June 13, 2019

Marketing Adobe: How CMO Ann Lewnes Inspires

How do you effectively lead the marketing efforts of a 20,000+ employee tech giant well enough to make it into the American Marketing Association’s Hall of Fame? Sure—the question may sound a bit specific, but that journey is chock full of valuable takeaways for marketers at any sized company, in any line of work. Lucky enough for RTU listeners, this week’s episode features Ann Lewnes.

Ann is a recent inductee into the AMA Hall of Fame and is currently the CMO of Adobe, a company that doesn’t really need much of an introduction. In her time at Adobe, she’s established herself as a trail-blazing, “flag planter” who gives great attention to the big picture. Listen in to this episode to hear about how she does that, her own marketing journey, the content strategy for Adobe, building brand trust, inspiring the people around you, and more.

Connect with Ann

Connect with Drew

Full Transcript: Drew Neisser in conversation with Ann Lewnes

Drew Neisser: Last year, a listener of Renegade Thinkers Unite mentioned that she loved the show but wished I had more women CMOs on it. Not even realizing this bias, I went back and counted, and I realized it was 60/40 male-female, so I set a goal for 2019 that not only would it be a 50/50 balance, but that I would also interview the top women in technology. On the very top of that list is Ann Lewnes, executive vice president and CMO of Adobe, who this year was inducted into the AMAs Marketing Hall of Fame among the many accolades. So, guess what. Ann is with us today for what I know will be a very special episode. Ann, welcome to Renegade Thinkers Unite!

Ann Lewnes: Thank you, Drew. I’m really happy to be speaking to you.

Drew Neisser: Well, you may not know this, but Episode 99 was with a friend of mine by the name of Greg Welch. I sent Greg a note—now, I know you’re laughing—I sent Greg a note before this interview to see if he had any good questions and of course, he did because he’s Greg Welch. First, he said to say hi to the other Greg Welch in your life.

Ann Lewnes: Yeah, it’s so funny because my husband’s name is actually Greg Welch.

Drew Neisser: What are the odds?

Ann Lewnes: It’s uncanny. I know. Sometimes I tease the Greg Welch in my professional life about sending him emails to like pick up milk and do little chores for me, which he always respectfully declines.

Drew Neisser: Oh really? I would have thought he might have stepped up to that one. Well, the funniest thing—I was watching your interview with Jen Rooney at the Forbes conference and they went to a question and there in the very far right corner of the picture was the Greg Welch we’re talking about. It was just hilarious and that was what spurred me to reach out to him.

So, we’re going to rapid-fire through some of Greg’s questions and then we’ll just see how that goes. Always remember, these are Greg’s questions. You worked with Andy Grove at Intel and the company grew from a billion to $38 billion with Andy at the helm. What did you learn from him?

Ann Lewnes: I pretty much learned everything I know about marketing at Intel because I went straight out of school and I worked three cubicles from Andy. When I arrived, the company was in a very, I would say, nascent state, and it was transitioning from a memory company to a microprocessor company. That’s how long ago this was.

I was fresh out of school, a journalism major, and also international relations, and I came to Silicon Valley with no knowledge of what Silicon Valley even was. It was still early days, mid-80s. Andy had this amazing technical assistant that was kind of like a fast track job for really, really excellent guys. This man was named Dennis Carter and he became my teacher, my mentor, and taught me everything I know about marketing. Between him and Andy who, despite his incredible technical leadership, was also a very good marketer, and he had a knack for marketing.

But my professional life really was changed by Dennis Carter who was a brilliant engineer, a Harvard MBA, and just an incredibly prescient guy who came up within Intel inside, who really decided that we could indeed market microprocessors to the public, which seemed like such a crazy idea at the time. He and I and a very small team, probably five of us, started the work on that back in the late 80s. Through a lot of hard work, a lot of analysis—he was very early into measuring every single thing we did—and with a lot of creativity, we actually pulled it off.

