Argyle Conversation: Innovations in digital marketing solutions that empirically measure and help forecast consumer behavior was the focus of a December conversation between Aseem Chandra, senior vice president for product marketing at Adobe, and Jason Redlus, managing partner of Argyle Executive Forum.


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JASON REDLUS: Please explain how you came to Adobe and give us the broad view of how Adobe is partnering with chief marketing officers.

ASEEM CHANDRA: I joined Adobe a couple years ago when it acquired Omniture, where I had been in charge of product marketing. I’ve been fortunate to grow in my role and responsibilities, which now place me in charge of product and industry marketing for Digital Marketing, the fastest growing business segment at Adobe.

One of the cool things about my job is that I get to interact with marketers and chief marketing officers in a couple of different ways. First, we are constantly engaging with them in understanding what some of their business issues and requirements are and showing them how Adobe can help them address their needs. Secondly, we are directly marketing our capabilities to CMOs, which means my team and I spend a lot of time working through digital marketing strategies and determining how to align Adobe’s brand solutions to meet the needs of industry-leading marketers and their marketing organizations.

As you’re helping develop digital strategies, what are some of the bigger industry trends you’re seeing?

Three trends are front and center. Number one is social. CMOs are pulling me aside and saying, ‘You know, we have budget put aside for social, but I still don’t know what my social strategy ought to be.  How do I figure it out?’

The second trend is around mobile, which is the glue between the offline and online worlds as mobile devices have taken off with consumers. Businesses are using mobile to push their messages out, to drive more purchases and better gauge purchasing behavior amongst their targeted consumers.

The last trend centers on cloud computing. Omniture had been a pioneer in that space, so Adobe has built on that. Today, we’re the second largest provider of business-to-business services delivered via the cloud. That also puts us in a lead position in understanding some of the challenges around cloud computing and helping our customers make that transition.

Who’s on the front of end of the curve in terms of adopting the best methods of deploying digital strategies? What are some of the behaviors or characteristics of those more innovative companies?

It’s really interesting to see how companies are recognizing that it’s not sufficient to merely be a digital marketer. They realize the need to transform themselves into fully digital businesses.  Innovative companies understand that digital can’t just be a marketing strategy—it has to have real business impact. Many of the 5,000 companies that are Adobe’s clients are on the front edge of the innovation curve.

For example, I love to ski and live in an area surrounded by mountains. When you think about digital marketing, the last thing that comes to mind is a ski resort. It’s a traditional business: you show up at the ticket counter, buy a ticket, put on your gear, go up the mountain, and just ski. Where is the opportunity to transform that in to a digital business? Well, Vail Resorts is innovating by leveraging Adobe technology to improve the ski experience by allowing skiers to track their performance through an app called EpicMix. Just this year, Vail Resorts made the decision to embed a smart chip into every lift ticket. So, each time a skier goes up the mountain and then rolls back to the base of the mountain, a scan of the skier’s lifeline is providing so much data about consumer behavior on the mountain. The data the resort captures is then made available to skiers to push out to their social networks, allowing them to share their great ski day with their friends.

The number of vertical feet you did on a certain day can be posted to your Facebook page. Right now, about half of those posts include pictures. And the resorts started putting digital photographers on the mountain, so skiers can have their pictures taken going down the mountain, scan their badge and then download that picture later to share with friends.

In terms of what that’s accomplishing, purchases of season passes using that social app increased 200 percent. The resort sold a quarter-million season passes last season alone.

On the backend, the resorts are analyzing that data to predict demand and make better business decisions based on the insights they gain. They capture everything from which runs get the most use in a day to what the top selling food item at the lodge is. That’s really important for a seasonal industry that hires a certain number of temporary workers and would like to more precisely decide how much staff should be supporting the crowds that are coming onto the mountain on a snowy day.

What other applications are indicating where the world is headed?

Delta Airlines, which is another one of our customers, is leveraging Adobe analytics technologies to understand where travelers are spending their time while on airplanes, which were Wi-Fi-enabled years ago. A lot of them are spending a majority of their time not working, but browsing Facebook and other social networks. Taking advantage of that insight, Delta launched a store on Facebook. The advantage of that is that their customers no longer have to take the added step of going to Delta.com. They can plan their next trip, their next hotel and flight and such right on Facebook. This allows them to share their itinerary with people who need to know, whether it’s their family or their assistant. Putting a ticket window on Facebook really brings commerce to where the consumer already is, and that’s on the social networks.

You’re talking about a broader vision of digital as it relates to both marketing measurements and analytics.  Are we eventually developing a closed loop system that helps determine which strategies are deployed and how they’re deployed?

Companies that are really thinking about how they make the transformation to digital marketing aren’t simply thinking about one aspect of this. They’re thinking about how to evolve into a completely digital business. They understand that consumers are spending more and more of their time on smartphones, social networks, and are actively engaged in discussing your brand with their friends on Facebook. As the consumers are leading the change, businesses must shift to digital so they can respond to their customers’ needs.

In terms of the analytics, if you’re not collecting and mining data, you’re missing the boat. This Big Data trend isn’t going to stop—it’s a huge opportunity to gain insights that lead to new revelations about how to run and operate your business. Leveraging analytics allows businesses to optimize their capabilities, whether in creating a personalized experience for their customer,  or to move toward social commerce, or to more effectively monetize and deliver ROI for their ad spend on media. If you’re responsible for that spend, you’re going to start asking questions and coming up with strategies that lead toward being more of a digital business.

