“The brand Adobe is misunderstood”

Adobe sees itself at a pivotal moment. The digital revolution goes ahead and Adobe feels prepared to be part of this emerging market. In deed, the company integrated a lot of specialized companies like Omniture, Day and Macromedia over the last years. Ann Lewnes is senior vice president of global marketing and responsible for Adobe's corporate brand and integrated marketing efforts worldwide. She drives the company's corporate positioning, branding and identity, public relations, marketing campaigns, field marketing and education segment marketing to ensure strong connections with customers and constituents. marketingIT talked to her.

Once you said you would like to make Adobe a Love-Brand. Why do you see a need for this?

ANN LEWNES: Yes, I think the brand Adobe is misunderstood. People don’t know what the brand really means. They only see a narrow cutout of the company depending on the products they use. Creative professionals and designers connect Adobe to Photoshop, office workers know pdf but nobody understands or really knows the whole enterprise. Adobe is in the process of changing right now. At first, our history is connected to creation and creativity. Then came Macromedia. With that, we had Flash and Web expertise. Then we realized that two big parts are missing. We were able to create and distribute content but we weren’t able to measure what impression the content leaves on the user. So we took over Omniture to scale how successful contents are in the interaction with the customer. Finally, we also purchased Day as a content management provider last year. Now we can offer the whole chain of added-value. When a publishing house gets in contact with us, we can offer graphic solutions, which can be connected to our Content-Management-System, then distributed over our distribution technology and finally we can measure how successful the whole project was. So, compared to the beginning, our company changed completely. People see Adobe in an absolutely positive light, but they don’t really understand the vision of the enterprise. And that is my job now.

There is indeed a need. Experts in Germany then said that they didn’t understand the merger with Omniture. What would you like to answer them?

LEWNES: Many people didn’t understand that deal. Why should a company for creatives purchase a measurement-company? But the aim was that every piece of content is measureable, whether it brings traffic, or means a response on actions. And people who develop content can also be the same ones who later on scale the success. I think at the beginning many people didn’t notice that, but slowly they understand what we are planning to do. Many publishing houses and marketing departments are already using both tools.

And what strategy do you plan on your way to a Love-Brand?

LEWNES: We have to find something people really love. And we have things that people love. Photoshop might be the most beloved brand in the world. And people who use it can’t be stopped once they started talking about it. It was always our aim, to invest a lot in the product brand Photoshop. Now we’d rather talk about the corporate brand. So far we communicated a lot about product brands and the positive image was projected on Adobe. But that’s not enough. People should understand and love the corporate brand as well. To achieve this, we have to bring a certain kind of value in people’s lives.


LEWNES: Especially in current times, our products are of certain relevance since we are in the middle of a digital revolution – and we are a service provider which can help other companies become a digital enterprise.

But it’s still a challenge. Adobe is very diversified. How do you deal with that?

LEWNES: Oh yes (laughing). Keeping in mind that we are a 4-Billion-Company we have a huge product portfolio. We have many segments and 90 different brands and now we try to create solutions that embrace several brands and fit each target group. We aren’t looking for small or big companies but we are interested in type and branch. We are looking for publishing houses, advertising agencies, educational institutions or industries like financial services and healthcare or for categories like governmental and non-governmental institutions. We try to break it down on the respective business. Because there are small and big advertising agencies which all together have the same needs. As a basic principle, one has to set priorities. We decided that certain target groups are more important and we try to focus on them. But it’s really challenging to reach all these target groups with one voice.

Basically, you need brand ambassadors.

LEWNES: Yes indeed, and we got them. In the USA we call them Fanboys. They are people who don’t get paid, but who represent our interests in the respective target groups.

How do you get these Fanboys?

LEWNES: By selling awesome products. That’s the first step. Customers have to be able to count on us and it’s important to have a really good marketing department. I think some of the best and most loved companies have high class marketing, because that’s the only way good impressions towards a brand can be strengthened permanently. And anyway, social media made the Fanboys extremely important and necessary.