Drew Neisser: No, it’s an amazing story. When you think of ingredient brands, Intel is the poster child. That and the “bump bump bump bump!” and the fact that you got co-op dollars to make that work just made it so much easier for your partners to push your brand, which is incredible.

Ann Lewnes: Yeah, that sound has a lot of meaning to me personally because I worked on the sound. Funny story, the guy who I worked with it on was in LA and I was in Santa Clara, California, and we partnered and I never met him. The whole sound was done on the phone back and forth. Eventually, I met him, but when we debuted it, I had never even met him in person.

Drew Neisser: That’s amazing. Well, today, because of Zoom and all the other ways of communicating, you can work with people for years without meeting them, but this was a few years back. You mentioned the MBA—I know you were a Lehigh undergrad; you never got an MBA. Any regrets not getting a Master’s?

Ann Lewnes: Absolutely not. At the time that I actually met Dennis Carter, I was about to go back and get my MBA because I had started in communications at Intel, I had worked four years, and I really wanted to get into marketing. I thought the best way for me to do that is to go back to school, and Dennis was the one who actually told me to take a pause and he said, “I’m going to put you on this project with me,” which ultimately became Intel inside, “Try it for six months. If it doesn’t work out, go to business school. If we can get something going, then maybe you’ll decide otherwise.”

Of course, it did take off and, as I said, literally I learned everything because I learned right from being with him and him teaching me. I studied a lot on my own as well and got to work with some amazing academics as well as others in the industry. I felt like I never missed it.

Drew Neisser: There you go, and you were named as one of the world’s most influential CMOs this last year, so Greg asked, “poppycock, or deserved?”

Ann Lewnes: Well, I don’t know. I try to be humble. I think we’ve done some extraordinary things at both companies that I’ve been at. I’ve been fortunate to hit them both at a good time. Intel just as it was really growing and the PC revolution was occurring, and Adobe just as the entire world started to want to become creative, and want to measure the impact of marketing and what was going on in other digital channels.

I attribute it a lot to my good timing, but also, to the amazing leadership of Andy Grove and then of Shantanu Narayen, my current boss, a great team both at the executive level as well as the teams that I’ve been blessed to be able to put together at both companies. I’ve stayed at both companies an incredibly long time from a tech perspective. I was at Intel 20 years and I’ve been at Adobe over 13 years, so I’m really happy. People ask me, “Wow! Don’t you want to move on?” and I say no because there’s still so much to do. It’s been great.

Drew Neisser: Yeah, it’s funny. Greg says, “13 years as a CMO, you are ruining Spencer Stewart’s CMO tenure slide.” How long for a CMO to stay in the chair?

Ann Lewnes: I know. I’ve gone against all odds at both companies. I think it’s just, when a company is undergoing great growth, when you have great people, when you have great products, and when you continue to be challenged, why leave?

Drew Neisser: Well, and boy, you’ve got some new challenges, which we’re going to talk about in a second, but before we get there, just the one comment. I’ve yet to meet a successful CMO who doesn’t praise their CEO and that just seems to be the best thing a CMO can do, pick their CEO. This just seems to be no doubt that you really can’t succeed without a great one. You’ve been on the Mattel board for a few years, how has that made you a better executive?

Ann Lewnes: Oh, I think that’s been one of the best experiences for me. Mattel is the first public board I’ve ever been on, I’ve been on a lot of nonprofit boards, but it’s a new level of responsibility and accountability. It’s also very interesting, in that I’m a doer and I’m pretty hands-on when I’m at my day job. As a board member, you really have to learn how to be more of a counselor but somewhat detached because you’re overseeing the management of the company.

Providing guidance, providing counsel, but not day-to-day hands-on is something that, frankly, is very different than the way I typically operate. I’ve had to learn how to do that. It’s, I think, a very different skill than I might have expected, but I think it’s very important, actually, for executives to try to be on a board  even if it’s a nonprofit board. I think operating in that capacity teaches you how to be more of a counselor and how to look at things more objectively.

