The CMO Files: Michael Brenner, VP of Marketing & Content Strategy, SAP

Get inside the mind of the world's top marketing professionals. In 20 questions we find out what they love most about their job, what their biggest achievements are... and what keeps them awake at night. Read 'The CMO Files'...

Name: Michael Brenner

Organisation: SAP

Job title: VP of Marketing & Content Strategy

Location: Philadelphia, PA


(1) Where were you born and raised?

Reading, PA - a smaller city about an hour west of Philadelphia, PA

(2) What was your first job? 

I was a newspaper boy at age 12

(3) What was the first product you got really excited about?

I helped Nielsen launch their first web-based software and marketing information services product. We formed a tight project team and tried to operate like a start-up to get it done faster and cheaper and better. It was fun, disruptive and successful. Then I was allowed to roll it out to a few countries outside the US.

(4) Who has been the biggest influence on your career?

I've been inspired by so many influences. I learned lessons from my best and worst managers and colleagues. One of the best lessons I learned was from the CMO at Nielsen who demanded a real business plan for each major marketing investment. He was tough but you had to have command of the facts and be able to prove a solid return.

(5) What has been your greatest achievement?

I am most proud of being able to create a lead generation "machine" for SAP that produced a quantifiable return on investment many times over.

(6) What has been your biggest mistake?

I burned a bridge once with a senior executive very early in my career. I was focused on making a point and should have been focused on the longer term relationship. It was a rookie mistake.

(7) What is your greatest strength?

I am very results-oriented with a strong focus on meeting customer needs and just getting it done.

(8) What is your biggest weakness?

I am impatient, especially when there is an imperative for change.

(9) What do you think is the aspect of your role most neglected by peers?   

Customer-focus. Too many of our marketing colleagues are going through the motions and just fulfilling orders from sales and executives and their managers when they should be asking: is this good for the customer? Will this produce a quantifiable business result?

(10) Which word or phrase is your mantra and which word or phrase makes you squirm?

My mantra is customer focused business results. I think marketing is a strategic asset many companies neglect. What makes me squirm is too much attention to words and semantics over action and results.

(11) What makes you stressed?

The definition of stress is accountability without authority. Not sure who said that but I repeat it all the time.

(12) What do you do to relax?

I spend time with my family at the beach just under 2 hours' drive from our house. Something about the smell of the salt air, the sound of the waves and my children's laughter.

(13) What is your favourite song?

"Fool In The Rain" by Led Zeppelin

 (14) Which book taught you most?

"The Service Profit Chain." Look it up and read it. Happy employees create happy customers who in turn create happy shareholders. A simple lesson I think we all should learn.

(15) Do you have a team or sport that you follow?

I love college-level and professional (American) football (in that order). University of Notre Dame football is a small obsession and I am also a Philadelphia Eagles fan.

(16) Which country would you like to work in?

I'm open to any new experience. Any country in Europe, Brazil, Australia or a major metro in Southest Asia could all offer a new experience.

(17) Which company do you think has the best marketing?

I think everyone envies how Apple innovated across their product lines to do their marketing for them. It's a great example of how marketing is what your business can do, not what you say about it.

(18) What do you love most about your job?

I love the opportunity to help people: customers, employees, shareholders. I am able to do that by sharing content that I create or that comes from others. I make a point to share something amazing through social media at least once a day. It's my attempt at giving a gift that always comes back to me ten-fold.

(19) What is your favourite book?

Hemingway's "For Whom the Bell Tolls" quoting John Donne "no man is an island…"

(20) What keeps you awake at night?

My infant son mostly! Other than that, I sleep pretty well.


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