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Ding Dong, Salesforce Calling: CMO Aspires to Avon-Like Army of Evangelists

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Could Salesforce become a household name? Chief Marketing Officer Simon Mulcahy thinks so. He says he wants the company to be more like Avon than Salesforce competitors Adobe or Oracle. He wants Salesforce to be a household brand name that people who use the sales, marketing and customer service platform feel compelled to evangelize. And, yes, people are already throwing the Salesforce equivalent of a Tupperware party.

Salesforce CMO Simon Mulcahy
Salesforce CMO Simon Mulcahy Credit: Salesforce

"We want a massive army of trailblazers," said Mulcahy in a chat with Ad Age last week about where he'd like to see the Salesforce brand go and how its new "trailblazer" brand campaign reflects that mission. The push, created in conjunction with Kirk Citron and Matt Haligman of agency Citron Haligman and launched in May, aims to paint Salesforce as a place where adventurous marketers, salespeople and customer service reps might embark on a learning journey.

Before landing on Citron and Haligman – whom Mulcahy referred to as "lone wolves" – Salesforce entertained concepts from three branding and three PR agencies, none of which gave the company quite what it was looking for. Salesforce declined to name any of the agencies.

"A lot of times the agencies were coming to us with stuff which was about celebrating 'us' rather than celebrating our customers," said Mulcahy. "This trailblazer campaign is not about celebrating Salesforce. It's a complete celebration of our customers, 100%."

The effort highlights so-called trailblazers who have advanced their careers using Salesforce. Some, like former salsa instructor-turned-Salesforce developer Damian O'Farrill, have veered from entirely different paths before making their way into the world of tech.

When Salesforce touted itself as the "customer success platform" a couple years ago, that resonated with its clients, said Omar Aktar, an analyst at Altimeter Group who focuses on marketing technology firms including Oracle, Salesforce, Adobe and IBM.

"They have never been more effective than when they've talked about customer success," said Aktar of Salesforce. "Everybody wants to be a 'trailblazer' but I think if you compare being a trailblazer with someone more concerned with being customer-focused, that is a more compelling story," he said. Aktar said he is withholding judgement about whether Salesforce's bet on the trailblazer concept will pay off.

Mulcahy, promoted to the CMO role in February, is all in, and in his mind the concept is reflective of how Salesforce users have organically been leading the way for the brand.

"Our marketing model is evolving, and our marketing model of the future is going to be more like Avon or Amway than it is, you know, standard, old-school marketing," said Mulcahy. "What better way than to have our customers, our ecosystem, these trailblazers out there, doing marketing events and marketing for us? They're already doing that."

Exhibit A: a Trailhead Ranger Boot Camp for young women of color regularly held at Minnesota's Mall of America. Salesforce says this, like other spontaneous training groups, is entirely organic -- no Salesforce execs involved.

"I promise you, I'm not yanking your leg. This is exactly what's going on," said Mulcahy. "They did a big half-day Salesforce user and admin training day. They were all there wearing, like, ranger outfits. They made cookies."