Drew Neisser: Yeah, it’s really interesting and that is the biggest complaint of putting CMOs on boards, it’s that they think they’re still in the job. Nope. You’ve got to step above that, ask good questions, and it really speaks to the leadership requirements of the job as opposed to the executional requirements of the job.

Ann Lewnes: Exactly.

Drew Neisser: That’s excellent. All right. Well look—let’s take a quick break, and when we come back, I have lots more questions for you. And Greg Welch, I hope your ears are burning. We’ll be right back.


Drew Neisser: We’re back, and my guest is Ann Lewnes who is the executive vice president and CMO at Adobe. Now, when CMO.com started in 2010, my agency was preaching something that we called “marketing as service,” the idea being that marketing could be more than just annoying pollution. At that point, advertising was still what most people thought of as marketing, but instead provide genuine value. Now, nine years later, CMO is still, as far as I’m concerned, the poster child for marketing aa service. How has your thinking about this property evolved over the years?

Ann Lewnes: CMO.com is really a sleeper. I think it’s one of probably the best things that we do from a thought leadership perspective, and—just a little history, that was a property that we acquired when we acquired Omniture, the web analytics company, back in 2009. I think, first of all, it’s a priceless URL, so we were excited to dig in there, and I think our real objective with it was to be pure thought leadership.

It was not an Adobe property. It was intended to really educate a community of CMOs about hot topics, about things they should be thinking about. For, I would say, the longest time, people had no idea it was even an Adobe property, which you may or may not think is good from a marketing perspective. But I think it’s drawn an audience that are senior-level marketers, I think we really tried very hard to provide guidance and help people understand the key issues that they should be thinking about. It’s a very popular property, and obviously we’re very excited about continuing to do it.

Drew Neisser: Well, it’s interesting because I think when you initially bought it, your target was not necessarily chief marketing officers, that was certainly part of it, but now…

Ann Lewnes: It was aspirational.

Drew Neisser: Yes, it was. To say that Adobe has been on an acquisition spree might be the understatement of the decade. First, Marketo, and just for the record, two of Marketo’s CMOs have been on the show. And then, Magento, who was a client of ours before the acquisition. Please say hi to Miss Ward for me. This must have created some brand challenges for you. How do you even tackle the integration of two big brands like this, especially ones that, because I personal experience with them, have such devoted user communities?

Ann Lewnes: We have done quite a few acquisitions in the past ten years, and I would say, as a company, we’re pretty good at it in that we work really hard with the companies to ensure that they are bringing the best of their company and we’re helping them as much as we can while not in any way compromising their success. From a marketing perspective, it’s always challenging, especially when you have brands that have a lot of equity, as both Marketo and Magento do.

The second we acquire a company, we actually go out and talk to all the customers of that company, and we find out what are the things that are really important to them? How do they feel about this acquisition? I would say, in both cases unanimously, people loved Magento and Marketo, but they were happy. They were happy that Adobe was actually going to be partnering with them and so, when we see that, we try to celebrate all the good things about the companies, but slowly bring them into the fold. One good example is this year at our Adobe Summit, which is our big conference about digital experiences, we decided to bring the marketing nation, which is Marketo’s annual show, into the fold.

The first two days were Adobe Summit, and the third day was Marketing Nation. What we did was, we invited all the Marketing Nation people to the first two days of Adobe Summit. A lot of them came, and a bunch of people who were at Adobe Summit stayed an extra day and went to Marketing Nation because the crossover between the audiences is tremendous. We’re trying as much as we can to integrate those things that make sense, and the rest of this stuff will integrate over time.

Drew Neisser: Do you see Adobe as a branded house, or a house of brands?

Ann Lewnes: I would say it’s a branded house because we do, of course, have extremely powerful brands like Photoshop and PDF, but we absolutely have equity in Adobe and, in fact, we do a lot of brand research and we have permission to enter pretty much any category in the space of software because people feel very strongly about Adobe’s trust, high-quality products, and they feel a kinship with us because there are a number of products they’ve been using their entire lives. I think we have very powerful brands. Our goal is definitely to have Adobe be the lead brand that people think of, and we work to try and associate, as much as we can, the products with the brand.