LEWNES: I will show you an example. You know that we had a public discussion with Apple concerning the Flash issue. And when we launched a new brand-campaign to explain who we are, we introduced the campaign to the marketing media and asked them whether they would like to report on it. It was actually our first corporate-level brand campaign. One of the publications, the online magazine called “Mashable” wrote that the campaign is connected to the Apple-debate, although the campaign really had nothing to do with the Apple-debate. On the morning, when Mashable released the article, we also showed our 200 Fanboys that we started the campaign. When they then saw the article, they sent comments to the author that were like „the author doesn’t understand what Adobe is doing“. They stood up for us and explained on our behalf what we were trying to communicate. When your own community raises its voice, it’s more effective and trustworthy than a statement of the company itself. Thus, social media created a great possibility to build communities, who in many cases can make do marketing for us.

But one does not only need external ambassadors but also internal ones. How do you recruit them?

LEWNES: We have employees who write the word „Evangelist“ on their business card. They travel around the world and show Adobe products, blog and recruit Fanboys. To some extend they have thousands of followers on Twitter and fans on facebook and they work as experts in their respective areas.

How far ahead is the integration of Omniture and Day?

LEWNES: I think we integrated Omniture very successfully and fast in the whole enterprise. And we learned a lot from them. They are experts in enterprise marketing and sales, fields in which Adobe did not really have a lot experience. The same goes for things like software-as-a-service, since Adobe only has desktop-products. We learned a lot, for example how to develop and manage hosting-services. These are two important fields for us that are growing. On the other hand, Adobe as a brand was helpful for Omniture as well. Since Adobe is a very strong brand it’s easier to open customers for Omniture. By this means, we respectively brought together our strengths.

And Day?

LEWNES: I think the integration of a content management system with the Omniture-Tools, which allows an online-optimization, is extremely attractive for the ones who run a website. Day is a much smaller company and the integration went without problems as well. We have integrated products before. Adobe is really good at integrating acquisitions.

You were part of a team that created the very successful Intel-Inside-campaign. Do you have something comparable in your pipeline?

LEWNES: We are in a similar situation as Intel was. Customers use us to create products for their own customers. Thus, we also have an ingredient branding. The other parallel is that we are also at a turning point, since our technology is the most relevant these days, comparable to the PC revolution in former days. When you ask me now whether we plan an Intel-Inside-Program, we can only say that we don’t. Anyway, we want to make it more obvious that Adobe is a part of value-added processes. We thus don’t plan an ingredient branding-program, but we want people to know that Adobe was involved when they see a Flash-ad or an iPad-application. That’s the part of the story we want to tell.

How did you come to that idea these days?

LEWNES: It [the Intel-inside campaign] wasn’t my idea, rather the idea of my former boss. We thought he was crazy. At that time it sounded insane to develop a pull strategy for a microprocessor in PCs. He got that idea because the semiconductor business was at risk to become a commodity. We wanted to make sure we were a strong partner for the industry further on. And he believed that when we make a step toward OEMs like Compaq or IBM and offer them an incentive, especially marketing-development and advertisement, they would integrate our logo. We advertised a lot to create awareness. It was brilliant. But I simply was by his side, it wasn’t my idea. I only developed the soundlogo…

What’s the most successful communication channel for Adobe?

LEWNES: That’s by far public relations. We analyzed this for three years and checked every channel in which we invested some money: e-mail marketing, PR, searchmarketing, display-advertising, print-advertising. We integrated all these data in one model and could see which one brought the highest ROI. And PR is the number one. Furthermore, we can reconstruct that PR initiates the search on the web. This search leads people to our website and they maybe leave their e-mail address and we can get in contact with them. It’s a proper sequence of actions that’s triggered by PR. Furthermore one can shape with what might be happening. And by the way: Social Media also becomes PR. It’s the way, how communication with the public takes place. One certainly has to be prepared even better and react really fast.

How will the role of a marketing leader change in the next five years?

LEWNES: I think it’s already changing right now. One has to be more analytical. We are talking about marketing being the new finance department. We are looking for employees who have these analytical skills, who can analyze data and derive insights. Of course we still need creative people who can develop messages and work out positions. But this new concept is quite important. I also think that the marketing became much more important for business. In the past nobody really knew how effective marketing was. Now we can prove the impact and the marketing can show the value it brings. It’s a great time for working in marketing (laughing).

The interview was conducted by Christian Thunig.