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Alicia Tillman, Global CMO of SAP, on the Power of Storytelling

Marketers talk about the importance of storytelling but few can harness stories to catapult their brand awareness and win customers for life. Alicia Tillman is one of the few – and it’s clear she takes storytelling seriously. “Without a story focused on your company’s relevance, value and contribution to the world, you can’t drive demand. There is nothing for you to sell if you can’t wrap a relevant narrative around it,” she says. The proof, as they say, is in the pudding. During Alicia’s tenure as Global CMO of SAP, she has grown the brand’s value by well over $18 billion – and landed on the Forbes list of the top 50 world’s most influential CMOs.

Superheroes are not just those who wear capes. They are everyday people who sacrifice their time, health and well-being to help others

Alicia’s passion doesn’t end at storytelling. She’s equally passionate about inspiring her team at all times, but especially during the pandemic. As a leader of 1,700 marketers in 180 countries, she has to be clear about how marketplace realities are affecting SAP’s business and her team. She’s also looked for every opportunity to inspire hope, a search that drove her to launch Passion for Purpose. In this virtual conversation series, Alicia brings us the stories of SAP employees across the globe who have gone above and beyond to help their communities.

“Superheroes are not just those who wear capes. They are everyday people who sacrifice their time, health and wellbeing to help others,” she says.

While Alicia may have a natural bent for inspiring others, telling stories, and building global brands – she also led marketing at American Express – her success is grounded in a strong work ethic. Raised by two parents with professional retail careers, Alicia and her two siblings saw firsthand what it means to work hard. “Both my parents are role models but my mom taught me that life is a juggle – especially as a woman with a career – but you can make the juggle work if you’re determined.”

It’s that sense of resoluteness that drove Alicia to unlock the key to global brand success. She put in the time to research the world’s top 10 brands and suss out their common characteristics. “The five characteristics of those top brands have become the framework I use and study relentlessly to guide our strategy and plans,” she explains.

Some of Alicia’s other keys to success:

  • Backing her vision with a plan. According to Alicia, leaders need a big vision but one backed by a plan for a path forward and quick wins along the way. 
  • Pushing for transformative thinking. Alicia believes marketing leaders need the courage to take risks and make big changes when things aren’t working. 
  • Committing to diversity and inclusion. To reach SAP’s more than 450,000 unique customers in 180 countries, Alicia understands the importance of a diverse workforce.