Drew Neisser: It’s interesting, I mean, I can see that very much with Marketo. Magento is interesting in that you had this whole developer community and the open-source and, you know, that world. It’s funny I did an interview with the CMO of Red Hat and many of the characteristics of his user community, because it was open-source, felt very similar. That is different than your typical Adobe user.

Ann Lewnes: It is.

Drew Neisser: That’s got an interesting little part of it. How do you make sure that we keep those people in the fold?

Ann Lewnes: That’s a really good point. The Magento developer community is huge. It’s 300,000 plus, and that’s not traditionally a big audience for Adobe. I mean, we have developer communities, but that’s an incredibly robust community, and you have to work really hard to make them happy. In a few weeks, we’ll be having the Magento Imagine conference, and that’s where the developers come in droves. We have a whole plan for how we’re going to continue to keep them happy and engaged. But you’re absolutely right. It is a different audience and they have different requirements.

Drew Neisser: Interesting. I could call you a marketing technology company, a software company, but because you now have all of these tools, do you need to make sure that your marketing leads by example? Can you be your best-case history?

Ann Lewnes: Oh, completely. I was invited to speak at the ANA about, I don’t know, maybe eight years ago, and I went up there and I talked about how I felt that if people didn’t move to digital, they would be dead. I made a challenge to Bob Pleiades at the time, and I said, “Bob, listen to me now. I’m telling you that digital is the way to go.” I think there were a lot of naysayers, and I would add that I was never invited back to speak there again, but I felt like we really needed to be the pioneers because our products are the ones that were going to enable digital marketing to really happen.

My team at Adobe is called “Customer Zero,” it’s kind of like Patient Zero. We use all of our creative products. We use, obviously, Acrobat, and we use all of the Experience Cloud products on a daily basis and we stress test them. We’re best in class. When we need more features, we go to the product team and we say, “Hey, can you add this?” When we’re unhappy with something, we give them our feedback and they really work hard to try and satisfy us because we are a tough customer.

I think that’s been key to our success—the fact that we can get the tech very early, we believe in training, we believe that our customers need to be fully equipped and well served because our products are professional products. They’re not always easy to use, especially in the Experience Cloud space, so we need to provide a lot of support to our customers, but we pride ourselves on really being at the bleeding edge. I would say 25% of my job is talking to peers and fellow customers about the experience that we’ve had moving 100% over to digital. They’re interested not just in the technology, because that’s not my area of expertise, but rather, the processes and the types of people, so talent, etc. Those are the conversations that I’m really having.

Drew Neisser: Yeah. And now with Marketo, I imagine that even upped it more. I mean, that was one thing that I’ve always admired. I went to Marketo Nation several times and they were really good at using their own tool to market Marketo. Now do you dovetail that into everything you were doing with Adobe in general?

Ann Lewnes: We’re so happy that we acquired Marketo. It’s gonna be a total game-changer for us in our B2B marketing efforts here. We were not using it and really wanted to, so we’re actually right now in the process of the implementation and we’re accelerating it as much as we can because it is really a fantastic product when you are doing B2B marketing. We’re super excited about that acquisition.

Drew Neisser: Well, the good news is that you have some of the experts on it, so you might be able to make that work for you. I wanted say one counterpoint because I think it was interesting in your interview with Jennifer Rooney at Forbes, the one thing you mentioned that struck me, because we could spend our whole time talking about digital marketing, but you mentioned your surprise at how effective events were than you initially expected. What changed your mind in terms of events? They’re so not digital.

Ann Lewnes: Exactly. When I first came to Adobe, we were not doing very much digital marketing, which was shocking to me because I think we were doing much more at Intel. When I looked into the ratios of how we were spending our money, events was a huge percentage. I said, “We’ve got to stop doing all these events. I don’t understand how we cannot be doing more digital marketing” and so we really pivoted a lot of the dollars to events. Over time, it became so clear to me that events are the way people actually really still commune.

