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CMO Close-Up with Jonathan Becher, CMO at SAP

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Jonathan Becher was named CMO at SAP in August 2011, after serving as exec VP-marketing at the database software company since 2007. In the following interview with CMO Close-Up, Becher discusses SAP's new ad campaign for its HANA database product and how he is using technology to boost marketing performance. CMO Close-Up: What is the goal of your new ad campaign? Jonathan Becher: Historically, we have done customer-focused advertising as part of our “Run Better” campaign—“So-and-so runs SAP.” That has been our primary tactic for HANA, a database product that launched at our Sapphire Now show in 2011. We have a new ad that features (client) ConAgra—which appeals primarily to the CEO audience but also CMOs and CIOs—to help them understand that this technology is transformative and helps (them) do things they haven't been able to do before. CMO Close-Up: Where is the campaign running? Becher: We are using high-profile placements, including The Wall Street Journal, The Economist and Der Spiegel in Germany. The second prong is going after IT decision-makers, showing the superiority of HANA. If you are an IT decision-maker, you care less about business transformation (than) how it compares to your current (IT) environment. The headline reads, “You do business in the 21st century. So why is your database from the 20th century?” HANA does not replace your existing database, but it allows you to get access to structured and unstructured data. CMO Close-Up: What was the strategy behind the “Fact-Checking” ad that ran last month? Becher: We do not typically do a lot of response campaigns, but during the opening keynote of Oracle OpenWorld (by Oracle CEO Larry Ellison) there was some misinformation about HANA—that it's not very scalable and there are not very many customers. We ran a “set the record straight” ad campaign, saying, “Here are the facts.” It ran locally (in the San Jose Mercury News and San Francisco Chronicle) immediately following the conference. CMO Close-Up: What's new about the HANA campaign, since the product launched last year? Becher: We did run a campaign when HANA first launched, digitally and also to our existing customer base. We also ran an “Answers” ad in The Wall Street Journal earlier this year. This is the first time we have run it as a standalone campaign. HANA has been the fastest-growing product we have ever had in the company's history. Momentum is strong. This is our go-mainstream campaign for HANA; and we will continue it through the end of the year in print and online, and we will likely do airport advertising. CMO Close-Up: What are some of your other marketing goals for this year? Becher: I want to run marketing like a business, understanding the ROI on everything we do, using our own technology to run it. One of the things we did this year is we created a new role within marketing called the business information officer. This role is essentially a bridge between marketing and the CIO, and the role is to understand how technology can be generalized across all of marketing and SAP as a whole. If we are going to build an executive dashboard—for example, I have my own CMO dashboard—it should be the same technology we use for the sales dashboard and the technology dashboard. CMO Close-Up: What does the business information officer do? Becher: Essentially, the BIO works with the marketing operations group to make sure we have the right technology. It's a tough (position) to hire—they have to be IT-savvy but also understand the business. We don't want to build an IT department within marketing, but we need to make sure we leverage the right tools. CMO Close-Up: Which technologies do you use for marketing? Becher: Oftentimes we are using our own SAP products. We use SAP BusinessObjects for predictive analytics, SAP CRM for lead management, SAP HANA to do things in real time with our central marketing database, SAP Mobile for our mobile applications and we use a third-party tool for outbound execution and response. CMO Close-Up: How do you work with IT to implement these technologies for marketing? Becher: Our IT department is responsible for the technology infrastructure. If it's hosted or a cloud tool, they host it for us or provide the infrastructure in-house. We are responsible for the business side. So when it comes to a new problem—for example, we are now creating a lot of content and running it on third-party sites, such as having over 20 bloggers on Forbes.com—this needs to be part of our dashboard. We need to know how much more traffic do these blogs generate and how much are people buying. We get our IT friends to help us do this. CMO Close-Up: How do you do this? Becher: We have weekly or every-other-weekly meetings (between marketing and IT) to discuss priorities, project status updates and changes in the technology landscape. If there is a new technology, we do an alpha test first and run it side-by-side with existing systems. It can be as short as one week or a couple of months. On the predictive side, one of the hottest things happening in marketing now is not just looking at patterns in the past but what is likely to happen next. So we do a lot of marketing-mix optimization: Should we put our budget in this country or this market? We do quantitative analysis. All that infrastructure has a lot of technology and econometric modeling. We always look at how marketing and IT can work together to see if we can create partnerships.
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