101 Great Minds on
Music, Brands and Behavior
Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer at Adobe
"Our most recognizable asset is our creative. We put our communities at the center of everything that we do."
Ann Lewnes, Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer, Adobe
Ann watched too much TV as a kid. This admission and her passion for creativity and media still drive her as Adobe’s CMO and are reflected in the company’s groundbreaking marketing campaigns. Creativity is only half the equation, as under Ann’s leadership, Adobe’s marketing organization has pioneered the shift to digital — deploying a comprehensive set of digital marketing solutions, establishing an insight-driven culture, and setting a template for marketing’s strategic impact on business. Prior to Adobe, Ann spent 20 years building the Intel brand as a VP of Marketing. Ann serves on the board of Mattel. She has been inducted into the American Marketing Association’s Hall of Fame, named one of the most innovative and influential CMOs by Business Insider and Forbes, and recognized on AdWeek 50, a celebration of indispensable marketing and media executives. In 2015, Ad Age named her to The Creativity 50, honoring the most creative people of the year.
Uli Reese: I would love to hear about your role at Adobe.
Ann Lewnes: I’m the Chief Marketing Officer, overseeing everything from brand strategy, advertising, communications, customer and data analytics, our website (which has 13 billion visits last year), demand generation for our business globally. Adobe.com is the place where all our customers go to research our products, purchase, learn and be inspired. Creativity is at the core of what we do but we are also super focused on analytics and demonstrating the value and return of our marketing dollars.
Reese: Most of us are familiar with your suite of products but what role does audio play in your customer experience?
Ann: Music plays heavily in our marketing. I’m a big music person and we know that our creative audience is too. A few years ago, we began partner with musicians on creative collaborations with our community. The first group we partnered with was Imagine Dragons. The challenge was to re-cut their new music video for the song Believer. The band gave us their video assets and we posted them on all our social channels. We have tens of millions of followers on our social channels and we got so many great submissions. Since then, we’ve worked with some of the biggest names in music, including Billie Eilish, Lady Gaga and Marshmello. We get thousands of wonderful submissions and huge engagement with our community.
Reese: Many companies feel like they are losing their visual identity once they enter a screenless ecosystem like Alexa. What is Adobe’s approach?
Ann: Our most recognizable asset is our creative. A lot of it is community generated and it’s fabulous. We put our communities at the center of everything that we do. At the master brand level, we lean heavily on the Adobe brand. We recently updated our Adobe logo and visual identity at the corporate level. For Adobe Creative Cloud, each of the individual products, like Photoshop, has its own visual iconographyand there’s strong equity in these among our customers just like there is with the PDF logo (Acrobat).
Reese: You are responsible for the Intel ‘bong’. Tell me how that happened?
Ann: It was 1988 and my boss Dennis Carter, who was a genius, had come up with the idea for the Intel Inside program. Because a semiconductor is invisible inside a PC, we had to come up with a noticeable and consistent way to create awareness and draw attention to Intel processors beyond the advertising we were doing. He assigned me the project and I worked with composer Walter Werzowa, who was based in L.A. Walter and I did the whole thing over the phone. The sound was then mapped to the Intel Inside logo that R/GA did and it’s ended up being one of the most successful sonic brands.
Reese: That’s an understatement. It’s one of the top five most played pieces of audio on the planet.
Ann: Well it was done by a person who didn’t really know what she was doing with a guy she never saw! Although I have met Walter since.
Reese: How long did the process take?
Ann: It was 30 years ago so I can’t remember exactly, but I would say around a month or two. Walter would call me and have me listen to different sounds on a speakerphone and then I would have Dennis listen to the ones I liked. So archaic!
We really felt like a sound would help breakthrough in TV and radio advertising so we started using it in our TV ads as well as having our PC customers use it.
Reese: What was the strategy behind the Intel sound logo?
Ann: We were an ingredient brand invisible inside a PC. We had a strong visual logo that we used in our own advertising as well as our customers’ print advertising. But, we really felt like a sound would help breakthrough in TV and radio advertising so we started using it in our TV ads as well as having our PC customers use it. That’s how it became so pervasive.
Reese: Voice is a part of sonic branding. Is that something you are looking at?
Ann: Adobe is a software company so we are always looking at new technologies. I’m not sure if a marketing sound like Intel Inside would work at Adobe but there may be some value in things like audio commands and voice agents in our applications.
Reese: How do you see audio evolving within Adobe?
Ann: We are definitely going to continue to use music heavily in our marketing. Adobe is always innovating. Who knows what’s around the corner?
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