If you are a web analyst, if you are a graphic designer, you want to be with your people. I think that live element of seeing the tech as we introduce it, of being with fellow designers or fellow analysts, is visceral. Our events have grown every year 20%, year over year. We just had Summit, we had 17,000 people live and the buzz, and we’re busting out of every venue that we have gone to, but the vibe at these shows is unbelievable. They accelerate business, they get people super energized about the company. We also had 800,000 people do streams of it, which is extraordinary. The same thing is happening in the creative space, so I think that blend of offline events and online events and getting that ratio exactly right is what we’re really striving for, but we’re investing more than we ever have in events. I was surprised, but now I’ve seen it for so many years that I know that it works.

Drew Neisser: Well, if you approach sees the way Salesforce does with Dreamforce, these become revenue machines too, which is even more amazing. This world of highly digital personal interactions is this ying and yang that I keep hearing and I think it’s really a great place for us to pause because we’re gonna then move on to the future forward looking thinking about marketing that Ann and a co-writer professor have done. Stay with us, we’ll be right back.


Drew Neisser: Now, we don’t have time to cover all ten, but let’s start with the one that you think will surprise most CMOs.

Ann Lewnes: First of all, I want to do a call out for Kevin Keller because he and I have known each other for probably 20 years and he did one of the big cases on Intel Inside. Then, five years ago, he was the head of the Advertising Research Foundation, and he asked me if I would do a little talk at one of their conferences. I wrote this talk about the five top principles of modern marketing. Five years later, he came back and he said, “Hey, what do you think about doing one together, five years later, and we’ll do the ten modern tenants of marketing?” That’s how the whole thing came to pass.

Drew Neisser: Oh, that’s great.

Ann Lewnes: I would say, for the listeners, one of the most important things is the blend of creativity and data. I know that people ask, it’s the eternal question—does data kill creativity? The answer is an absolute no because I’ve never met a creative that doesn’t want to know how their work is being perceived. I’ve never met an analyst that doesn’t want to see the creative work harder. I think that’s one of the things that I always encourage my peers to think about—don’t go off and do these two things completely in silos. The magic happens when they’re brought together and I think that’s what we’ve done at Adobe that’s really worked. We have side-by-side analysts working with creatives and brand marketers, and I think that’s really what has made it work here.

Drew Neisser: It’s interesting, I mean, I am a big fan of data. What I think has happened for a lot of marketers is that they are buried in data, so I’m working on my second book and really trying to find some very simple, they’re compound metrics, but their simple: one for customers, one for employees and one for prospects and leads where you are. You could have a dashboard, particularly with all your tools, with hundreds of metrics. How do you help folks figure out which data is right, is the good data?

Ann Lewnes: You’ve hit the nail on the head. People are all now inundated with data and it took us years, quite frankly, to figure out what are the key KPI’s that we should be tracking that are the ones that really are driving the business because not everything is going to help you. We have come up with a model, we call it the data-driven operating model, and in fact, we talked a lot about it at our recent summit. It’s basically a funnel, but it’s a lifetime funnel for each of our customers. There are different phases of the journey starting from discover, which is acquisition, all the way through try, which is, for us, downloading a software trial. Then we get you to buy, then we want you to engage with the product, and then we have renewal. At each phase of that journey, we have different people accountable.

The discover acquisition phase, that’s my team. The trial phase, we get you to the trial, and then the product team actually has to have you effectively try the product. The buy phase moves to the e-Commerce team, then the product’s engagement phase, that’s back to the product team, and there are KPIs for that, and then renewal has its own KPIs. Each and every phase has its own team and we meet weekly to look at the KPIs for each of those. If you’re not on track with your particular phase, the rest of the team actually is on you because they’re looking at your phase as critical to the next phase. We don’t have a lot of metrics. We have probably ten metrics in each category that are the ones that are the most critical, but now, that accountability, that level of discipline, accountability, and really honing in on the key metrics—that’s totally changed the way we do business.

