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Changes, challenges, and opportunities: Q&A with Adobe’s Kevin Lindsay

“Today, product marketers need to really understand and have empathy for what our customers are trying to accomplish,” says Adobe’s Kevin Lindsay. 

As consumer behavior changes, so does marketing. The last twenty years or so have seen a number of differing approaches and new buzz-concepts, from content to personalization to account-based marketing (ABM).

Amidst all these new things to focus on, marketers can sometimes lose track of what’s important. Because in the end, everyone’s marketing a product and all organizational problems can be solved with a product.

At least that’s what Kevin Lindsay, director of product marketing and strategy for Adobe Experience Manager, thinks.

ClickZ was fortunate enough to speak with him about the state of the industry currently, where it’s heading, and how to maintain human connection in an increasingly digital world. 

Product is everything

Technically speaking, every marketer is a product marketer. Sure, some products are tangible (like a piece of software) and some are intangible (like a service), but at the end of the day, they’re all products.

You can worry about your content strategy, your email outreach sequence, and other marketing-related activities, but they’re all extraneous matters when compared to how good your product is.

If your product doesn’t solve people’s problems, then it won’t be very successful — it’s as simple as that.

That being said, what should your product actually do? There’s no one right answer; we obviously need different products for different purposes. However, if your product effectively breaks down organizational silos, you’re on to a winner.

“Products can help create those ties between different kinds of workflows and roles in the organization, from the creative all the way through to the person that executes.”

Great products break down silos and can tie an organization together. However, we’ve become so used to operating in our own departmental bubbles that sometimes we aren’t even aware of how beneficial breaking down these silos could be.

In most organizations, this manifests itself in the following way:

“Okay we’ve got this pain over here, this other business challenge over there, and we have all these different technology solutions that we can apply here and there, but we don’t know how to put it all together.”

The key for marketers (and especially product marketers) is to:

  1. Create products that do away with silos
  2. Educate consumers on the potential opportunity that this brings

Think about it for a second just how much could your organization achieve if you removed internal silos?  

Content, personalization, and customer-first

The need for personalization has long been talked about in marketing circles, but that doesn’t mean that it’s been effectively achieved.

“So we’re a retailer, and we’ve been talking personalization for about a decade. If I were to give myself a grade, I’d say we’ve probably got about a C.”

Whilst Lindsay is adamant that personalization’s potential is far from being achieved, it’s still permeated many of the modern consumer’s most-used products.

For example, it’s unthinkable to imagine going on Amazon and seeing products that are unrelated to your interests, or to switch on Netflix and see a litany of completely random shows.

The advent of AI has seen personalization efforts skyrocket and for good reason. Gartner predicts that companies who use AI to understand customer intent (for personalization efforts) stand to increase profits by 15%. 

According to Lindsay, too many marketers get stuck at the first hurdle of personalization identifying and categorizing consumers into neatly defined segments. However, that’s only one part of the overall solution:

“Without the ability to fulfill on that promise, to be able to act on the data that might tell you that a certain segment or individual acts a certain way or wants a certain thing, you’re blocked.”

Identifying different consumer segments is one thing but you need to be able to cater to them individually. There’s little point in spending time and effort figuring out each client’s needs if that has no impact on how you market to them.

With this in mind, Lindsay notes that there’s been a wider change in product marketing circles. No longer do they just talking about what their products can do, but they focus on the customer first:

“A lot of what we do in product marketing today is really understanding use cases, understanding pains and challenges, and using storytelling and customer examples to bring that to light… I remember years ago…  it was all ‘here are the features, here are the benefits’.”

We all know the importance of adopting a customer-centric approach. It’s easy to get drawn into how great your product is after all, it’s the best thing since sliced bread, right? But there’s no point harking on about x, y, or z feature if they ultimately don’t solve the customer’s pain points.

Empathy in a digital world

Creating a great product requires empathy you have to understand your customers’ troubles and their needs. Likewise, personalizing and creating great content requires empathy to articulate your customers’ troubles, and to explain how your product can solve them.

For Lindsay, this empathetic approach is a far cry from his experiences twenty years ago:

“In our case, we’re B2B, we’re selling to companies who are then selling to consumers. We need to have empathy for their end consumer and what that end consumer is trying to do, and then be able to tell the story that will help the company connect with the consumer. It’s very different today to when I first started doing product marketing a couple of decades ago.”

This approach becomes especially problematic when looking to scale. It’s impossible (especially for a company as large as Adobe) to put a human being in front of every potential customer. Without that human contact, how can you possibly take an empathetic approach?

It seems like chatbots might be the answer for marketers. In fact, their rise is so prolific that according to Usabilla, a company which builds “future-proof customer experiences,” 70% of US consumers have already used a chatbot

And, Salesforce also predicts a 136% rise in the use of chatbots amongst service organizations over the next 18 months. 

“Is it possible to humanize the digital experience using very non-human things? Like data, like AI? My position on that is that it actually is. We don’t need to have a human-looking being. How do we leverage the data / AI as much as possible to do a lot of that heavy lifting?”

Creativity and analysis pave the way for the future

“A few years ago we were saying “marketers need to be more analytical.” Now, every single one of them is coming to us with those skills… That being said, marketers need to exercise their creative muscles as well.”

Without an analytical, data-driven approach, marketers will struggle to properly fine-tune their strategy, reach their clients, and prove their ROI all of which are absolutely crucial. But without creativity, marketers won’t be able to come up with innovative new products, grab their consumers’ attention, or solve new business problems that will inevitably crop up in the future.

It might seem cliche to say, but the future of marketing lies in harnessing both of these attributes. Just as personalization and content need to go together, so analytical and creative skills should complement each other.

According to Aditya Joshi, partner at Bain & Company and head of the firm’s Marketing Excellence division, marketing nowadays requires adopting a “both-brain” approach. If done correctly, “the payoff will be marketing that is both inspiring and effective” — which is the response that we’re all after, right?  

Many thanks to Kevin for his detailed and highly thought-provoking insights. Let us know what you thought of the points raised by leaving a comment below. 

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