Alvaro del Pozo

Vice President International Marketing
“The new era requires a new level of personalisation.”
Alvaro del Pozo, Vice President International Marketing at Adobe, thinks the opportunity has never been greater for technology decision makers to design and deliver exceptional customer experiences. We asked him: what exactly is this New Era in Experience?

View: Adobe & London School of Economics research
You believe we live in a New Era in Experience. What does this era look like?
‘This shift to digital we have experienced over the past two-plus years has been unprecedented. Delivering a great customer experience across both physical and virtual is no longer just nice to have; it's a competitive requirement. Marketers, business leaders and businesses need to take stock and respond. Brands today need to get closer to the customers and the channels they use, and most significantly the experiences they expect. Importantly, customers don't rank their experiences against industry and sector. They now rank against the best experiences they ever received. This is the new bar that brands must aspire to, particularly in the digital realm.’

Would you say this was sparked by the pandemic?
‘The pandemic was a cause or a catalyst; it brought what was underneath the surface to the fore. Many of the lessons that we learned were not new. Things were accelerated, heightened to a level where there's no going back. There's no going back in the need to deliver great digital experiences. And there's also no going back to the heightened priority that your customers and their communities place on trust. In the digital economy trust is the key to sustainable successful brands.’

What does this all mean for marketing leaders?
‘It means that you have to change the culture of your organization from the top down. It means a new heightened level of connection between your people processes and your technology, so that you deliver exceptional and personal customer experiences every day, every transaction, across every channel.’

That's a hard thing to do, where do you start as a CMO?
‘Fundamentally, the new era requires a new level of personalization. It's about being able to connect with thousands of individuals in a personal manner.’
Sounds like a contradiction in terms, doesn't it?
‘Exactly. At the core, for marketers, it's a data and a content velocity challenge. So you need to stitch together all your separate data channels, you need to be able to refresh the views you have of each individual in real time, and then you need content velocity to match the insights you're gathering for each of those customers.’

You also researched that brands nowadays largely fall into three distinct categories…
Adobe partnered with the London School of Economics towards the end of 2020 to assess the profile of brands and companies that would succeed through a crisis. We wanted to see if there were defining attributes for those companies. Broadly speaking, they categorized the companies into three categories: survivors (35%), hiders (40%), and thrivers (25%). In terms of a brand response to a crisis, thrivers perfected the balance between long- and short-term remedies to the moment. With little to no reduction in spending, while focusing on market adaptation to continue growth. The key takeaway is: when faced with a crisis, they doubled down on their strategy. The latter requires you to have good strategy. Good strategy requires good leaders who are aspiring with clear strategy connected to their employees, and as a consequence to their customers. They are also aware of the front-line realities of their organization. Thrivers are defined by agility. Survivors are the opposite; unaware, uninspiring, not connected. When faced with a crisis they’ll default to short-term remedies, such as: cut spending, cut staff, reduce innovation.’

And what defines the hiders?
‘Hiders kind of sit on the fence, they don't index or have a bias towards innovation in a crisis. They'll stick to what they know best and hope that they will outlast the situation in their middle-ground position.’
Do you believe the offline era is gone?
‘No. There are limitations for brands in the online engagement with customers and communities. In some instances, particularly in some segments, you have a history and also a customer preference for being predominantly in the real world. Digital can be an extension of that. The answer is, again, personalization. A superior customer experience is a balance between offline and online.’

And trust is a key element?
‘If customers do not trust you in the real world, they definitely will not trust you in the digital world. I think that too many brands are late in coming to that realization. The digital interaction can appear removed for an organization, more removed than a physical engagement where trust is somewhat more obvious and perhaps has a greater history. But our research says that trust in the digital world matters. It also says that for millennials and Gen-Z, it’s even more importance because they primarily engage with brands online. They have a preference for a higher frequency engagement with brands online. Therefore, they associate trust predominantly with an online relationship with their brands. And they are unforgiving. 53 per cent of them will definitely walk away from a brand that does not deliver a personalized experience, which is a trust breaking situation, or misuses their data.’