Drew Neisser: Interesting. The fact that, one, you have groups that are assigned in these areas, so it’s always like something isn’t important unless you have somebody assigned to it. The fact that there is this group accountability—because the classic optimization is, say like a cost per acquisition as an optimization, or a cost per click, which is just a terrible metric. But even CPA, because there are lots of times you acquire because you lowered your price, you can make those numbers, so the fact that there’s this group accountability across this journey, I think is really an interesting area. One of the things that’s so hard and intangible, but you feel it when you don’t have it, and that’s brand, brand value, brand health, and the folks like at Boeing and say, Wells Fargo, right now have watched their brand value decline tremendously and they face this uphill battle of earning trust. Where does that fit in your metrics model?

Ann Lewnes: I would start out by saying that every company at some point in their history has challenges, and both Intel and Adobe, during my tenure there, have had their challenges. I think one of the key things that you always have to be tracking is how your customers perceive your brand. At Adobe, we are so customer forward, I mean, we lean in and we have very strong communities, very vocal communities that we’re constantly talking to literally every single day. We have people from the product groups, people from the marketing groups, people from support who are engaged with customers on a daily basis, we aggregate all these learnings back to data that matters. That’s the most important data we have, which is customer sentiment about everything possible. You need to be that connected to your customer to have a pulse on how they’re feeling. We also do brand tracking studies, but I think really the most important thing that we do is staying in constant touch with the community of customers to know how they’re feeling about us.

Drew Neisser: Yeah, you just can’t do that enough. I’m interested in that lots of folks sort of default to Net Promoter as a metric there. What’s your feeling about that right now?

Ann Lewnes: I think Net Promoter is a very good metric. We look at it across the board, and in fact, I think we’re using it really in an advanced way in that we’re tracking it by product, and we have a lot of products. I’m all for it. I think we use a number of other metrics as well, whether they’re around customer support, uptime in a technology business, we have a lot of things that are system uptime and things like that are also critical metrics for success. But, for instance, in the Creative Cloud, we look at engagement metrics. Have you downloaded a product? Are you using the product? Those are really important to us because if you’re not using a software product, you’re not going to renew. We look at a whole slew of metrics, not too many, but we call them “high-value actions,” things that we believe are actually triggers for either a purchase or a renewal, and those are really important to track.

Drew Neisser: I imagine the high-value inactions or those sort of, “Uh oh! If they haven’t downloaded it, we’d better get on that case because there’s a renewal that’s not going to happen. You talked about this new type of customer relationship. Where are marketers coming up short in this area?

Ann Lewnes: In the technology business, I will say it’s a little bit simpler because we do have very engaged customers from a digital perspective. They’re online and they are letting you know what they think pretty frequently. I would say it’s important to figure out, again, what the high-value conversations you can have with your customer are. One thing that we’ve done very effectively is co-create with our community. This isn’t going to always be applicable across all industries, but I’ll give you a couple of examples.

Our community and creative community love to make things, and they love to show off the things they make. We give them weekly challenges to show off their work. We’ll post a social challenge—we just did one with actor and now director Zach Braff—where we asked folks in our community, “Design a poster, and Zach Braff is going to pick the best poster and make a short film about it.” We got thousands of amazing submissions from people who want to show off their work and then we pick a winner, and that person actually got to work with Zach Braff on a film.

Drew Neisser: How cool is that?

Ann Lewnes: Yeah! In the Experience Cloud business we do something called “Hack the Bracket” with analytics customers, and that’s, again, something that’s enormously successful because customers get so engaged, and the community gets to see all these really excited customers. I think there are ways that every company can look to engage their customers in a very deep and meaningful way, and that’s what I encourage people to do.

Drew Neisser: Well, and it makes a lot of sense because, in your case, that just gives you all sorts of content that you can then use for all your social and marketing.

Ann Lewnes: Exactly. We amplify all that content.

Drew Neisser: Which is awesome. What I love about it—lots of people run photo contests or contests, but what they don’t do is create it in such a way that is, “Wow, that’s cool,” where the prize feels fresh. Having Zach Braff make a movie about a poster is kind of a cool idea and it’s not your cookie-cutter photo contest.

