The Brand Humanist

The Brand Humanist: How to Inject Purpose into a Company’s Reputation

Alicia Tillman shares her personal perspective and strategy for brands, brand purpose, and communicating the value of brand to executives.

by ITSMA Staff

February 22, 2021

Alicia Tillman

One of the findings from ITSMA’s 2021 B2B Marketing Trends Survey is that the pandemic accelerated the marketing trend of building a purpose-driven brand. The data showed that respondents who are driving strategic growth (“strategic growth drivers”) use their brand and communications expertise to become change agents for business strategy execution. They are putting more emphasis on building a purpose-driven brand and are spending more on corporate social responsibility efforts. A full 60% of the strategic growth drivers are increasing their thought leadership budgets to help build and strengthen their brand reputation.

This likely doesn’t surprise marketers who attended ITSMA’s Marketing Vision 2020 conference last October, as marketing leaders sprinkled terms like “social voice” or “brand purpose” throughout the event.

The most pointed reference and conversation, however, was my interview with Alicia Tillman, former Global CMO at SAP, during the Day 3 kickoff session, Building a Brand with Purpose. We recently published a Viewpoint that offers a condensed version of the interview.

Early in the discussion, I asked Alicia about bringing the human side to a corporate brand. She shared her personal perspective and strategy for brands in general, as well as her own ‘purpose’ in communicating the value of brand to executive leadership and other stakeholders.

She believes “Corporate goals cannot overlook the fact that we are communicating with humans that make decisions that are based on a combination of solving for what you are offering them, but also partnering with a company that has commonality of vision and values. This is an ingredient in delivering exceptional customer experiences.” She added, “the best marketers understand that and have an ability to set their brands apart from others.” During our live conversation, I dubbed Alicia “The Brand Humanist.” In this clip she describes what it means for a brand to be human.

We also touched on SAP’s overall brand purpose, including how that purpose guides their stance and actions on societal and environmental causes in today’s operating climate, and Alicia shared her thoughts on how marketing leaders can develop their brands for the new post COVID-19 era.

Other key takeaways from the discussion are:

  • A global pandemic is a great time to show the strength of a company’s vision and culture.
  • Companies have a responsibility to use their voice, platform, and resources to help solve today’s most pressing societal and environmental challenges.
  • Every company has a purpose. Find yours and use it to guide the company through growth, changes, and challenges.
  • Diverse perspectives and viewpoints create a sense of ownership and buy-in from key stakeholders.

Alicia Tillman is the former Global Chief Marketing Officer at SAP where she was responsible for building and accelerating the company’s worldwide marketing strategy, including building its demand generation strategy and elevating its brand recognition. As CMO, Alicia spearheaded a number of initiatives and campaigns designed to tell the deeply human story of SAP.


For more insight into how to build trust and deepen relationships with clients through a more “human” approach, download the Building a Brand with Purpose Viewpoint, available at no cost to ITSMA members and for purchase by non-members.

Related Resources

Alicia Tillman

The Brand Humanist: How to Inject Purpose into a Company’s Reputation

Alicia Tillman shares her personal perspective and strategy for brands, brand purpose, and communicating the value of brand to executives.