It’s also shifting the ways in which CMOs, and their skills sets, are cultivated. CMOs, in the past, typically have come out of the branding, creative side. But, more and more, we’re seeing folks with deep analytics background coming into the CMO organization and taking leadership roles. The proof is right there—today’s marketing leaders have to understand how the numbers can influence and, in turn, drive better business decisions in order to be successful these days.

The view we take at Adobe is that the left brain and the right brain have to come together to create a successful marketing organization. We predict that today’s CMOs are going to be tomorrows CEOs. IBM gives us a good example of that. The largest technology company is now run by someone with a sales and marketing background. That’s not necessarily a trend, yet, but I believe it’s the direction we’re headed in.

Considering that data-driven approach, how should the sales and marketing divisions of an organization be aligned? Are chief revenue officers working more closely with marketing, or are they not?

An old advertising industry adage says that “50 percent of advertising spend is effective; I just don’t know which 50 percent.”  That uncertainty is no longer acceptable to CEOs and boards of companies.

Ad spend is moving rapidly from the traditional channels to the more digital channels? Why? Because those channels are increasingly measurable and therefore increasingly valuable. CMOs are now accountable for that spend and for translating spend into ROI measurement metrics that are meaningful and relevant at the CEO and board levels.

Over the last decade, we’ve begun to expect that the CMO can speak the language of the CFO and provide data to back up their ROI claims. Today, roughly 18 to 20 percent of global ad spend flows through digital channels; and, in another decade, I think that number will have shifted entirely into the digital channel.

If it’s true that marketers have never had this much data available to them, how do they use and measure the data to show the return on every dollar that’s spent?

For Ann Lewnes, Adobe’s CMO, 70 percent of her spend is through digital channels today and every dollar is measurable.  During the quarterly review with our CEO, we present to him where things are and what kind of return we’re bringing to him. The top measure that we look at is marketing’s contribution to sales. How many leads have we generated that were accepted by the sales organization as valid leads? We show sales leads that were generated through digital channels and which leads were passed over. We present the CEO with our quarterly update from a marketing standpoint.

That was not the case five years ago or three years ago, but today that is what is expected. More and more organizations will be shifting in that direction. The metric may be different, depending on which business you’re in. But, at the end of the day, you have to be able to quantify the sales impact that marketing is driving. This cannot be brushed under the carpet. Marketers have to get smarter about how to take advantage of that datanot only to reach out to customers but also to communicate the success to your management team, to your CEO, to your board. If it doesn’t matter to the CEO, then the success metrics you are using probably don’t matter to the business.

From your own key ideas about important topics or innovations at Adobe, what else comes to mind?

Just a couple of decades ago, there were three options for marketing. You had print, television, and radio. Today, there are more than 36 different channels available to marketers—between all the social networks, mobile devices, tablets, online video and so on—that didn’t exist a few years ago. And more and more, the Web will continue to fracture into these multiple streams through which consumers interact with us. A ton of complexities are ahead of us as we try to make sense of this.

They also present a ton of opportunities for marketers to grab the bull by the horns and take advantage of these different technologies that are being thrown at us. We have the opportunity to get smarter about how we measure and take advantage of these different channels to get the message across.

That’s the business of Abode; we are building the right technologies to enable our customers to measure and optimize across all of these emerging digital channels.

BIOS:

Aseem Chandra: As vice president of marketing for the Digital Marketing Business Unit at Adobe Systems, Aseem Chandra articulates and evangelizes the value of the company’s leading business optimization platform: the Digital Marketing Suite. Aseem and his team oversee the strategic industry positioning of Adobe’s Digital Marketing solutions, including management of sales enablement and training, pricing and  product and service development based on feedback from current and prospective customers.

Aseem brings twenty years of general management, marketing, partnering, and mergers-and-acquisitions experience to Adobe.  Prior to his current position, he led product strategy, marketing, and partner enablement for the Application Integration Architecture group at Oracle.  Aseem’s career also includes key leadership positions at Siebel, PeopleSoft, and Agile software at Oracle. He has also held business analyst and operational roles at Eaton Corporation’s Semiconductor Division, 3M Corporation, and Behlen Manufacturing.

In addition to his responsibilities at Adobe, Aseem is on the board of Gaja Capital, a private equity fund based in Mumbai, India. He also serves on the board of the Hydrocephalus Association, a non-profit organization that advocates and directs research to improve the quality of life and bring hope to people with this condition.

A frequent speaker at prominent industry conferences such as AdTech, CES, eMetrics, IAB, MediaPost and OMMA Global, Chandra regularly presents on topics such as digital marketing strategy, advertising, retail, publishing, and business optimization

Aseem holds a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology and a master’s degree in manufacturing systems from the University of Texas.

Adobe revolutionizes how the world engages with ideas and information—anytime, anywhere and through any medium. For more information, visit www.adobe.com.

Jason Redlus: Jason is Argyle Executive Forum’s managing member and founder. Argyle Executive Forum is a professional services firm that convenes and connects business leaders from highly targeted business-to-business communities for strategic collaboration and business development.

More than 40,000 executives participate in one or several of Argyle Executive Forum’s communities, with more than 700 new members joining every month. Prior to forming Argyle Executive Forum, Jason launched the private-equity business effort for Capital IQ, a firm that Standard & Poor’s acquired in 2004. Prior to Capital IQ, Jason was an investment banker, focused on middle-market mergers-and-acquisitions and leveraged buyouts. He holds a bachelor of science from Cornell University and a master of business administration from Harvard Business School.