Adobe Reaches for the Peak at Its Annual Event

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Known for setting the standard in creative design software, and introducing the world to postscript, PhotoShop, and the PDF, Adobe has a reputation for creating top-notch tools. But when the company set its sights on delivering state-of-the-art marketing technology, the industry's high expectations were, until recently, largely unmet.

After Rob Tarkoff, the former senior vice president and general manager of digital enterprise solutions, left the company to join Lithium Technologies in 2011, analysts agreed that his departure would spell the end of Adobe's enterprise ventures. In June 2013, however, Adobe acquired marketing technology company Neolane and began to integrate it into its new Marketing Cloud. This move, according to Paul Greenberg, president of The 56 Group, meant "a whole new ballgame" for the company.

"The Neolane acquisition was a really smart move for Adobe, and one that definitely caught my attention," Greenberg says. "It was clear at that point that they were undergoing a transformation, and Neolane was a step in the right direction."

That transformation, according to Greenberg, reached a pivotal point at the company's Digital Marketing Summit in Salt Lake City, UT, in March.

The summit's opening keynote had no shortage of major announcements, headlined by news of Adobe's strategic partnership with SAP. "The strategic partnership between Adobe and SAP will bring together the office of the CMO and the office of the CIO," Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen said.

"Big data is dead if there is no thread connecting it. That's why together, the Adobe Marketing Cloud, hybris, and SAP HANA can be hugely impactful," Vishal Sikka, a member of the executive board at SAP, added. (Sikka left the company in May.)

Though ripe with potential, the partnership is, for the time being, limiting for both companies, according to Greenberg. While SAP's CRM suite is good, he says, the marketing component is fairly weak and adding Adobe's redesigned marketing cloud would "make a big difference" for SAP. Adobe would benefit as well, reaping the rewards of SAP's much more extensive enterprise reach.

For now, however, the reseller agreement between the companies allows only SAP HANA and hybris to resell the Adobe Marketing Cloud, not SAP CRM. "My hope is that this just the start for them," Greenberg says.

Throughout f the conference, company executives touted updates to components of the Marketing Cloud and demonstrated deep integrations between Adobe Analytics, Adobe Campaign, Adobe Target, Adobe Social, Adobe Media Optimizer, and Adobe Experience Manager—the six solutions within the Marketing Cloud—as well as a powerful new integration between the Marketing Cloud and Adobe's Creative Suite. Yet despite the rich, well-integrated collection of new tools, Adobe is still "missing many pieces of the puzzle," Greenberg maintains.

The company doesn't, for example, offer a marketing resource management tool or any marketing tools for traditional channels, such as email, and lacks loyalty and advocacy marketing solutions as well.

The news is not all bad though: Most of the gaps can be filled by leveraging the resources it already has, according to Greenberg. "Neolane's strongest suit was campaign management, but they've also got lead scoring functionality, social marketing and integration analytics tools, and even email marketing, which Adobe really needs at this point because email isn't going anywhere," he says.

Adobe has already done an impressive job transforming Neolane into Adobe Campaign and integrating it into the Adobe Marketing Cloud as a whole, Greenberg explains, but an even deeper integration could solve some of the remaining issues. The SAP partnership holds some of the answers as well. "SAP's got a good [marketing resource management] tool that Adobe could employ," Greenberg adds.

Despite the missing pieces, Adobe appears to be on the right path with its tools and technologies. What needs a major redirect, however, is its messaging. During the second day's keynote, John Mellor, vice president of business development and strategy at Adobe, addressed the need for marketers to reinvent themselves and claimed that "to reach digital maturity, you need to have the 3P's: best-in-class people, process, and product."

Reminiscent of the "beyond obsolete" 4Ps approach to marketing, Adobe's take on the mantra was a major flub on the company's part, according to Greenberg. This is largely because marketing is no longer about competing for what Greenberg calls "product supremacy," but is instead about competing for customers' interest.

Overall, Greenberg remains optimistic about Adobe's ability to compete with the cream of the crop. Still, to get to the top, the company needs to rethink its own marketing and lose the archaic alliteration. "If they're determined to stick to the P's," Greenberg says, "I'd recommend introducing a much more important one: personalization."

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