SAP brand strategy / positioning case study

SAP Brand Strategy Analysis

Electronics & technologysoftware; Professional servicestechnology solutions

Owner of the brand:

Key competitors:
IBM, Oracle, Microsoft, Salesforce, Sage

Brand essence

Helping the world run better and improving people’s lives with sustainability at the core.

Brand values

Innovation, performance, expertise, sustainability.

Brand character

Effective, expert, global, human, corporate. 

Dominating archetype

SAP was founded in Germany in 1972 by five engineers who previously worked for IBM. According to Hasso Plattner, one of the co-founders, they left their previous employer because IBM didn’t want them to work on a project they were passionate about and they decided to pursue it on their own[1]. SAP was the first software company to develop a standardized system designed to process clients’ data in real time. The SAP name is an acronym from Systemanalyse und Programmentwicklung, which in English means System Analysis and Program Development.


In the first half of the 2010s, SAP was using a concept of simplicity as its differentiator. Its brand and communication strategy was centred on the idea of simplifying various processes for the company’s business customers by using complex enterprise software (“If we simplify everything, we can do anything”). SAP’s promise of simplification was based on the benefits delivered by one of its key products, a multi-model database[2] called SAP HANA (the company even named HANA “the great simplifier”).
In 2017, SAP’s strategy started changing. Simplification was no longer the main message and a stronger emphasis was placed on communicating the overall brand purpose. It was first defined as “helping the world run better and improving people’s lives” and revised more recently to give greater prominence to the company’s focus on sustainability (“Helping the world run better and improving people’s lives with sustainability at the core”[3]).


Although SAP is a pure B2B company, it has started acting more like a consumer brand. It wants to be perceived as more human and less corporate, as it has redefined its audience from businesses to people[4]. Alicia Tillman, former SAP CMO, commented for Marketing Week: “B2B needs to move the way we market so much more into consumer practices. Consumer brands have always been about connecting personally with your buyer, whereas B2B you are more often focused on connecting with the goals of the company.You connect yourself more to business metrics – savings, control, transparency, optimisation. Whereas in consumer you are focused on relevancy, feelings, emotion, experience. I find that is what B2B marketing needs to become and is so much of the journey we have been on at SAP for the past two years.”[5]


SAP’s global campaigns are an accurate reflection of the strategy changes the company has undergone. In 2015, SAP launched a global campaign, “Run Simple”. The first flight of the campaign was directed at IT decision makers and focused on capabilities of SAP HANA. Maggie Chan Jones, former SAP CMO, told Advertising Age: “With this campaign, we are really celebrating HANA as the answer, as the ultimate simplifier[6]. The second flight of the campaign was targeted at a wider corporate audience (HR, marketing, sales, finance, procurement and other departments[7]). It positioned SAP as a choice for businesses that are run live and use live data as the basis on which to make swift, informed decisions.
With the shift in the brand’s strategy, SAP’s messaging started changing as well. The emphasis was moved from how the company can help other businesses run better to how “the best-run businesses make the world run better”. Later, SAP went as far as to suggest that “the future of business has feelings” and, more recently, it began to put more communication effort into strengthening its sustainability credentials. 


The SAP brand is corporate and highly technological but at the same time it attempts to explain complex terminology in terms understandable to regular people and to use a human and humorous tone of voice in its communication. Similarly to Accenture, SAP uses its customers’ success stories to build the message (e.g., Under Armour or Cirque Du Soleil).
One of the most important SAP brand activations is its annual conference, Sapphire[8], dedicated to business technologies (similarly to Oracle’s OpenWorld).


SAP is based on the mix of two archetypes: the Hero and the Sage. The company wants to improve the world, make it run more smoothly (the Hero) by using its expertise in science and technology (the Sage).

Most important campaigns

1. “Creating A More Sustainable World” (2022)

2. “SAP Digital Futures: Your Values In Plain Sight” (2020)

3. “Let’s Do This” (2017)

4. “Run Live With SAP – Motorcycle” (2016)

5. “Run Live With SAP – Karate” (2016)

6. “Run Simple” (2015)

Official brand statement:

SAP’s purpose is to help the world run better and improve people’s lives with sustainability at the core.

Our responsibility
We must act now to achieve the goal of zero waste, zero emissions, and zero inequality.In line with our purpose, SAP’s objective is to create positive economic, environmental, and social impact within planetary boundaries with special focus on climate action, circular economy, social responsibility, and holistic steering and reporting.
In addition to pursuing our own targets, we want to help our customers become more sustainable. We have a portfolio of sustainability solutions to help businesses embed operational, experiential, and financial data and insights to drive sustainability at scale. [9]

What is SAP?
SAP is one of the world’s leading producers of software for the management of business processes, developing solutions that facilitate effective data processing and information flow across organizations.

Interesting facts:

SAP’s Sybase IQ holds the Guinness World Record for loading and indexing big data – it could load the entire collection of the Library of Congress in under 35 minutes. [11]


1. Interview with Scott Russell, SAP Executive Board Member, Customer Success
B. Lin, “A Top SAP Exec Explains How The Company Is Pushing Customers To Evolve From Their Old Ways As Cloud Officially Takes Over As Its Biggest Revenue Stream”, Business Insider, Jul 2022, 

2. Marketing Week on the shift in SAP’s brand strategy
S. Vizard, “Why One B2B Business Is Trying To Market More Like A Consumer Brand”, Marketing Week, Jun 2019,

3. Advertising Age on the “Run Live” campaign
K. Maddox, “SAP Shows How Businesses Are ‘Live’ In The Digital Economy”, Advertising Age, May 2016,

4. Interview with former SAP CMO
K. Maddox, “SAP’s Maggie Chan Jones Discusses Event Strategy And New Campaign”, Advertising Age, May 2015,



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