Adobe Summit 2019: Observations and Predictions

May 15, 2019 Eric Hollebone

A photo of the stage at the Adobe Summit 2019 showing a dramatic backdrop with the word "Summit" in 10-foot letters.

I have attended Marketo’s Summit for the last eight years and been a customer/consultant for over eleven. Over that period I have watched how our marketing community has come together and grown. Of course, this year was going to be different. It’s Adobe’s Summit now, so we as the Marketo family and the Marketing Nation have opportunities to grow in new directions.

I have been to many other conferences and events over the years, but none has hit the mark like this one in terms of focusing on marketing and marketing technology as a valuable endeavor. That being said, this year I came away with seven takeaways and predictions worth sharing.

#1: Confessions of a long-time Marketing Nation Summit attendee

We, as the Marketing Nation, were accustomed to Summits being about us, the B2B marketing tribe and focused on our needs, our desires, and our dreams for the product and how we use it every day. We were a school of fish in a small pond, but it was a pond where we knew everybody.

By joining Adobe, the Marketing Nation moves from the pond to the ocean and where we were siloed in the B2B space, our voices have become a part of the larger discussion around broader business objectives. In a way, the Marketo acquisition comes at the perfect time in marketing’s evolution, as marketers break out of their silos and become champions of the customer voice across the organization. Part of the challenge becomes how do we keep the Marketing Nation culture as the community expands.

As we move into the future, I am impressed with Adobe’s commitment to the Marketo community—the advocacy programs have never been better acknowledged and run than they have been this year. Through the user group leaders, the Champion and the reformed Champion Alumni programs, Adobe created a welcoming home for our passions and outlets.

And although not expressly named, the detailed product roadmap was still there, sprinkled across many sessions. One of the ones I would recommend to view was by Badsah Mukherji and W109 The Science behind the Art of Marketing. The two principal product managers discussed immediate and long-term feature plans. The themes included predictive audiences and events using artificial intelligence, platform performance improvements, and integration enhancements with MS Dynamics, Salesforce, and Adobe Exchange.

#2: Digital transformation through customer experience

Sometimes you’re ahead of the curve. It can be a great place to be, but also a bit lonely. At DemandLab, we have been thinking and talking about digital transformation for over two years. In fact, we are so passionate about this subject and how it applies to marketing, we wrote Change Agents: The radical role for Tomorrow’s CMO (in late 2017) as a guide to marketing leaders on how to lean into change and become the voice of the customer at the executive table. Just recently, we have added a step-by-step Playbook as a structured framework with downloadable templates to get marketing leaders started.

Change Agents was written to provide marketers with the tools needed to lead their organizations to success in a customer centric-world.

At Summit, we were excited to hear similar themes echoed throughout the keynotes and breakout sessions about how it’s marketing’s time to lead, how important it is for the CMO and the CIO to connect and collaborate, and how critical technology and data will be to the empowerment of customer experiences and journeys. During the engaging discussion around The Changing Role of the CIO at the Intersection of IT and Marketing, CIO’s from Accenture, Intuit, and Forbes agreed that they need to be experts in the industries they serve (just as marketers must do), and that properly leveraging data is a “gift back to the customer.”

#3: B2B and B2C convergence is here

As marketing has evolved, there really is no firm definitions of B2C and B2B camps any more; both groups have started to blend and borrow techniques from the other. This was one of the major themes—that we are all marketers at the end of the day and that we are working on a continuous spectrum with B2B at one end and B2C on the other. In his session titled The Convergence of B2B and B2C Buying Journeys, Forrester Analyst Steven Casey observed that the business and consumer purchasing journeys are more similar than different and becoming closer each year – with the most overlap in medium complexity sales. His overarching recommendation was to create as frictionless of a buying experience as possible. In other words, help the buyer buy.

#4: Millennials are the new growth drivers

There is a new wave of energy in marketing technology. I was excited to see the next generation is picking up the challenges of our craft. This trend has been building for a while and it is a good time to acknowledge that the millennial generation is now in the driver’s seat of marketing technology. They are the influencers, the key members of the buying groups and the solution implementers. As with all good marketing, you need to be smart and aware of how generational trends affect decision making and choice. Adobe understands how important the millennial segment is and even invested in a “Back to the 90’s: A Digital Marketing Simulator” interactive booth in the expo floor to target them directly.

In the q & a portion of Nnamdi Nwoke’s session “Your CMO Job Awaits: Leadership, Empathy, and Fearlessness” the senior demand gen director at GreenSky advised millennials to be open to learning from those with more experience but also be fearless in working toward your dreams.

#5: One piece of the strategy is missing

Adobe has created one of the most comprehensive marketing platforms in the marketplace to date. With the acquisition of both Marketo and Magento, Adobe has entrenched itself as the marketing technology leader. I am looking forward to reviewing this year’s Gartner and Forrester analysis of the marketing technology space and their outlook for the future.

