Digital MarketingIndustry DevelopmentsAdobe CMO Ann Lewnes: “Eight years ago, we moved 70% of our marketing budget to digital. People thought we were crazy.”

Adobe CMO Ann Lewnes: "Eight years ago, we moved 70% of our marketing budget to digital. People thought we were crazy."

Adobe CMO speaking on their transformation to subscription-based products and experience first, building a culture of testing, and trends for the future.

Ann Lewnes has been EVP and CMO of Adobe since 2006. Prior to this, she worked at Intel for 21 years, ending as their VP of Marketing. During her time at Intel, she “did every single marketing job.” As she said in an interview last year, “I was kind of a go-getter and there was nothing too small or embarrassing for me to do. I just really had a lot of energy and I was a very different kind of person from the typical Silicon Valley person at that time.”

What led her to Adobe?

I think everybody needs to do one more gig. And so I said, I have one more big gig in me, and Adobe came to me and I went. I thought, ‘this company has so much potential that’s untapped,’ and always being a more creative person myself, I had a personal affinity to it.”

Last week, Lewnes spoke at the Adobe Summit in Las Vegas. She covered a bit about Adobe’s transformation to subscription-based products and a focus on experience, having the right people, building a culture of testing, and what she’s looking forward to in the future.

Adobe CMO Ann Lewnes Summit 2019

[Photo by Jeff Bottari/AP Images for Adobe]

“Eight years ago, we moved 70% of our marketing budget to digital. People thought we were crazy.”

In general, marketing budgets average about 10.8% of total firm budgets, according to the CMO Survey from August 2018. (The CMO Survey is a biannual survey of top-level marketers. Their sample size is typically 2000-3000, with 97% of respondents VP-level or above. Sponsors include Duke University and Deloitte Digital. It’s been around since 2008, and is “the longest-running non-commercial survey for and about marketers.”)

how much of a company's budget goes to marketing?

Those marketing budgets consist of everything from social media to analytics, market research to training.

Understandably, deciding where to allocate those dollars can be a tough question.

A different fall 2018 survey of 500 digital marketers found that 99% of businesses planned to increase budget in at least one digital marketing channel over the coming year.

More investment in digital is a no-brainer — the question is, how much?

According to the CMO Survey, currently marketing departments on average spend just under half (44.3%) of their budget on non-digital spending. In five years, however, that’s expected to increase by 22% to just over half (54.1%).

percent of marketing budgets on digital vs non-digital spend, now and in five years

With these figures in mind, it was particularly interesting when Lewnes said,

“”Eight years ago, we moved 70% of our marketing budget to digital. People thought we were crazy.”

Not only would that have been ahead of the curve today — it was exceptional in 2010.

“But,” Lewnes continued, “that’s only the first step.”

What kind of people make digital transformation successful?

Next, Lewnes touched on needing the right people to make transformation successful. 

In her descriptions, she mentioned researchers, a combination of both left and right brains, and people with a new mindset — who are not afraid to experiment and challenge the status quo.

Similarly, respondents to last year’s CMO Survey voted “having the right talent” as the most important factor for driving future growth (33.8%). A big surprisingly, only 13.1% voted on “having the right technology” as most important, and just 9% selected “having the right data.”

graph showing how the right talent is most important for future growth

Building a culture of testing

After people, of course, come processes.

Over the years, Lewnes has built a culture of testing among her marketing team.

Their starting goal, years ago, was just one test per week.

Now? They run at least 50 per month.

Further proof that so often the hardest part is just starting with one step in the right direction. If you start small and do just one thing, you are far more likely to reach your eventual goal than if you focus too much on the problem and all that needs to be done — and of course end up doing nothing.

She also noted,

“Adobe’s website has 9.2 billion visitors per year.”

What transformations does Adobe CMO Lewnes see on the horizon?

Lewnes also touched on what’s next. She pulled out five big digital trends on the horizon, which many of us would likely agree with:

  1. Mobile
  2. Voice
  3. AR
  4. 5G
  5. Video

“Marketing has never been more valued”

According to Lewnes, this is a great time to be in marketing.

“Marketing has never been more valued. There’s a demand for everything we do. More emails, more social, more events, more tests. We have finally proven our worth, and now we’re getting pressure to do more, and better.”

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