What does it take for marketers to regain trust?
‘If trust was central to your engagement strategy, you had an ability to personalize, to demonstrate empathy, to create moments where you've said to your customer: I know you, I respect you, I keep your data private, I use it for to better service you. The end-user, the customer, will then be more forgiving if you make a mistake. They will actually allow you to experiment and get involved in your experimentation as well. So, trust gives you the license to innovate with your customers and to potentially make mistakes. They will forgive you. Trust comes from keeping promises throughout a relationship, from respecting data to providing meaningful experiences at each stage of the journey.’
How do you remove privacy and data use concerns?
‘Customers demand that security is a minimum. And that needs to be inherent and built into your technology as a primary deliverable. If security is breached, then trust is breached. The next level up is: my preferences. I have engaged with you, and I have told you what I like, what I don't like, what I'm interested in, what I'm not interested in, when I prefer to be contacted, when I don't, the format I prefer, the format I don't. You better respect that as well. The level after that is personalization, with the consumer saying: we have a relationship. Now it's founded on a core of privacy and preferences being honoured. Show me that you know me by personalizing my experience at every stage of the journey. Personalization at scale is achievable for most brands. What's more aspirational is turning up and delivering a truly emotional moment with your customers, demonstrating empathy.’

Adobe partnered with two major football clubs, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich, using its real-time customer data platform (CDP) to offer a great experience to fans. How did this partnership come about?
‘In my journey with Real I've discovered that they have anywhere between 600 million to a billion fans globally. They actually have more fans in Asia than they do in Europe; they’re truly a global brand. The journey with these clubs, these brands, is to extend the game time from 90 minutes to a broader engagement with their fans. How do you take that 90-minute passion and extend it beyond the game? You can imagine the technological challenges of reaching 600 million people.’

That's personalization at scale, right?
‘Yes, with the highest degree of risk as well as the highest opportunity for success and transformation. It could serve as an example to other brands as well. You are not dealing with customers; you're dealing with fans. There's a difference here. The emotional connection is different, the life-long connection must be considered and honoured. So, when you talk about personalization and you want to do it at a scale of 600 to a billion people, you cannot afford to get it wrong. And that's where I love to be.’

Isn't that the Holy Grail; to get Adobe customers to feel like Adobe fans? To have them feel the same passion for Adobe as they do for Real Madrid?
‘Exactly. And it's not just Adobe. Every customer, every brand that I deal with, they talk about the journey that we're on with Real Madrid and FC Bayern. What I'm learning from this is truly putting customers at the centre of how we operate. Because if I consider them a fan or a potential fan, as opposed to just a customer, then my emotional connection with what I need to achieve as a marketing leader is different. It's far more aspirational.’
How does it work? How can a Real Madrid fan experience true personalization through the Real Madrid app?
‘On the data side we have a real-time CDP as an enabling technology. Every engagement with your customers that transpires online, or where we can track it offline with assistance from Real Madrid, is instantly updated. This way, the next communication will recognize the journey that you've been on. The next time that I engage with you in whatever medium, on whatever journey you're on, it's relevant, it's empathetic. That's the opportunity that the enabling technology provides.’

And it uses artificial intelligence?
‘Human beings are at the centre of it. Importantly, there's a strong aided culture that understands its end-users, its history, and the history of the club. It also infuses each of those moments with all of that history, all of that creativity. The colours, the music that the fans know in that moment; it's all there. Artificial intelligence enhances that core and allows you to scale. Artificial intelligence allows you to do things at a speed that you could never do exclusively as a human enterprise.’

Are you active in the Metaverse?
‘Adobe is central to the Metaverse. At its essence, the Metaverse is about content creation. One obvious area in the Metaverse is around 3D content creation, where Adobe is a leader. We acquired a company called Substance; it's a business within Adobe that is accelerating at phenomenal speed, engaged with the leaders in Metaverse, and enabling their 3D content creation.’

What inspires you in times of crisis?
‘I'm inspired by the communities that we engage with at Adobe. There are a few examples where we've supported those communities through recent crises. For instance, when Hurricane Katrina hit the South of the US, it was catastrophic. Adobe sponsored photography students to go into those communities, and recover fragments of family photos in digital form. Photos that were lost forever could be recovered online. There's a beautiful video that show the response from the people whose treasured family photos were thought to be lost forever. I find these initiatives truly inspiring; they give me a reason to come to work.
About Alvaro del Pozo
Alvaro del Pozo is Vice President International Marketing at Adobe International where he is responsible for all facets of marketing and brand communications across Europe, Middle East, Africa, Asia Pacific, and Japan. He has built an impressive career leading marketing and sales teams over the last three decades. Before joining Adobe in 2018 he worked at Dell for just over 17 years and before that for Fujitsu Australia.

About Adobe
Adobe Inc. is an American multinational computer software company specialized in software for content creation and publication. Best known products include Photoshop, Illustrator and Acrobat Reader. The company was founded in 1982. Its revenue in 2021 was US$15.785 billion. As of 2022, Adobe has more than 26,000 employees worldwide.
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