Where Brand Marketers Come to Learn, Share and Connect

Logo_SAPA good brand listens and learns. At SAP this mantra is part of the business model. This week’s Brand Innovators BtoB Summit marks a continuation in its effort to learn about its customers.

“We have always talked about the hearts and minds of customers,” says Madhur Aggarwal, Vice President, Strategy, Office of CMO, SAP. “How do you get to their purpose? How do you unlock an individual’s potential and provide a single unifying platform for a better-run world? With that as a guiding philosophy, we’ve actually discussed the concept of turning our company on its axis. Instead of looking from the inside out, we want to see our company as our customer does. We want to take the customer point-of-view and be a customer-centric company.”

Close to 80 percent of the Fortune 500 run some version of SAP’s software for purposes ranging from real-time transaction processing to business insight and analytics to sales and marketing alignment. Above and beyond the technology, its vision is to “help the world run better and improve people’s lives.” Its mission is “to help every customer become a best-run business.” As it moves toward achieving this mission and vision, SAP is a sharp illustration of BtoB branding’s evolution toward optimizing human creativity and purpose. It helps businesses connect to people. Yet at the same time, it needs to connect to its own customers.

“It’s the reality of our business and the evolution of our business,” Aggarwal says. “We work in two ways. We are both an enabler of other companies and an advocate of our own company. We do listen to our own mantra. The way I like to look at it is that we help customers engage with their customers. Customer engagement is one of the key tenants of what we focus on.”

For its customers, SAP analyzes current customer behavior and market conditions. Then it projects out to the future. Its customers range from huge CPG brands to smaller BtoB companies. For example, at Conviva, which provides streaming video optimization services to global media companies, part of marketing’s mandate is to define what will happen next with Internet video and the potential impact on viewers and Conviva’s media clients. Those clients include HBOGO, NBC, ESPN, the GRAMMY Awards, and the Academy Awards. SAPs analysis of “the heart and soul of the viewer” helped the company build a business case for change. For example, Conviva determined that if today’s streaming video experience doesn’t improve, media brands stand to lose $20 billion in revenue as viewers shift to new or emerging content experiences, and advertisers follow.

“In a sense, our BtoB mission is to help sales sell,” says Aggarwal. “It’s about going from brand to demand. But as I also said, we need to take a new viewpoint. Yes, it’s good to help sales sell. But it’s better to include the perspective that we help customers buy. That’s what BtoB marketing is evolving to – helping sales sell and customers buy”

Aggarwal has said that part of SAP’s job is to help brand marketers understand the art of marketing and the science of marketing. At a high level, he believes brand marketers can do both. But he also thinks that data scientists and marketers need to play their proper positions. Data scientists, he says, need to understand that their data is informing the creativity involved in brand marketing. The connection to customers is defined by that science informing the creative. That’s the SAP formula for customer engagement.

“The essence of what we do is to help customers engage with customers,” he says. “We need to enable them to plan for the right customer outcomes. Ask the right questions. Who are our customers? What are they trying to achieve? What is their customer trying to achieve? And in doing that we don’t want to underestimate the human element. Technology makes this all easy. But it’s people that have to act.”

So when you get down to the strategies behind how one of biggest and most esteemed companies in the world manages its own brand, you will find some interesting best practices. SAP encourages innovation both internally and with partners is through collaboration. Aggarwal calls it co-innovation. Co-innovation activities occur every day between SAP and its ecosystem to work with an abundance of partners, customers, universities, governments, and standardization groups to contribute to “creating sustainable and mutual competitive advantage.” Because it is essentially an enterprise software company, project activities emphasize collaboration to make fundamental co-innovation project resources available as services. It was designed to offer project teams a range of capabilities from co-innovation project design to performance testing and demo production. Partners can request a co-innovation project, or be looped into one. The projects can also differ in scope and participation.

SAP also works with start-ups. It recently announced that it will become a Global Sponsor of the SWIFT 2014 Innotribe Startup Challenge. The Challenge aims to develop promising financial technology and services. Participants engage in discussions of emerging innovations, pitch their ideas and network with industry leaders. The challenge culminates at Sibos, SWIFT’s annual conference, where finalists showcase their innovations to an audience of venture capitalists, angel investors and key industry professionals. In 2014, the winner will be awarded a $50,000 prize.

It has also expanded its partnership with Accenture, with a new business model to provide clients end-to-end solutions running on an integrated SAP platform as a managed service with a single contract for SAP/Accenture joint customers. The Marketing Performance Solution by Accenture and SAP is the first offering in the extended partnership with Accenture. This solution targets the Office of the CMO by combining Accenture’s deep marketing analytics and industry expertise on top of SAP HANA to provide real time visibility across all channels (point of sale, Internet, call center, etc). It is a holistic solution for marketers that provides industry-specific marketing analysis, including consumer segmentation, media mix, return on marketing investment analysis, and competitive analysis in near real-time powered by the SAP HANA and SAP’s market leading BI platform.


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by Brandon Gutman
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Brandon is an expert connector and seasoned business development professional. As Principal of Brand Approved, he's led the advisory to become the bridge between brand marketers and best of breed service providers that are reshaping the industry.

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