Empowering Data-Driven Creativity: Adobe Summit Day 2

If the first day of the Adobe Digital Summit was about the need to become a business that’s fully centered on creating powerful experiences, the second day was about how to actually make that happen.

Vice President of Development and Business Strategy Jon Mellor threw down the gauntlet during the two hour general session:

Data alone is insufficient. In fact I’d say that data alone is useless until we can wrap context and meaning around it. It can be sterile. It’s not emotional. Our job is to transform that data with content into experiences that have meaning.

Most of the marketers in the crowd were on board with this idea, but transforming organizations that aren’t currently customer-centric or experience-centric is a pretty big task. Jon said he feels our pain:

How do we get our organizations on board? Just show them the data! But we all know it’s not that easy. We have to take the data and turn it into stories, because stories evoke emotion, and emotion drives change.

The next two hours were a parade of people who are experts at harnessing both data AND storytelling to do something amazing. If you’re looking for something compelling to push your marketing team to the next level, their inspirational examples may be just what you need.

It’s time to be boldly creative in a world driven by data.

adobe summit flowers

Marketers Speak Their Own Story

Throughout the week Adobe sent out requests for the audience to answer some questions about their jobs in marketing.

Jon showed the results during his talk, and they were fascinating:

how marketers feel about marketing

In case it doesn’t come through clearly in my photo, the questions and results were:

Which best reflects your digital marketing skills?

  • Rookie: 27%
  • I’ve got skills: 43%
  • All-Star: 30%

How quickly does your organization adapt to the pace of digital marketing?

  • We’re lost: 20%
  • Slow n’ steady: 43%
  • Lightning fast: 37%

How do you feel about your future in digital marketing?

  • Help, please: 25%
  • It’s just a job: 21%
  • Tears of joy: 55%

There’s good solid data there (over 2,000 people responded), but there’s also a story about how modern marketers feel about our industry.

We’ve got skills, we’re adapting slowly but steadily, and we’re so passionate about our careers that we’re overwhelmingly crying tears of joy.

As Jon put it:

It’s a story that says we’re anxious, but we’re excited. We know we’re on the cusp of incredible transformation, but we don’t yet know if we’re prepared. We have challenges getting our organizations up to speed and developing our own skills. But we’re not just optimistic, we’re crying tears of joy. That’s the story of this data.

And now, the people who came to show us how they do it, and to hopefully help us feel more prepared:

  • Richard Dickson, the Chief Operating Officer of Mattel
  • Abby Wambach, one of the greatest soccer players in history
  • Alma Derricks, Chief Marketing Officer of Cirque du Soleil

What We Can Learn From Mattel’s Reinvention

Mattel has been around for decades, and it got its start as groundbreaking, innovative group of hyper-creative visionaries.

They rode their ideas into a powerful position in millions of kids’ lives on the back of brands like Barbie, Hot Wheels, and Fisher Price.

And then, things took a turn for the worse.

Challenges of New Competitors

As Richard put it, the nature of play changed. All of sudden they weren’t just competing with toy companies anymore. They had to start competing with technology companies, entertainment companies, and learning media of all kinds.

challenges of mattel

Rather than sticking with the culture of innovation to stay competitive, however, Richard said that Mattel, “repeated what working instead of fearing the status quo. We mistook acting creative for being creative.”

Despite slipping sales and tanking brand loyalty, Mattel wasn’t ready to exit the fight. They realized that, “in order to find the way forward, you have to understand what made you special in the first place”

The obvious place to start was the Barbie brand.

Transforming an Iconic Brand

Although her brand had lost some of its early luster, Richard said the Mattel team knew, “there was purpose and empowerment inherent in her DNA. The challenge was making them relevant to girls today.”

So that’s what they set out to do.

Mattel gave Barbie:

  • A wide variety of hair textures
  • Multiple colors of skin
  • New petite, tall, and curvy body types
  • A flexible foot that freed her from high heels
  • The voice that girls were asking for with Hello Barbie

The changes won Mattel tons of media coverage, and a statistically clear change in perception by moms and daughters.

Having figured out how to reinvent one of their brands, Mattel is moving on to the rest using Barbie’s wins as a roadmap:

the reinvention roadmap

What to Do AFTER You’re the Greatest of All Time

Abby Wambach retired from soccer in 2015 as the highest all-time goal scorer for the US national team and the world record holder for international goals among both female and male soccer players. She was also named one of Time magazine’s most 100 most influential people in the world.

And now, she’s ready to change the world.

Seriously. That’s her new goal.

Although not a marketer herself, Abby offered great insights for those of us who are looking for something to drive us as individuals:

You came from somewhere, whether you’re a CEO or you just started, you came from somewhere. Those are the things that propel you.

The process is so important, more so than the outcome. Let the outcome come from the hard work that you put into the process.

Figure out what can push you to the next level. Make the choice to be great. Abby’s here to show you how.

Marketing When Conventional Isn’t An Option

And finally, we heard from Alma Derricks, the CMO of Cirque du Soleil. She has to try and fill tens of thousands of seats in one of the most crowded markets in the world, and conventional is rarely an option.

If you’ve ever been to a Cirque du Soleil show, you know they’ve got the entertainment part down. According to Alma, however, “where we are challenged in some ways is what happens beyond the footlights.”

Audiences want a connection with the “behind the scenes” version of the shows. They want to feel like they know the performers and the creative geniuses who bring them to life every night.

For Alma, “the most radical thing we can do is being more intimate by being closer to audiences, bringing them behind the curtain.”

With new training classes called Spark Sessions and plans for multi-day workshops to transfer the performers’ knowledge to a new generation of athletes, Cirque is working hard to forge these connections.

Although the typical “blocking and tackling” of marketing in Las Vegas still has to be done, Alma says it’s these opportunities to veer off the beaten path that will be a vital part of Cirque’s success in the coming years.

What Will You Transform?

Las Vegas was a great setting for these transformative, inspirational stories. What will you make magical in your marketing this year? Share with us in the comments!

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Andrea Fryrear
About the Author:

Andrea Fryrear

Andrea loves to dissect marketing buzzwords and fads looking for the pearls of wisdom at their cores. Her favorite topic is agile marketing, which she believes holds the key to a more fulfilling (and less stressful) marketing career for individuals and a more powerful marketing department for business. When not scrutinizing the latest agile methodologies, Andrea can be found on the volleyball court, at the park with her two delightful kids, or baking “calorie-free” cookies. Connect with her on Twitter @AndreaFryrear, or on LinkedIn.

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