Marketing—or more specifically the act of designing, developing, and deploying engagements to foster (profitable) relationships—is hard work.

The role of marketing is clearly defined in titles, job descriptions, and organizational charts. The act of marketing, however, can spread across any number of departments and functions and, in reality, can be executed by anyone.

Fundamentally, it is the act of marketing that directly affects the cross-functional team sport known as customer experience. In fact, Constellation Senior Vice President and Principal Analyst Nicole France often calls customer experience a mindset—a unifying strategy for the entire organization based on and in the service of the customer. It is not a toolset or a platform. This is why the act of marketing is so critical: It can deliver moments that influence customers, respond to them, and—when done well—inspire them to traverse the path between their investigations and their transactions.

Modern marketing isn’t just about engaging with the connected customer. It is also about meeting the rising tide of an experience-starved economy. The old mindset of command-and-control marketing, where marketers build journeys for obedient customers to follow, is being set aside. The new foundation for engagement is less about the rigidity of a funnel and more about being ready to reach and meet customers where they expect brands to appear and interact.

Overall, Adobe Summit 2021 reinforced Adobe’s understanding of this increasingly complex world of marketing—and clearly telegraphed that Adobe, just like marketing, intends to bring the CIO and the IT teams driving digital transformation along for the ride. Adobe Summit reclaimed a bit of the optimism that had been understandably lost in the chaos of 2020. Arguably, the spirit of fun and unbridled joy still seems centered on Adobe Creative Cloud. Only time will tell if Adobe Summit, and Adobe Experience Cloud, can celebrate the business of marketing as openly as Adobe Creative Cloud celebrates creators.

Here is a quick peek at the Adobe Summit 2021 announcements that turned my head:

Adobe Journey Optimizer: Built on Adobe Experience Platform, Adobe Journey Optimizer benefits from a unified and normalized data model, allowing for dynamic and event-based response to a customer’s signal. With some nice artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) services and capabilities on top, Adobe Journey Optimizer takes the old vision of “set it and forget it” campaign drips and pivots into that journey-of-you mindset that experience-hungry marketers have been discussing for years.

Why it matters: Despite our best intentions, establishing journeys for an audience of one can be painful, landing more squarely in the realm of sending email blasts to an audience-of-one segment. Building out and perfecting a journey can be time-consuming, and to be frank, that is time many marketing teams don’t have. Yet it is exactly the holistic engagement experience that customers crave. When you extend the expectation for relevant and contextual journeys to reach beyond the walls of marketing, execution—let alone optimization—can feel impossible. The importance of tools such as Adobe Journey Optimizer is the capacity to expand the view of where and how behaviors and events can influence the customer’s journey, especially when those events reshape or redirect a customer’s path. We can’t afford to assume that our only triggers for engagement come from marketing-driven channels. Adobe Journey Optimizer sets out to do just what it claims to do—optimize the journey that the customer is firmly in control of.

Adobe Customer Journey Analytics: If Adobe Journey Optimizer puts touches in the context of the customer, Adobe Customer Journey Analytics puts omnichannel journey data in the context of the business. With flexible dashboards that are relevant across multiple teams and stakeholders, everyone contributes and stays informed of the insights and key performance indicators (KPIs) that are most relevant to and for them. Simplified data collection, governance and privacy controls, and dashboards that can address both the customer’s and the business’s needs in real time are just the start of the analytics journey.

Why it matters: Analytics, and more specifically marketing analytics, is turning a corner. No longer the realm of tactical measurement and tracking of operational performance, marketing analytics is maturing to define specific KPIs informed by the business, by the strategic goals of marketing itself, and finally by the tactics and points of operational execution. In the old view of marketing metrics—a world in which tactical measures sufficed—old tools for balancing and predicting media mix and accounting for marketing resources gave some peace of mind to finance officers tired of that sinking feeling that marketing investments were akin to burning money. However, through the lens of a true growth-driving chief marketer, those analytics were just operational goalposts purpose-built for tactical optimization. What is needed is tools that quantify engagements—regardless of origin—that, when connected and analyzed as a whole, can truly quantify the value and impact of experience. Tools such as Adobe Customer Journey Analytics take that leap, with the firepower of an end-to-end platform that can turn the insights of journey analytics into actions.

