Interbrand Thinking

40 Years of Innovation: how Adobe keeps re-inventing the future


Five Questions with Ann Lewnes, Chief Marketing Officer and Executive Vice President, Corporate Strategy & Development, Adobe

We believe there is a shift from organization-led brands to brand-led organizations where the business is the commercial manifestation of a powerful brand. How has Adobe’s brand expanded over time, and what opportunities has that presented?

As Adobe approaches its 40th anniversary, we have the opportunity to reflect on some of the most seminal moments of the company—from investing in desktop publishing with PostScript, revolutionizing imaging and creative expression with Photoshop, pioneering electronic documents with PDF, driving successful transformation to SaaS with Creative Cloud, to enabling real-time personalization at scale with Adobe Experience Platform, and now with Adobe Express, enabling an even more expansive universe of creators, small businesses, solopreneurs and students to easily and quickly bring their ideas to life.

The list goes on and is telling of how we’ve always distinguished ourselves by looking around the corner, to make transformational moves that drive the company—and the industry—forward. Above all, our track record of innovation, transformation and continuous reinvention is grounded in our purpose. Over the past four decades, our innovations have touched billions of people across the globe and empowered them to create and share their stories. That is core to our DNA and will continue to define our future growth.

We have always been committed to building a company that does the right thing by focusing on people, purpose and community. This core set of values has guided our evolution and growth, and continues to inspire our over 26,000 employees around the world to focus on inventing the future and having greater impact on the world around us.

What do you see as the biggest opportunities for brands, including Adobe, going into 2023?

For Adobe, creativity for all isn’t just a rally cry. It’s a mission, and we are committed to making it a reality. Adobe’s strategy to empower everyone to imagine and express their ideas, create the world’s best content and applications, and power and personalize experiences represents a massive market opportunity that will drive our next decade of growth.

More than 165 million people have joined the Creator Economy since 2020. The acceleration of this trend is bringing about expanded opportunities for creators to monetize their creative talents, turning their passions into new careers and businesses. According to a recent Adobe study, nearly half of non-professional creators (48%) now earn money from their creative activities.

That’s telling of how rapidly the web has become a powerful platform for creativity. Last December we launched Adobe Express, a free web and mobile design tool that draws on our decades of experience working with the creative community. Whether you’re a consumer, communicator or a creative professional, everyone needs easy-to-use, task-based solutions to quickly ideate, create and share standout content. Adobe Express put the best of Adobe’s industry-leading products like Photoshop, Illustrator, and Premiere Pro in the hands of anyone who wants to create standout content, from a quick social post, to a presentation, or a broad-reaching marketing campaign.

We’re seeing that consumers today expect exceptional digital experiences, no matter if they’re online shopping, streaming the latest show, or browsing to buy a home. Above it all, they want their experiences to have a personal touch. There’s a greater imperative on brands to deliver personalized, contextually relevant content and experiences to customers in channel-native formats at a scale than ever before. It’s now the reality every business faces.

Very few companies can claim the breadth of customers that we have – from students, to consumers, solopreneurs, creative professionals, SMBs and the world’s largest enterprises. We’re constantly looking around the corner and innovating, to help our customers deliver on what the consumer rightfully expects—an amazing experience at every turn, that’s made for them.

There’s a greater imperative on brands to deliver personalized, contextually relevant content and experiences to customers in channel-native formats at a scale than ever before.

Our Best Global Brands data suggests that brands who not only provide superb experiences but also take a leading stance on social issues are more relevant to consumers. How are you approaching this in your organization? 

We have a steadfast commitment to harnessing the best of Adobe — our people, platform, creativity and innovation — to continue to make lasting change inside and outside of our company.

