Siemens' Haas sees value in long tenure

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Tom Haas has been CMO of Siemens Corp. in the U.S. for eight years—a long tenure by CMO standards. In an interview with CMO Close-Up, he discussed the benefits of that longevity, hinted at the next iteration of Siemens' “Answers” campaign and elaborated on the company's forays into social media.

CMO Close-Up: You've been CMO for eight years in an era when many CMOs are lucky to last more than two. What advantages does that longevity give you?

Tom Haas: For one thing I think that CMO tenure number is probably more relevant for b-to-c companies. I think we have a long-term view, and there is more stability in the b-to-b ranks. For me personally, it's been great—mostly because the company has been so dynamic and changing all the time. We've grown considerably in that period of time, and we've also changed in how we look at marketing. It has really come into its own as a more strategic element of what we do and how it can work to help drive the business. One of the great things for any marketing program is consistency and persistency. We've had a consistent message—it's evolved and been tweaked—but we've had a consistent message, and we've been persistent in our support for the marketing and that message.

CMO Close-Up: How would you describe Siemens' marketing message?

Haas: Siemens is really about innovation. We're a technology company. Providing innovative solutions has evolved over the course of the years to the current position where we're answering the toughest questions facing society, whether it's here in America or elsewhere around the world. It's a global message. We're using the same campaign throughout 50 or so regions within the world.

CMO Close-Up: The “Answers” campaign debuted in 2007. How do you rate its performance?

Haas: We track it in terms of awareness and other attributes—perception of the company and so forth—and it's done very well over that period of time. It resonates with our audiences, and even some of our competitors have commented that they thought it was a good and unique or different positioning. It's a good fit; it's true to us. It's believable, and we can deliver on that message. It's not about dreaming or wishing, it's about someone actually delivering.

CMO Close-Up: What's the latest iteration of the “Answers” campaign?

Haas: We are evolving it. One of the things that we have started to do this past year is put more emphasis on some of the targets, in particular on government and opinion-leader targets. We've been more visible in the Washington [D.C.] area. A lot of what we do is infrastructure-related, and there is a lot of business opportunity in the stimulus package for Siemens—whether it's in health care IT in electronic patient records or in making public buildings more energy efficient or in improvements and solutions for smart-grid technologies, or water treatment or high-speed rail. These are all solutions that Siemens provides and is a leader in. So that opportunity has been more the way we've been focusing the message, and now we're going to be looking at evolving the message. It's all about sustainability for us. I think it's an important message for companies, and we certainly have a very large portfolio of environmental and sustainable products and solutions.

CMO Close-Up: BP had long championed sustainability. Do you think there is any danger in pursuing that positioning?

Haas: There's always a danger if you can't deliver. So you've got to be true to the message, and it's got to have credibility. I think BP had that credibility prior to [the Gulf of Mexico oil spill], so it's a major misstep on their part. But it also points up the need to have that strong, underlying commitment to doing things right—to providing solutions that are going to last and be around for a while, as opposed to doing something that's makeshift or the easy out.

CMO Close-Up: How important is employee marketing at Siemens?

Haas: I believe employees are great image-multipliers. You really do need to get employees engaged with your campaigns and have them be aware of the company and all that it does. I think particularly for a company like Siemens—we're in so many different areas of technology and business, and operate all around the world—that it's hard. When an employee is working in the health care sector, or the industrial sector or energy, they know their particular area; but they may not know all of what Siemens does. So we always try to educate our employees. There's always an internal element to our program, and we also do individual seminars and Web conferences internally to make them aware of the campaign, and we get great feedback from them. Employees love the television commercials and seeing the ads, because it gives them a great sense of pride.

CMO Close-Up: How are you making use of social media?

Haas: I don't want to say we're dipping our toe into it. It's more than that. We're definitely wading into it as opposed to doing deep dives. It depends again on some of the business sectors. In some of our businesses—health care is a good example—there are certain regulatory issues. So you have to be very cautious about what you say and can't say.

But from a corporate level we've been doing a number of different things and experimenting doing some pilot programs. And some of our businesses are doing more than others. For example, we do have some blogs that we sponsor. There's an energy blog—it's called The Energy Collective—and we are the sponsor of that. One of our businesses is water technology and water treatment-filtration systems. On World Water Day, we had a Facebook fan page on how to calculate your water footprint. We ended up in about a week's time with about 1,000 fans, with not as much promotion as we would have liked. And we're looking at making that a mobile app. It's just a little thing where people can see how much water did I consume in a day or a year, because again water is the next oil. It's even more precious than oil if you think about it.

CMO Close-Up: What about marketing's future is exciting to you these days?

Haas: It's the new media and how technology is constantly affecting marketing and what it's capable of doing. Take the example of the iPad. We're looking closely at what you can do on that. It's the precursor of how people will be getting media, and what you'll be able to do on that platform is interesting. You can put so much rich content right in the hands of people. It's not just looking at the ad. You could be doing a product demo or a technical white paper

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