’s end-to-end solution, combined with consulting and training, is the way forward.
“Digital and creative agencies are great, and it works from project to project,” said Kinomoto. “But long-term, every brand wants to have capabilities in-house. You can’t always depend on agencies, it’s just not scalable.”
Recent partnerships with business and IT consulting firms Accenture and IBM Interactive Experience spell the future direction of Adobe, where the philosophy of “product is marketing” differentiates it from creative agencies and other entities.
“In Asia, we’ll also have local partners to help us consult at the country level,” said Kinomoto. “Developing talent in data-driven marketing will also be important because companies can't keep outsourcing that.”
According to Parkes, on the education front, Adobe Asia-Pacific has plans to partner with a number of universities in the region to develop digital marketing curriculums as well as introduce its technology to young and future marketers.
When asked about the limitations of Adobe Marketing Cloud, Parkes said: “I don’t see any real weaknesses in our product, but there are opportunities to improve,” she said. “But we need speedier development of local languages and tools for monitoring local sentiments.”
Knowing that Asia is not one big pie that you can dump a product on, a lot of work will need to be done. From Greater China, down through the colorful Southeast and into the sunny states of Australia, countries in the region are worlds in and of themselves—a challenge for marketers and marketing technology alike.
“I think Adobe is as aggressive as it should be in Asia,” said Parkes, pointing to Adobe's local R&D teams in India helping to localise products in the region. “In 12 months time we'll be able to show a lot more examples of customers in the Asia-Pacific using the technology we just announced.”