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Alicia Tillman

Alicia Tillman



Marketing and Technology

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Trendsetters:  SAP's CMO Alicia Tillman Looks at Creating Brand Value in the Experience Economy

The Internationalist Trendsetters is written by Deborah Malone, founder of The Internationalist.

Ask Alicia Tillman, Chief Marketing Officer of SAP, the world's leading business software company, about the experience economy, and she might just answer by saying, "Change a feeling, and change a business." 

Speaking earlier this summer at the ANA's Annual Masters of B2B Conference in Chicago, she wowed the audience with a powerful video of the twenty-seven feelings that comprise human emotion and also drive business decisions.

"From joy to nostalgia to sympathy to anxiety and disgust," Alicia Tillman asserts that "any one of these feelings can make or break a company."

She continued, "Think about how much you're in touch with the voice of your customer. If it's simply via an annual field survey or a focus group, you can't compete in the experience economy.  Every day, there are interactions with customers, and we need to understand their feelings and win.  While most companies believe in putting the customer first, we need to be in touch with the 27 feelings that drive the decisions."  

Alicia Tillman admits this is a brand shift for SAP in its mission to help companies run at their best.  She notes that the most valuable brands today are tech companies, or organizations with tech at their core, that drive personalized experiences.  "How we judge value has changed, and has affected marketers.  Brand value is now gauged on the quality of an experience.  We win or lose on the strength of experience.  Seventy-five percent of consumers switch brands after a poor experience; they're measuring brands on a single experience right here and now-- not over a lifetime." 

As a result, she believes that all companies must become experience companies by using experience data—or customer feelings-- to drive success operationally.  "When you combine experience data (x) data with operational data (o), you power a customer- first brand.  

Interestingly, Alicia Tillman also recognizes that 80% of CEOs believe their company provides superior customer service, yet only 8% of customers agree. She calls this huge chasm the "experience gap" between what companies believe and the reality of the experiences they are delivering.   "We live in an experience economy where your business is truly shaped by the quality of your experience. As companies, we need to be delivering exceptional, memorable experiences each and every time. The question becomes, how do you go about doing that?

SAP believes that the evolution of data and the intelligence gained from data makes all the difference in the success of any brand. SAP's focus is on how brands can put this to the most effective use.

According to Alicia Tillman, "We now have an unprecedented opportunity to harness intelligence and shape it into an experience. Marketing has always been a practice of both art and science. Marketers need data to be able to make informed decisions on behalf of the customer, but they also have to be empathetic. This balance goes hand-in-hand with an understanding of the changing dynamics of the marketplace and the changing needs of the customer. Empathy needs to be a big part of decision making as companies work to build exceptional experiences for their customers.

As a marketer—especially a tech marketer, I work to ensure that every strategy created speaks in relevant and approachable human language. Regardless of who we are, we all experience the same emotions and marketers have to be able to appeal to that-- whether we're selling procurement software or human capital management software. Everything has to appeal to the feelings of a human being. That's how you sell, how you attract customers and it's certainly how you keep them for life.

Alicia Tillman's Top 5 Brand Growth Drivers. . .

  1. Be authentically purpose-driven.  The shared missions and values ingrained the DNA of your brand come through in your customer experience.  Purpose must be communicated authentically and transparently or risk it backfiring.  Ninety percent of consumers would switch brands in favor one of with a definable purpose.
  2. Get to know your customers in a transparent way. Overcome today's "Trust Deficit" by being transparent in how you collect and use customer data. Always seek permission.
  3. Be human and show empathy.  An improvement in emotion drives the greatest increase in loyalty.  Start with how you message and respond to customers.
  4. Creativity powers the experiences of today's most valued brands. Keep in mind that technology is a problem helper, not a problem solver.   People unleash creativity to power the best of what tech can enable for us.  Technology is only as good as what we're trying to achieve as brands.
  5. Inclusion is a choice. Become more relatable. Help the world become a better place.  At SAP, we have 450,000 customers in 180 countries.  We have a diverse set of minds from every, race, religion and sex, as well as the scale to create something that serves the needs of companies around the world.  This is how we build brands, and our collective vision and actions matter to our buyers.


Alicia Tillman is the Chief Marketing Officer at SAP, where she is responsible creating the company's marketing strategy and increasing the company's brand recognition across the globe. Prior to this, Tillman was the Chief Marketing Officer of SAP Ariba.

Before her time with SAP, Tillman spent 11 years at American Express, where she led Public Affairs, Corporate Communications, and Media Relations for the Global Business Travel division before later becoming the head of Marketing and Business Services.