In the last year we have focused on supporting the protection and advancement of equal access to opportunities for marginalized and underrepresented groups. As a first step in this effort, Adobe launched a 3-year Equity and Advancement Initiative with leading global NGOs, including OutRightAction International, Human Rights Watch and Equal Justice Initiative, that seek to address systemic barriers to opportunity and advance social equity. We are investing a minimum of US$20M over three years to provide meaningful partnership opportunities, learning experiences for employees and new ways of leveraging Adobe’s unique strengths in support of issues key to Adobe and our communities.

Our commitment to providing opportunities for all creators to tell their stories drove us to immediately respond to the heartbreaking crisis in Ukraine. Adobe gave more $1 million in funding to support Ukranian creators and their families in the time of extraordinary hardship.

In a digital-first world, we know creativity is a critical 21st century skill for students to not only express their ideas in a compelling and impactful way, but to collaborate, innovate and ultimately thrive in the modern workforce.  We are expanding our partnerships and investment in Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs). Adobe Express is now in the hands of 43 million K-12 students and teachers globally, giving learners of all levels tools to easily express their ideas and tackle creative projects for fun, in their classrooms, or their communities

We believe that sound sustainability strategies are good for both our business and the environment. Core to this is achieving a zero-carbon operational footprint, developing digital products that enable our customers and communities to drive positive environmental impact and working with our peers, partners and employees to foster a culture of sustainability.

Adobe has always believed in the power of creativity to bring about positive change. This extends to our long history of providing software to communities and nonprofit organizations to help them creatively tell their stories, inspire action and advocate for change. We just launched Adobe Express for Nonprofits, giving the premium version of Adobe Express for free to nonprofits worldwide. We are harnessing our creative and technological strengths to enable the world’s 10 million+ nonprofits to accelerate their mission, engage their donors, reach more people and drive greater impact.

The intent to do good is core to our culture at Adobe. It always starts with looking inward first: creating a culture of innovation and equality where all of our employees can thrive to make the best products and experiences for our diverse customer base. 

We have come to recognize brands as being powerful acts of leadership. In what ways do your brand’s moves reflect you/your organization’s belief system?

The intent to do good is core to our culture at Adobe. It always starts with looking inward first: creating a culture of innovation and equality where all of our employees can thrive to make the best products and experiences for our diverse customer base. Already this year, Adobe employees have volunteered more than 100,000 hours and have donated $14M in matching grant funds to local and global nonprofits. People have always been our most important asset, and our inclusive and compassionate culture really shines through in all that we do. 

We have always believed in innovating around the responsible use of technology for the good of society, and enabling customers, partners, creators and community to drive impact that creates a better world for all. As we continue to bring transformational technologies to market, we are committed to advancing the responsible use of technology for the good of society. Our innovations are making a significant impact through areas such as Content Authenticity, AI Ethics, Privacy & Security and Digital Literacy.  

Adobe founded the Content Authenticity Initiative (CAI) to take on the problem of deep fakes. The CAI coalition has grown to over 800 organizations globally, including hardware, software and media companies, all working together to bring more trust to media. 

AI today lives at the intersection of technology and human insight, and having diverse perspectives to help us create our principles and guide our efforts is key. Adobe launched an AI Ethics Committee and Review Board, which includes experts from around the world with diverse professional backgrounds and life experiences. We teamed up with industry leaders to create and build a Trust in AI framework, and all our AI-powered features go through a standardized ethics review process with a diverse, cross-functional committee, before they are brought to market.    

Through Adobe’s Readability initiative, we’re working with educators, experts, nonprofits and technologists to personalize the experience of reading on digital devices. Together we’re working to help people of all ages and abilities read better through AI, ML and digital tools like Adobe Acrobat. These tools give readers the ability to customize their PDF reading experience, which can improve speed, accuracy and reading comprehension. 

Rich and dynamic digital experiences are shaping every aspect of our lives. Adobe’s mission to Change the World Through Digital Experiences is at the center of it all. As we look ahead to the next decade, it’s exciting to think about the many ways we are empowering everyone, everywhere to imagine, create and bring their stories to life.