SAP Ariba CMO Believes There’s No Function More Creative Than Marketing
Get to Know SAP Ariba CMO Alicia Tillman
SAP Ariba’s CMO, Alicia Tillman, leads the brand’s worldwide marketing strategy. She oversees a number of areas, including Ariba’s global value proposition, branding, sponsorships, digital marketing and events.
Most recently, Tillman led the rebranding of SAP Ariba, a project she says was the most significant change to the company’s look and feel in its nearly 20-year history.
“The objective was to breathe new life into the brand and draw on the incredible reputation and presence of our parent company, SAP, which is a globally recognized brand that stands for strength and stability, particularly in international markets where we are looking to grow,” says Tillman.
Launched on January 11, SAP Ariba’s rebranding effort included a new name and logo, an initiative aimed at integrating the company’s two distinct audiences.
“In creating a new logo, we sought to create a very outward-facing symbol that brings together our two customer groups — buyers and sellers — and within it, to show how SAP Ariba is at the intersection of the two, enabling them to connect and collaborate more efficiently and effectively than ever before.”
Before joining Ariba, Tillman led the marketing and business services group at American Express, after serving as the head of public affairs, corporate communications and media relations for its Global Business Travel division. She launched the first-ever business travel industry forum in China, as well as creating American Express Business Travel’s first social media platform.
Tillman is a recipient of Travel Agent Magazine’s “Rising Star Award” and was recognized as one of the leading women in the business travel industry by the Travel Trade Gazette. While at American Express, she was awarded the Chairman’s Award for Innovation twice, as well as the Chairman’s Award for Exemplary Performance.
While the SAP Ariba headquarters is in Palo Alto, Tillman’s office is located in NYC. She and her husband, along with their two children, reside in New Jersey.
What mobile device can you not live without?
Can we take a peek at your phone’s home screen?
Which apps do you use most often for work?
LinkedIn, I am always talking to talent, and my team is expanding and so I really use LinkedIn as a reference to understand the experience of talent.
I use it to look for talent and as a way of getting feedback on references. I use it to support the growth for my expanding team.
What social media network or website do you frequent most when you’re not working?
Instagram, I spend so much time on sites reading that it’s really great to switch a bit and see how people are conveying their lives through photos.
Within my network, most of the photos are of my friend’s children and it’s a great way to see how everyone is growing and what they’re all up to.
What’s the first thing you check on your phone in the morning?
Take me through your typical workday.
My day really starts from the moment I wake up. I check my work and personal emails. I’ll go to Twitter and read through the feed and then check LinkedIn to see the roundup of what people are posting in my network.
I travel about 10 days out of the month, otherwise the remainder of my time is spent in my New York City office.
My commute is about 90 minutes each way and I use this time to read the “New York Post” and catch up on emails that have come in overnight and early in the morning from my European and Asia Pacific teams.
Once I sit down at my desk, which is usually about 7:15 a.m., I focus on ticking off top things on my priority list which I set the night before — whether this is giving feedback on projects, checking in with folks in the office, or focusing on priority items.
My days are full. My calendar is a mix of meetings with the team, whether it’s a one-on-one, an operational review, status update calls, or planning a campaign. For lunch, I either spend working or I have a lunch appointment with an team member or potential employee. Evenings, it could be a work event or a work dinner.
If I don’t have a work event, I’m usually home by 7:45 p.m.
What has been the most exciting work development during the past year?
Transforming my team. I transformed the structure of my organization to ensure that we have a strong focus on brand and messaging development, lead generation, product and customer marketing, and strategy and operations.
These core functions will enable marketing to not only add high value to the growth of the company, but we will also be structured around strategy and results to ensure that we’re investing in areas that are providing the greatest return for our business.
What does your desk look like?
My desk is a work in progress as I’ve recently moved in. I’m surrounded by photos of my family as well as tons of newly branded company items.
The branded items are sentimental because it’s been my first big project since I joined SAP Ariba. I completed this within my first 6 months being in the company. They’re reminders of that work.
How many miles have you traveled during the last 12 months?
Approximately 80,000 miles in the past year. I’ve had the opportunity to travel to some great places but I’d say Tokyo was my favorite. The culture, speed and energy is inspiring.
What work challenge keeps you up at night?
Staying ahead of the competition and making sure that we’re clear in how we’re differentiating our values. Ensuring that there is a sense of urgency across the team and that people are working fast but also delivering extreme value.
Can you tell us about a campaign or work project you’d like to do over?
I don’t have any regrets. We put extreme thought into the process and planning for all that we do.
Time is usually never on our side, so if I had a wish, it would be to have more time because a lot of work and sacrifice go into meeting deadlines. It’s a reality I’ve had to accept.
I really don’t look back and think of things we’ve missed because each success and failure has always been an opportunity to learn and grow.
Tell me about the people who have been most influential in your career.
I have a very small circle personally of friends and family that are all influencers. They help me create balance and focus on priorities.
On the business side, every person I’ve worked with has helped me in my career. Whether it be directly or indirectly. I’m very observant and have tremendous self-awareness. So every interaction I have I treat as an opportunity to learn and observe because it helps me with my own personal brand.
What traits does a person need to succeed in your position?
You need to have a vision. And you need to assemble a plan and help the team understand what their accountabilities are relative to that plan. You have to be an excellent motivator and collaborator and be very creative.
Can you tell us something about yourself that your team would be surprised to know?
That I do sleep, and I sleep very soundly when I eventually do put my head down.
Why did you go into marketing?
Because at its core, I don’t believe there is any function more creative than marketing. I find myself to be a creative thinker and a creative executor, and love an ability to be able to tell a story about a brand and what value that story can bring to people’s daily lives.
Whether it be through word, print, video — there are endless possibilities to how you can connect your story to potential buyers, and marketing is at the forefront of creating that.
What other career would you like to try and why?
TV personality. I love learning and interacting with people and a talk show would allow for me to put that to work.
What’s the last business book you read?
“Essentialism” by Greg McKeown, the book is all about how to prioritize and focus on what is essential. All of us have endless to-do lists and this book really works to change your mindset on this and focus on what is truly essential.
Outside of your company’s efforts, what ad campaign or video caught your eye recently?
The recent Barbie commercial. I saw it on Thanksgiving Day during the Macy’s Parade.
I’m such a believer, and a supporter of women and girls, and how the video represented teaching girls that they can be anything and doing that through their products just brought it to a whole new level for me. Loved it.
Barbie has been highly criticized through the years for body disproportions and sending the wrong message to girls. So taking that off the table, and really looking at the product and how people use it through the eyes of these little girls was brilliant. Let’s take our focus off simply how the product is constructed and bring attention to what the product brings to the users of it and really tell that story. That’s brilliant.
It’s a message to all marketers. If we draw that correlation to our business and where business is often flawed is when products get marketed a lot for focus on feature and functionality and not enough on the problem that product solves and the value it creates. They took the focus off of what the product itself looks like and more so focused on how the users of that product interact with it and what the product instills.
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