5 Questions with SAP Chief Marketing Officer Alicia Tillman


You’ve had a number of acquisitions, but how much would you say you are improving the performance of the SAP brand? How much of that is helping to contribute to this growth and revenue?

Over the past couple of years, we’ve made significant strides. Number one, we needed to build a brand story that is much more relevant—relevant based on what people are interested in, what the brand stands for, and what we strive to deliver together andon behalf of our customers. It matters what your purpose is and what you stand for. 

Number two, it relates to our approach around story-telling. Last year we introduced a new TV spot featuring Clive Owen and we worked with him again this year on our new Experience Management Campaign. We’ve started to infuse a bit of humor to soften how audiences perceive SAP as a company. We are showing up in unexpected places, using humor, talking about topics that are relevant, and ultimately showing how SAP helps solve some of the challenges that our customers are focused—all in a tone that’s relatable and approachable. Most recently, we brought this to life in a segment on Jimmy Kimmel Live featuring his sidekick, Guillermo. It was a fun piece that helps humanize our brand. We’re also doing experiential activations in New York City and San Francisco – and running fun advertising campaigns with innovative, consumer-driven brands like Vice, Spotify and Reddit. As an enterprise business, it’s still important to have a wider appeal to consumer audiences.

Number three, we’re basing our strategy on how our marketplace is evolving.  For the past year, we’ve been talking about how we enable our customers to become experience companies. That’s because we believe that everybody is competing on the basis of experience.

We want to show a different side of SAP. What we’re getting across is: by embracing the feelings of the customer, brands can truly show  that they understand and care – which is essential to be in the business of delivering exceptional experiences.

Can you tell me about some of the other initiatives that you’ve perhaps done to bring that purpose to life, either internally or externally?

We partner aggressively with our customers that are really working to have a business agenda to support things in the environment, economies, and societies. How can they use SAP technology to drive success out of their agenda? One is a company called ERP that’s focused on solving the poaching challenge that we have in South Africa by deploying SAP technology to help ward off poachers. By embedding GPS technology into elephants and rhinos, they help to bring down the amount of casualty that we have of our elephant and rhino populations in Africa in particular.

Another company called Vectus is working to solve the clean water challenge in India. They have used SAP technology to help bring in better clean water sources by connecting them more to clean water sources that exist across the country.

We’ve also worked to really showcase the successes of these companies in our campaign. We presented our SAP.io initiative at SAPPHIRE Now in May 2019, which is an internal program that helps to make entrepreneurs successful. One of the companies that I featured on stage at SAPPHIRE is Goodr, which is focused on solving issues of hunger and food waste by utilizing technology.

And that is a beautiful startup that we’ve invested in that’s really solving a significant challenge today. So not only are we helping to put SAP technology, investments, and resources behind companies that are helping to change to world, we’re also investing in entrepreneurs. That’s our future.

Is there anything you are doing to try and gather the broader employee population around that purpose?

We have over 52 networks across SAP that are focused on a particular audience or a particular segment. We have the Pride@SAP network, the SAP Business Women’s Network, the Latinos@SAP network, and so many other diverse employee network groups we’ve created across the company so people feel a sense of belonging. They also feel like they can come together to have their voices heard on particular issues.

We also have the Autism at Work program at SAP, which is amazing. It works to enable people that are on the spectrum to work in SAP positions that empowers them to be successful based on their skills.

Through a partnership with the Born This Way Foundation, we’re focused on bringing awareness to mental health. It provides education, support, as well as research and investment that helps people understand more about mental health and its impact.

This is just a small sample of the programs we have in place. These initiatives are inspiring to our workforce which means it becomes inspiring to our brand. People are attracted to work at SAP because they know they’re part of a community that focuses on people and purpose. When we can inspire our employees, they in-turn work to inspire our customers more as well.

Is pushing into customer experience the area that you’re most excited about in terms of what you think SAP needs to push into for future success in terms of new products and services? Is that the big bet in terms of where future growth is going to come from?

Absolutely.  I think we have an incredible opportunity to both define and own the experience management category. I find that very exciting because creating a category in itself is hard. But it’s necessary because the opportunity is there. The reality is we work in an experience economy today, yet there’s a tremendous trust deficit that exists with this experience gap. Research from Bain & Company er has found that 80 percent of CEOs believe that they offer an exceptional experience to their customers. Yet only eight percent of those customers agree that they are receiving an exceptional customer experience.

With our recent acquisition of Qualtrics, we now have access to a new form of data, which is called experience data (or X-Data). It enables you to really connect to the feedback, the sentiment, the feelings of customers relative to how they feel about their experience. With this data, you can truly operate as a customer-first operation that is building and reacting and evolving business models based entirely on the wants and needs and the feedback that’s coming directly from your customers.

It’s not that we are in any way abandoning the operations side of our business (or O-Data), because it is always going to be about how well you run your business. But it’s also about what’s informing the operations of your business. What’s informing how you evolve those operations by being able to have access to this new form of data that is really all about how the customer feels about your brand, your product, and the overall experience.

To combine this X- and O- Data, it’s just so powerful for us,; it’s relatable and it’s human, and it is what we believe is how brands are going to differentiate themselves from one another — which is based upon the quality of experience that you deliver to your customer. That is absolutely the big focus for us and it’s exciting.

How you are ensuring the right customer experience for your customers? How do you bring that voice of the customer into everyone’s day-to-day working system so that they’re truly cognizant of what it takes to deliver on customer means?

The insights and the data that Qualtrics will be able to provide at an employee level, brand level, product level, and a customer level is incredible. It’s so powerful to have this formal mechanism for employees and customers to give feedback. This is why it’s so crucial for brands to be asking the right questions, to know how to bring the experience up to a level that’s expected by customers. This is now all possible.

The ability for us at SAP to embed Qualtrics within all of our in-product experiences is vital and bold– so that we can test and run and ensure that we’re building things that meet the expectations of the customers. As we now have 100 thousand employees strong, we can and should be the greatest ambassadors for the experiences that we want to deliver on behalf of our customers. At SAP, we’re living and breathing experience management. We, and our customers, are equipped to excel in the experience company – tapping into that X- & O- Data to differentiate from competitors and create loyal fans among our customer bases.


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