Ann Lewnes: No, and there are endless challenges. We’re doing one now with a very cool young female musician named Billy Eilish, and that’s a totally different segment because this is gonna be a much younger audience that wants to engage in that activity. We’re doing them literally every week.

Drew Neisser: Wow. Now I know we’re going to be running out of time, but we haven’t talked about, and this is one of the things that I’m really zeroing in on for marketers as they look at the big picture—we haven’t talked at all about the role that marketing can play with employee engagement. I’m just curious about your perspective, because a lot of times when you talk to CMOs they’ll say, “Well, I can’t really touch that because HR says, “I got this,” and that’s a quote. I feel like the CMO has to get employees onboard one way or another and believe in the mission or purpose of the organization. Can you speak to that? Am I all wet, or is employee engagement an important part of the way you think about your role?

Ann Lewnes: Employee engagement is a huge part of what I think about and, in fact, the Employee Communications Group reports into me. They are in lockstep with our People and Places organization and I am in lockstep with the head of that organization. From a recruitment perspective, your brand is so important. From a satisfaction perspective, your brand is so important.

Our employees are 20,000 employees, they’re the biggest brand evangelists that we have. We want them to be out there, excited about the company. We have a very progressive set of activities that we have been investing in. Whether it’s very generous family leave policies, we just accomplished worldwide gender pay parity, which is very very unique, especially in the tech space. We really celebrate these progressive policies, and our employees, as a result, are very happy. I think brand and people work hand-in-hand.

Drew Neisser: Can you articulate Adobe’s purpose?

Ann Lewnes: Our purpose is pretty simple and very grand. It is to change the world through digital experiences. About ten years ago, when we first came up with it, it was very aspirational. I think we’ve actually grown into it, and it’s not just about enabling people to create and to use data effectively. It’s about how they do it. At Adobe, it’s not just the what, it’s the how. That’s one of our internal slogans. How we do things is as important as what we actually accomplish. We’re good people and in the technology category, we’re known as being a really kind company. That’s not always the case with a lot of other tech companies, so we pride ourselves on it. We have a very aspirational mission, but I think we’ve done a pretty good job of making it happen.

Drew Neisser: I love the fact that you grew into your purpose, and that should be inspiring to a lot of companies who are thinking about their purpose and trying to decide and they look at it and if they define it in terms of what they are today, they may be limiting their vision, if you will, for the organization. What a great, yeah, let’s change the world. I want to work for that company. Why wouldn’t you? As we wrap this episode up, I wonder if there are one or two things that you wish you knew as CMO ten years ago that you know now?

Ann Lewnes: That’s such a good question. I think, you know, a long time ago, one of my first bosses told me, “Ann, you can’t go to the mat for everything,” and that’s been a life lesson for me because I’m super passionate and I always want to go and do the most extreme thing. Related to that, my current boss Shantanu Narayen said, “There are flag planters in the world, and there are road builders. Ann, you’re a flag planter.” I think that really is very related to not going to the mat for everything, but I feel probably that my role has been to look out into the future, maybe make a crazy bet on digital marketing, and then be able to inspire the people around me, amass an incredible team, and try and get them there. I think that’s what I’ve learned.

Drew Neisser: Perfect. What a great place to wrap up. We will link to the article in the show notes, but one of the things that really struck me as we think about it is just the need for thinking big in all of this. It’s so often forgotten. Let’s go out there and plant some really big flags. Maybe you don’t win all the little skirmishes, but let’s go for those big flags. Ann, thank you so much for being on the show.

Ann Lewnes: Thank you, Drew. It was super fun.

Drew Neisser: And to all the listeners, I hope you enjoyed this episode. As always, until next time, keep those Renegade Thinking Caps on and strong.

Quotes from Ann Lewnes

One of my first bosses told me, "Ann, you can't go the mat for everything." That's been kind of a life lesson for me.
My role has been to look out into the future, maybe make a crazy bet on digital marketing, and then be able to inspire the people around me, amass an incredible team, and try and get them there.