March 29, 2019
  |   AEM, Analytics, Blog, Digital Marketing, Leadership, UX / CX

Transforming Leadership, One Play at a Time: Adobe Summit Keynote Recap

It seems like everyday companies launch new technologies to help brands and retailers digitally transform, including the ones announced at Summit—Adobe Commerce Cloud, new Sensei services, and XDM to name a few. “While technology is a powerful enabler, it’s really only the first step,” says Adobe CMO Ann Lewnes during the Transformative Leadership keynote at Summit. It comes down to finding the right people who aren’t afraid to try new experiences and break the status quo.

For Adobe, this meant hiring “the risk takers and experience makers.” While they feel the same pressures other brands and retailers feel to go bigger and better; they’re not afraid to fail in order to find new opportunities. Adobe tests everything from button colors and navigation to messaging and imagery. This mentality and culture came from the leadership within the organization and driven through every function.

Intelligent Edge and Intelligent Cloud

Microsoft went through a similar transformation as they evolved from a software and PC company to a data computing company. In the 90s, their mission was to have a PC at every home and every desk at work. Once they accomplished this mission (or at least came pretty close), they needed to figure out what was next. “If you want to keep reinventing yourself, you need that learning culture,” says Microsoft CEO, Satya Nadella. It’s about going from an organization of “know it alls to learn it alls.”

To transform in the right direction, you need to get two things right, according to Nadella: Understand where your industry is going, particularly from a technological perspective, and understand what your organization will be able to do with those new tools and systems. Out of their digital transformation came an era of intelligent cloud and intelligent edge. Last year, they announced the launch of the Open Data Initiative (ODI) in partnership with Adobe and SAP. At Summit, Nedella announced their plans to expand the partnership.

ODI provides computing that is “diffused, dispersed, distributed.” In other words, the system breaks down the silos of information within an organization and shares all data across every function. What does this mean for brands and retailers? It allows them to “drive deep personalization with trust so that your business can deliver what it’s fundamentally about,” says Nadella. Computing is distributed through the Cloud, and the AI layer reasons data to create a next-generation experience.

There will no longer be online and offline experiences; it will all be blended into one personalized customer journey. Being an AI-first company doesn’t just mean storing a ton of data, it’s being able to take all the data you have to make every customer interaction better and optimizing the outcomes. Merchants will no longer need to figure out how to extract data from various functions and vendors, it will all be flowed into a single data pool and dispersed into feeds.

Adobe demonstrated the new ODI with Unilever, a mutual customer of Microsoft and Adobe. One of Unilever’s initiatives is to reduce their plastic packaging and encourage recycling among customers. They use ODI and AI-driven insights to tie inventory and plastics data into the Adobe data to enhance the customer experience and promote participation in the recycling program. Every time a shopper engages with the Unilever site, the experience dynamically personalizes in real-time.

“One of the hardest things to do, perhaps, is to try and predict with high precision exactly what consumers are going to like out into the future,” says Nadella. ODI provides brands and retailers a “no regrets system” that allows them to create relevant, personalized experiences in this digital age.

Celebrity Corner

Reese Witherspoon, best known for roles in movies like Walk the Line and Legally Blonde, is now a producer, entrepreneur, and business owner (all on top of being a mother). In Hollywood, “the only measurement was box office and critics, but it wasn’t really empirical data,” says Witherspoon. Today, she can hear from fans directly. “It’s really expanded my idea of storytelling and being able to reach a larger, more specific audience,” she adds. With streaming services, she can track which shows are popular, which actors people resonate with, and which stories connect with people at a deeper level.

In 2015, Witherspoon launched Draper James, a clothing line inspired by her southern roots and personal style. Fun fact: Alyssa Warnock, daughter of Adobe co-founder John Warnock, created her first investment presentation that landed the company its first $1 million in funding. She also launched her own production company, Hello Sunshine in 2016 to create more women-focused films the industry was lacking. Hello Sunshine will produce Witherspoon’s newly announced series, “The Morning Show,” for Apple.

Like most celebrities, she leverages social media to reach larger, more specific audiences. She uses her personal Instagram account to announce new books in her book club (also called Hello Sunshine), digital events, book tours, and create excitement in the community. It’s a win-win for the author and Witherspoon. Where the Crawdad Sings by Delia Owens sold over one million copies in five months, thanks to Witherspoon’s promotion.

Drew Brees joined the stage after Witherspoon to chat about how he uses technology both on and off the field. If you visit his foundation site today, you’ll see an under construction sign. When asked why, Brees answered, “You have to constantly tweak and keep people engaged and evolve.”

On the field, Brees and his team use technology to store recordings of every play, both in practice and games, review footage and plan plays. “It’s amazing what information is vital to your business,” says Brees. For the New Orleans Saints head coach, the type of fields they play on is high on his list. Based on the type of grass, he requires his players to wear a specific kind of cleats to reduce slipping.

For Brees, football (and being a celebrity) is just like the digital world. “There’s always another challenge.” Every time a kid recognizes him and comes up to him, he has only a few seconds to motivate or inspire that person to go down a specific path—the same challenge brands and retailers must overcome.

Miss the other keynotes? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered!


Shannon Abel
After graduating from Clemson, Shannon started her career in marketing, focusing on content creation and engagement. As Blue Acorn iCi’s Media Marketing Specialist, she keeps clients and customers up-to-date on the latest trends and news in the ecommerce world. She also produces and hosts Blue Acorn iCi's podcast, The Funnel. In her free time, she enjoys running with her dog and checking out the local breweries in Charleston.
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