Yet one piece of the puzzle is missing for me and that is customer relationship management (CRM). CRM is the nexus where, as marketers, we collect customer touchpoints by combining the anonymous visitor tracking through to individuals. It’s through this lens that we craft the customer journey and build our marketing efforts to drive the “what next” action.

In our customer journeys and CRMs, there are always issues with data. In B2B, the basis for most customer data and tracking interactions has been mostly human-based and thus subject to all the problems humans bring: accuracy, timeliness, and completeness. We are dependent on what sales and customer success people hear and record.

This may sound crazy, but by circumventing or machine-assisting the human element of data entry into the CRM could power a new wave of productivity. There were exciting hints in the keynotes of more to come on this subject. I could be over-reaching but it seems like Adobe might be laying a foundation to do CRM differently.

#6: A great piece of marketing

I don’t normally comment on marketing ideas, but this year I heard and witnessed a beautiful piece of marketing. I would like to give a shout out to Steve Lucas and the Marketo marketing team for excellently crafting an analogy from The Matrix of the red pill versus the blue pill with the not-so-subtle implied context based upon corporate colors. It was a well-crafted and perfectly positioned idea

Video starts at the 12:52 mark Marketo Vision – Adobe SVP, Digital Experience, Steve Lucas with Drift CEO David Cancel and St. Andrews University Professor Juli James

#7: Takeaways, possibilities, and predictions

At each summit, I like to reflect on what I heard and combine the thoughts into where I think the marketing technology space is going.

Identity Marketing key to our future.
I think future business growth and revenue will be firmly linked to understanding who we are as visitors, prospects, customers, and advocates through what I am starting to call Identity Marketing.

My definition of Identity Marketing has evolved into a strategy to develop, test, validate and implement ideal customer profiles (ICPs) into customer journeys, execute marketing efforts to persuade people to their next action augmented further with buying groups and account-based experiences (ABX) to create additional layers of context to open up additional conversational avenues

That’s a bit of a mouthful, but it is really saying that the figuring out a visitor’s identity is complex and will require a comprehensive approach to rationalize our target’s identity information. Why do this? We need to combine all the input sources, link the information t a single record so we can use that information to hyper-personalize our efforts back on multiple channels. In order to power identity marketing, we will need much cleaner and more reliable data and for the data to be better organized and accessible.

Marketo has gained the enterprise gravitas.
If market longevity and ability to scale were concerns for enterprise prospects in considering the Marketo solution, the Adobe acquisition has clearly pushed those roadblocks to the side. To borrow a phrase from Steve Lucas, Marketo has now been “super-pumped” with the financial resources, technical expertise and ability to scale specifically to address the requirements of the enterprise market.

A CRM decision is on the horizon.
I think Adobe will have to navigate a build vs buy vs partner decision around CRM. The fact is Adobe has all the pieces it needs to build its own CRM between Audience Manager, Magento, Marketo and Sensei. Additionally, it would be a very compelling argument to not be beholden to a partner’s offering and market position.

We may be saying goodbye to the Marketo brand.
This may be an unpopular prediction or even break the crystal ball for some, but I think the writing is on the wall for the formal Marketo brand. If you listened carefully to the keynotes and observed what was happening in the Adobe booths, Marketo was always referred to as Marketo Engage in the branding. This sets up the potential for a transition to just “Engage” next year.

To me, this just cements the fact that we are closing the first decade-long chapter in marketing automation as we, the Marketing Nation and now with our wider Adobe family, open the next with Adobe.


Summits are fantastic learning events and I would encourage all to go. Hope to see you all next year.


About the Author

Eric Hollebone

Eric is DemandLab's Chief Services Officer. He is a three-time Marketo Champion, a two-time Revvie Award winner, author of “Change Agents: The Radical Role of Tomorrow’s CMO,” and an early advocate of marketing automation, measurement, and analytics. Eric has experience leading all facets of global marketing and product management, including customer acquisition/retention, brand awareness/development, corporate/content marketing, product management for large public sector enterprises, early-stage ventures and private organizations.

Follow on Twitter Follow on Linkedin More Content by Eric Hollebone
Previous Article
Demandlab CEO Rhoan Morgan Recognized As One of SLMA’s “20 Women To Watch” in Business for Fourth Year
Demandlab CEO Rhoan Morgan Recognized As One of SLMA’s “20 Women To Watch” in Business for Fourth Year

Morgan was acknowledged for her role in creating a leading, award-winning consultancy

Next Article
DemandLab’s Guide to the 2019 Adobe Summit
DemandLab’s Guide to the 2019 Adobe Summit

Check out DemandLab's cheat sheet for the 2019 Adobe Summit and Marketo #MKTGNation.