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SAP’s Chief Digital Marketing Officer: Brand And Demand Go Hand In Hand


When a company as large as SAP doubles down on digital, the executive org chart must change.

For the last six months, the enterprise software company has had two primary CMOs: one who is responsible for brand and media and another who focuses on demand generation, life cycle marketing and bottom-line revenue.

But they work together hand in glove, said Mika Yamamoto, who became chief digital marketing officer in August after serving as CMO for SAP’s small and medium-sized business practice for a little more than a year. Before that, she was Amazon’s head of marketing and merchandising for books.

Although she and SAP CMO Alicia Tillman helm different teams, they service the same overall marketing strategy, Yamamoto said.

“We need brand awareness to drive financial results,” she said. “One doesn’t go without the other.”

AdExchanger spoke with Yamamoto.

AdExchanger: Why did SAP split the chief marketing role?

MIKA YAMAMOTO: SAP is not known in the SMB space, even though SMBs make up 85% of our customer base by volume, if not by revenue. My job was to build our brand in the SMB market. I had ownership of developing marketing in sales, in part, and of product management and the business unit.

Along the way, we realized we needed to make some digital investments. We needed to think about our customers in and out of the pipeline, to automatically nurture them and personalize how we talk to them at scale rather than always needing humans to do it.

There’s a different way to produce content and support and engage customers if we invest in digital. I made the case and brought it to the board. They felt like it made sense to do that for the company as a whole, and I was voted into doing the job I have now.

What are you responsible for?


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I serve the demand side, making sure that customers are happy once they’re customers and from there having opportunities to cross-sell and upsell.

A day in the life is about balance. I’m accountable for ROI and making sure our marketing is performing. The field marketing organization reports to me in every region for the dozens of countries we do business in. We’re accountable for what we contribute to the pipeline on a quarterly basis.

A big component of the job is to help answer the question: What do we want to look like when we lead in digital? And how do we drive a great strategy with our sales counterparts, IT and the product group?

Technology transformation takes a long time, but we’re also not saying, “Two years out we’ll be digital, so hold our performance until then.” It’s about what we can do quarter over quarter to take advantage of our digital investments and drive performance in the near term.

What digital investments are you making?

We’re making significant investments in automation, CRM and improving how CRM operates to take advantage of cloud-based environments in a digital world across sales and marketing. But we’re also investing in third-party products to plan and execute digital programs.

We’re moving away from creating a campaign once-and-done and walking away from it for six weeks or six months, toward creating a program that’s maniacally focused on driving demand that we monitor and tweak daily. We need tools to manage campaigns and spend from an enterprise analytics standpoint to drive the ROI behind investments.

What practical advice do you have for brands embarking on digital transformation?

Think of the customer first and create a strategy around that. Understand who your customer is and how you want to serve your customer. That is the starting question regardless of whether you’re talking about brand or demand.

Then, think about the touchpoints you need to engage and delight the customer for life, and what technology you need to support those efforts. Digital is driven by technology, but in terms of how to deploy that technology, a brand has to ask itself who it wants to be in the market. That’s how we consider our digital investments.

What are the primary challenges of digital B2B marketing at the enterprise level?

Some of the biggest challenges are internal. We were built historically for high-touch, lower-volume engagements, and we didn’t have digital at our core. We weren’t digital first in how we thought of the customer or the competition.

In order to move there, it’s a different mindset. You can’t just put a campaign out in the market and see what happens over several months. Digital is real-time. You see feedback immediately, and you should adjust immediately. The culture shift and change management associated with that – we have 87,000 employees at SAP – is monumental.

What growing pains are you experiencing in the shift to digital?

One big growing pain has been defining what digital means to us and getting everyone on the same page about what the vision is. Some people believe digital is just posting on Facebook or LinkedIn. We’ve had to explain across the company what it means to be truly digital-first. Some say we’re already there, but I’d say we’re only part of the way there and that we’ve got a ways to go in driving that education.

It’s also important to remember that going digital is not just a marketing push. Marketing automation is marketing, but this effort is about the consumer. For this to be successful for us and for the customer, it needs to be a companywide effort.

We need a good partnership with the sales organization and to be right there with IT. We’re all at the table, and we all have a voice. Rather than the marketing team shifting a bunch of deck chairs and informing the company what we’re doing, we’re driving digital transformation together. That’s one of the key reasons it’s going well.

Interview edited for clarity and length.

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