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Shotaro Uehara–MBA Japan 2009

In November 2013, we interviewed Mr. Shotaro Uehara, who is the Senior Evangelist and Product Manager, Japan and APAC markets, at Adobe Marketing Cloud. Here is an edited interview conducted by Philip O’Neill.

Q. Adobe is a very well-known company. Can you tell us more about your role there?
A. Adobe is well known for making tools for creators. Photoshop, Creative, InDesign are examples. People also know Adobe for creating the Flash platform. The business I manage is actually very different from what is well known in the market place. I manage their Digital Marketing strategy.

Adobe acquired a number of companies four or five years ago, starting with a company called Omniture. They were the leading company in website analytics. Adobe owns over 60% of the market for creative tools, and the company’s growth in the creative side is slightly less than 10%. But Adobe doesn’t stop there. We aspire to grow faster than that. In order to grow, we have acquired companies in the digital marketing field.

Q. Can you tell us more about digital marketing? What is driving growth there, for instance?
A. The driving factor for digital marketing is that many customer touch points with brands have been digitized. For example, many people use smartphones to access company websites, interact on social networking sites, and, of course, use apps, so the way people engage with brands has changed immensely in the past two years.

Up to now, consumers interacted with the brands through a website using a PC. ‘Interact with the page’ means what they see on the page, how long they stay on the page, and what they buy on the page.
Digital marketing allows you to not only see the consumer behavior on the site, but it also to have granularity around the segment information. For example, the percentage of male and female visitors, the age segmentation, and things like that.

Depending on the target segment, the next step digital marketing allows for is personalization in targeting. For example, if the consumer is a woman who has recently purchased a fall cardigan, the next time the person visits the site, you want to show different
content: something that goes with the cardigan, for example. Many companies now see that as a huge opportunity for driving revenue. So, what a brand does around digital marketing strategy is becoming more and more important.

Q. PO: Are your customers, brands or companies in consumer products in general or special sectors of consumer products?
A. Our customers are very diverse. The easiest segment of users that can benefit from digital marketing [are those on] online e-commerce channels. We also have brand sites using our technology. For example, airline booking sites measure on-site conversion data heavily on their site. Driving revenue through their online channel is a strategic initiative for the entire organization. Our mission is to provide customers with the power to marry rich contents on their digital properties with data so their investment in digital marketing is managed in the most efficient way.

Q. How did you get into your current position at Adobe?
A. I have been at Adobe for about one and a half years. Prior to this, I was at Dell Inc. for seven years, and worked in various marketing roles such as Brand Manager and Alliance Marketing Manager. I moved to Adobe because I wanted to further develop my skill in digital marketing and product management while using my prior experience in marketing. In the role of Evangelist, I speak at various speaking engagements and marketing events. I speak about digital marketing in general.

Q. A lot of our readers are interested in digital marketing, and I think that many people would like to explore digital marketing for their organization. What advice would you give to a smaller organization trying to develop a digital marketing strategy?
A. Regardless of the company size, large or small, you can have a tremendous advantage by having a digital marketing strategy. A lot of companies are moving their budgets to digital marketing because it gives tangible results. You can start with how you want to manage your website and search engine marketing. In this case, you acquire a set of keywords, for example “McGill,” “MBA,” “Japan.” Sometimes, you can acquire the competitors’ keywords for a sponsored space where your ads will show up. People will see your competitive offers. So, you can expand your reach and attract a different set of audiences.

Q. People are changing the way that they interact with sites by changing the devices they use. For example, many people who ride the subway in Tokyo are hooked to their smartphone. How is this changing the business?
A. There is a big shift in the way we see consumers. Having a simple website to be viewed on a PC was [sufficient] in the past. But now everyone is accessing [content] through smartphones, so you want to make sure that the user experience through such devices is appealing. Otherwise, people will just abandon your web page and go to that of a competitor. You want to make sure that the site is optimized for smartphones.

Q. So, in a sense, you want to control all the touch points with a consumer, on an individualized basis.
A. Yes, this is what we call personalization.

Q. Are there sectors or industries where this is extremely effective?
A. In retail, you see the most significant uplift. We have conducted a study for companies that invest in digital marketing and those that don’t. There is a significant gap between the two in terms of. revenue or conversion rate. The most significant difference is between the EC and retail site. For a financial institution, the time spent on your website changes substantially for companies. You don’t convert on the site, but the longer on the site, the better.

Q. You are based in Tokyo, but do you have interactions with colleagues internationally?
A. I am responsible for the Asia-Pacific, so I communicate with my peers throughout the region. And I am part of the [global headquarters, which is based in the United States]. So I often make early morning calls, as well as late night ones.

Q. Is English a major part of your daily communication at work?
A. I communicate in English with my colleagues around the world, but [I use Japanese for domestic sales purposes]. I make the most of my bilingual skills.

Q. Do you keep in touch with your classmates from 2009?
A. I try to keep in touch with them. I see my friends in San Francisco—and other friends in Singapore—when I visit those places. That is a great benefit of this program, having friends from all over the world.

Q. What advice would you give a young person considering doing the McGill MBA Japan Program?
A. My role involves engagement with management executives. So, when I speak to them, I need to know where their head is: you know, revenue drivers and their impact on P&L [profit and loss]; marketing in general, and so on. By going through these different aspects of business [during the MBA], I [was able to learn a lot]. I think this has [improved my] interaction with the executives.

Q. What advice would you give to young people about their careers?
A. When I was in my 20s, it never occurred to me that I wanted to become an executive. But through my career, and as I have interacted with top executives, I discovered that I wanted to become an executive. You really need a goal, and to decide what you want to be in five our 10 years. I discovered that I had a gap [in my career plans], and the MBA filled that gap.