Adobe Real-Time CDP for B2B: It should not come as a big surprise that CMOs have put the customer data platform (CDP) at the top of their tech wish list in 2021. What is surprising is how few CDPs have taken on the critical data issues that haunt many B2B organizations. Built on Adobe Experience Platform, the Adobe Real-Time CDP B2B edition extends the unified and normalized understanding of the customer, with a distinct focus on unifying data around people and accounts. The important piece of the puzzle here is the flexible Adobe Experience Data Model, which has been updated to natively support B2B data and allows for account hierarchies, unique B2B data objects, B2B enhanced profiles, and support for data from connected applications. B2B data can be ingested in a more secure framework, thanks to some pretty-well-thought-out data governance and identity capabilities that label sources and assign and enforce policies.

Why it matters: In the many flavors and sizes of CDPs on the market, most favor the scale and sheer velocity of data cascading across systems focused on executing B2C engagements. Few understand, let alone work to demystify, the specific issues that face B2B organizations looking to personalize engagements across an increasingly complex web of influencers, buyers, and users. This offering is likely to get heads turning among large enterprises that don’t fit into the perfectly defined lines of B2B or B2C. For the hybrid organization—and for those organizations with both B2B and B2C lines of business—this becomes an attractive single CDP for all scenarios, with the Adobe offering supporting both use cases with a single, unified profile.

Adobe Experience Manager Assets Essentials: I hesitate to call this a “lite” version of Adobe Experience Manager Assets. It is aptly dubbed “Essentials,” delivering the rightsized toolkit for the individual user just trying to make experiences happen. It comes packed with plenty of power under the hood—the difference being that Adobe Experience Manager Assets Essentials brings the right power, not watered-down power. Adobe Experience Manager Assets Essentials will be the default asset management solution across several Adobe Experience Cloud applications, starting with Adobe Journey Optimizer (June 2021) and Adobe Workfront later in 2021. The solution delivers a workspace that is easy to set up, easy to use, and built with collaboration in mind. It just makes the act of finding common, consistent images; videos; and a growing library of rich media assets easier. Organizations have focused on the democratization of data; Essentials looks to give that same open, flexible, and collaborative spirit to asset collaboration, access, and utilization. As the newly acquired Workfront solution becomes more deeply integrated and aligned across the Adobe portfolio, I expect to see Adobe Experience Manager Assets become an even more intentional bridge across the Adobe Creative and Adobe Experience Cloud applications, but for now, Adobe Experience Manager Assets Essentials is a lot to chew on, especially for organizations that have not taken the critical pivot to a digital asset management (DAM) strategy and solution to power that last mile of experience delivery.

Why it matters: Let’s say it for the record: For some organizations, asset management is achieved by email or mass storage “boxes” where an asset is more likely to go to die than achieve its intended outcome. The beauty of Adobe Experience Manager Assets Essentials isn’t just in the toolset or functionality. There is also a stunningly smart business need for a smaller, more readily available and potentially more budget-friendly resource that can be implemented in nonmarketing functions such as sales, service, and support. Essentials rightsizes for the real work of delivering consistency of experience in lockstep with relevance and context. In the spirit of full transparency: This was the announcement I was most excited about in a sea of interesting launches. It is woefully easy to discount the importance of a DAM solution and even easier to assume there is no such thing as a DAM strategy. You’d be DAM wrong.

The individual product announcements at Adobe Summit were in and of themselves important and impressive. But the biggest unveiling that should not be ignored is the reveal of Adobe’s new “marketecture” that shifts away from Adobe Experience Cloud’s serving as an umbrella for a loosely connected portfolio of acquisitions and legacy services. What was unveiled at Adobe Summit was a new view of Adobe Experience Cloud as a foundational system for engagement, built on data while having been created for organization-wide execution and engagement and bolstered with significant services such as AI/ML, identity, and governance, to name a few. Instead of being an acquisition showcase, Adobe’s view of the world starts with a unified data model in which an increasingly powerful portfolio of applications can coexist and, dare I say, connect far beyond the walls of the department known as marketing.

Adobe sits poised to serve as the unapologetic champion of the work of marketing. This new structure and vision for Adobe Experience Cloud is a starting point, which is interesting for a brand that has been synonymous with marketing since the 1980s. Then again, this might be the exactly right posture for Adobe as it races toward its 40th anniversary in 2022—reimagined to power the engagements of tomorrow without sacrificing its enduring legacy of creativity.