Top marketers, Fabio Ruffet, Regional Brand Director, Bacardi, Europe, Kari Janavitz, CMO, TE Connectivity and Alicia Tillman, CMO, SAP discuss their use of storytelling, influencers, and data, to connect emotionally with their consumers during this informative and insightful session from The CMO ClubHouse in Cannes.

CMO Club – What’s different now vs. two years ago?

Fabio Ruffet – The theme of storytelling is as old as marketing itself, but what has changed is the possibilities to tell immersive, targeted stories at scale. The tools at our disposal have also changed. However, it is key that innovations and widgets don’t get in the way of telling a remarkable story that is rooted in a product truth, and that resonates with consumers.

CMO Club – How are you finding and distributing those stories?

Fabio Ruffet – Our most successful use cases are where the brand gets embedded in a very organic way. As an example, music artists traditionally pay X to be in Y. Bacardi has partnered, as an example, with Major Laser for some time now, creating award-winning ideas, including the first Snapchat lenses music video. We asked ourselves, “what added value can we bring to the table?” Rather than “how can we attach our brand to borrow interest?” Adding value makes our brand have a role.

Alicia Tillman – SAP is a B2B company. We know our marketing practices are primarily targeted at the decision makers, so the stories we tell are about how our software supports corporate objectives. SAP has seen exponential growth in the influence into the buying decision. The question is how you pinpoint who your influencers are in today’s corporate environment. As a B2B marketer, we need to “consumerize” our practice due to the influencers in the decision.  The story you tell has to be broader. It has to be about how your products and services improve the experience for your end customers.

SAP just created its first brand narrative in 47 years. We have a lot of campaigns, but they didn’t speak deeply enough to the overall SAP brand value. A brand narrative needs to speak to the authenticity and value of what we want to create and aspire to. How do we help the world run better and improve people’s lives? What is our purpose? This approach is where we started, and along the way, worked with new brand partners, such as Clive Owen and Karlie Kloss, to help us tell the story. Karlie is No.5 in her generation for top social media influencers with 18m social media followers. We enlisted their support to broaden the channels of how we tell this story and wanted it to be in their own words, as authenticity is important.

Kari Janavitz – I agree with Alicia. The B2B buying journey has to get more broad in how we approach buyers. Our data research shows we need 11-13 touchpoints to convert to a customer, so we need a range of content types over many channels to help steer that journey. We target engineers and tend to over-index on a lot of functional product content, but we’re finding that entertaining and inspirational content is also helping connect us to our engineering audience. To source this content, we looked at a number of places, including the entertainment industry. The entertainment industry is especially good at inspirational content, and know how to orchestrate great brand partnerships.

CMO Club – Brain science, the science of culture and storytelling, we know humans are centered around this. Are you relying on experts to help you in this way?

Fabio Ruffet – We have people in-house from the music industry. We have a network of people providing both inspiration and validation. There’s an element of risk with anything new and different, but we break through that risk applying an entrepreneurial approach. By aligning ourselves to like-minded artists and brainstorming ideas together, we mitigate risks and maximize creativity.

Alicia Tillman – Data has played a crucial role. It helps us understand where our buyers are. We can then push content to those buyers and find out how the content was received. Few companies on earth say they aren’t a customer-first organization, but data suggests this isn’t how consumers perceive their relationship with brands. Gartner reported that 80% of CEO’s believe they’re giving a good service, but only 8% of customers think so. This is called the experience gap, and we live in an experience economy. Companies need to survey based on experience as opposed to operational data. We now have that level of data and, if you can take this on-board and use it to shape the overall propositions that you offer to your customers, this is how you win in the experience economy.

CMO Club – Name a story you’re looking to use?

Fabio Ruffet – we have 100s of stories we want to tell, but it has to be the right time for the right consumers. We branded our point-of-view in music as the “sound of rum,” a way that was creatively very generous. Music from the Caribbean has taken over the top 10 charts around the world, not just Caribbean artists, but their influence as well. Through working with filmmakers, we created an ode to this thriving scene in an award-winning four-episode documentary interviewing over thirty artists worldwide.

Kari Janavitz – Every customer is connected to culture and society. We’re asked more and more about our views as a company on social and cultural issues. Increasingly, customers want to know how you’re operating, but also how you’re going to make the world just that little bit better. We’ve been working on stories related to our purpose to create a safer, sustainable, productive, and connected future. We recently launched a story on a sustainable, growing start-up. Our audience has really responded to understanding the engineering behind innovative start-ups.

Alicia Tillman – We recently launched a new campaign – the future of business has feelings. Businesses, on the whole, are not known for connecting with the feelings and emotions of their customers. We created a virtual customer, “Nick Vitale” from New Jersey. Back in January, we took out a 3-page advertisement in the WSJ, featuring an open letter from Nick to anyone who would listen and had the power to change things. He wrote about experiences that we could all relate to, from the enjoyment of food to the comfort of your bed in a hotel. Nick was commenting on the good, the bad, and the ugly. These challenges have been around for so long, yet no one is correcting them or fixing them. On the second page, SAP responded, saying we wanted to know these feelings in order for us to do something about it. The reactions to this ad made their way to social media where we had 45,000 engagement comments, from “this guy gets it,” to anger when they discovered it was an ad from SAP. People related to him and wanted to track him down to thank him. This ad was about connecting to people emotionally and finally doing something about consumer feedback. The future has feelings, and this is about how we interact with those feelings to improve the experiences and to help businesses win in the experience economy.

CMO Club – How do you make sure each touch point adds value?

Alicia Tillman – We’ve tried to ensure that we don’t lose touch with who our core buyer is within the company. This is a crucial message for our field marketing teams when creating any campaign. We have invested more incrementally into teams that go beyond direct buyers, and focus more mass-market, like sponsorship opportunities. This year, we had our first presence at SXSW. There were very few SAP direct buyers here, but we were approaching the influencer and thought leader market. These people are increasingly more critical in how people choose to buy technology.

Check out all the recent CMO ClubHouse conversation recaps here.