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Adobe Summit 2017: A Few Things I Learnt

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Two weeks ago, I attended the Adobe Summit London. Before life at Ewe takes over again, I wanted to share some of the things I learned.


We have talked a lot as an agency about developing customer centric strategies to engage customers across this ‘new’ multi-channel world, but there has been a slow migration from talking to taking real steps towards truly customer centric businesses and strategies. I like the move in sentiment from engagement to experience. For me a great brand experience drives engagement which in turn drives action.

Summit attendees heard from brands including the Aviva, Hostelworld, Tesco, HSBC, LinkedIn, Adidas, and T-Mobile, and National Geographic. We learned all about their digital transformation journeys, their obsession with customers, and how they are building a digital framework for experience.

Here are some of my observations from the Summit;

  1. According to Brad Rencher, EVP & General Manager, Digital at Adobe “Companies that have tuned into making people feel special are completely disrupting the status quo,” he said. “Making experience your business is good for business.”  That led me to think: Creating a great experience changes the dynamics of the relationship, when a brand makes a mistake (we all do) does this make it more forgiving? Does the customer think less about price and more about the great experience they ‘normally’ receive from the brand? Making experience your business, therefore, future-proofs your brand.
  2. I’ve been involved in the marketing, advertising and media landscape since 1990, so I can safely say that digital transformation isn’t a new concept. Businesses have been talking about the need to transform and have claimed to have been taking steps in that direction for years, frustrated normally by the internal business engine, focused on the company and not the customer. However, this was the first time I’ve heard it from so many brands all in one place. Many business including my own client Aviva gave details about what they did, how they did it, and how they are reaping the benefits. Digital transformation is finally here.
  3. In a time when people are consuming content at breakneck speeds where and when they want it, companies are putting great effort to build a digital foundation that allows for speedy, creative and informed responses. But many still are not equipped to adhere to the rules of engagement with today’s always-connected consumer, and maintaining that all important experience.
  4. Great content is key. Every experience starts with a piece of content. That’s why data-driven content creation, optimisation, and delivery are so top-of-mind for marketers today. It’s the only way to truly become an experience business. This was demonstrated in a highly engaging and entertaining way by Jason Miller of LinkedIn and the power of Rock music.
  5. The big trends marketers need to watch over the next few years are Internet of Things, 3D printing, augmented/ virtual reality, robotics, and blockchain. Although I still struggle with VR/AR in the same way I have with 3D, but a lot of that will be dictated by the technology behind it when it comes to consumer mainstream. From a B2B perspective there are huge possibilities such as medicine, and this is where I think it will have the biggest impact. The Internet of Things and Blockchain for me are the real game changes over the next 2-5 years and have the potential to change the consumers experience the greatest. Robotics will drive some interesting challenges for society, in the same way as the last great industrial revolution, robots will be able to carry out many of the mundane and repetitive jobs as well as those described as dangerous, as well as those that require a high degree of precision.
  6. Companies will have to develop a new set of KPIs for understanding and measuring what success looks like. “Emotion is the currency of experience,” said John Mellor, Adobe’s VP of strategy, alliances, and marketing. It’s all about making people feel good, and when you think of the most successful brands today, they are the ones going out of their way to make each and every experience something really special.” This was illustrated brilliantly by the CMO of Hostelworld, who has transformed their business from a hostel booking engine into one that emotionally connects its travellers with depictions of adventures, new people and authentic cultures. Perfectly fusing a customer centric strategy approach, with a deep understanding of technical marketing and data.” 
  7. AI and Machine Learning with Sensei.  This I have to admit was one of the biggest surprises at the Summit not to mention a great name “Sensei”. Adobe are obviously seeing this as the big game changer, I stopped counting references to machine learning and AI after the first 50 or so in the opening session alone.  We all know AI and Machine Learning will have a big impact on us both personally as a consumer and within the world we work, and whilst I expected lots of references to AI – as the new buzzword of the tech world and that every company in the world is positioning themselves as an AI company – but it was very clear that they understood the applications of AI in creating great experiences.

To watch some of the keynote speeches from the conference, visit Adobe Summit 

This together with the giant alliances and partnerships that are forming across the globe with Salesforce and IBM Watson creating AI for sales together with Adobe and Microsoft announcing a partnership to drive AI-based experiences. Combining the technologies and relative strengths of these business as the making of a formidable platform in the Enterprise environment.

No review of the Summit can happen without a mention of the Summit party headlined this year by Two Door Cinema Club, this was a combination of great music, a lot of beer, great food and some VR, sound and visual experiences. A 360-degree group photo was interesting, no hiding your bad side in that one!

One note of caution I would sound with all these fantastic technologies, amazing thoughts and insights is the application of them to the ‘normal’ consumer, and why we should not get carried away making sweeping changes to our marketing strategies and technologies, just yet. As the train journey home helped to prove in a simple way – with a disrupted mobile signal and poor Wi-Fi, sometimes we just can’t be that connected consumer.

However, if we take the basic premise of the event ‘Creating Brilliant Customer Experiences’ then we should be good, these are necessarily driven by digital communications and some of our digital agencies obsess about. These customer experiences are as much about the customer advisor on the phone to the direct mail pack to the first step into a retail store. A great experience is about understanding the customer, getting under their skin, then developing a communications strategy that tunes into their lifestyle and needs – simply put take the time to understand your customers – go and talk to then!

So, the future of marketing is not all about AR/ VR and robotics its about real people, and getting businesses to become customer centric, and not just in process but living and breathing it.

At Ewe, we define this new customer experience as incremental and disruptive. Incremental is what we all do every day — improving customer experiences, employee experiences, driving higher revenue, increasing process efficiencies, doing things disruptively to drive competitive advantage.

To finish as I started, you need to create brilliant experiences that will drive engagement and finally revenue or whatever your objective is. It’s also worth remembering that its more than digital disruption, it’s about creating great experiences, it’s about your customers and what they want.

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