Mill Valley, CA


Notre dame

John Zissimos

Just as I was boarding a flight today, I saw the image of Notre Dame on Fire. Heartbreaking. I spent the last 7 hours on the flight searching through my Google photo app and finding all the shots I took at Notre Dame. Last time I did this was 9/11. I dug through all my negatives and found a scratched black and white film strip I took when I was 12 or 13 from the top of the Empire State Building.

These particular shots of the cathedral are all from a trip in 2008.

Building the Brand Experience Inside and Out at Salesforce

John Zissimos

This blog post and podcast episode originally appeared on Brand Driven Digital @ http://www.branddrivendigital.com/branding-at-salesforce/

“You have to build marketing inside out today. It has to come from inside the company.” It’s this kind of hard work that drives John Zissimos, Chief Creative Officer for software giant Salesforce. His work includes growing a coherent brand and bringing a promise to life across a variety of channels online and off. We discussed all of this and more on this week’s episode of the On Brand podcast.

About John Zissimos

John Zissimos is the Chief Creative Officer at Salesforce. As CCO, John is responsible for building the Salesforce brand and crafting the company’s story around the world. He leads the creative organization across digital, strategy, interactive design, films, events, customer stories, and UX. Over the past 6 years, John has inspired a design-led culture and built a full-service, creative agency within Salesforce to inspire, innovate, and tell the story of the fastest-growing software company in the world.

Prior to joining Salesforce in 2010, John spent over two decades as an advertising creative executive, film director, and photographer. John began his career in marketing at Chiat/Day and has held top creative leadership positions at McCann Erickson and J. Walter Thompson.

John holds a Bachelor of Arts in Radio, Television, and Film from Temple University. He lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with his wife, Pam, and daughters Alexandra, Ellie, and Katie.

Episode Highlights

How has the Salesforce brand evolved since John has been there? “It wasn’t always this big! But really — a brand is a promise. Usually in three dimensions. It’s about the products, the people, and the vision of the future set by the CEO. Our promise is of a deeper relationship with your customers and data to grow your business. That’s why we’re completely focused on customer success — connecting customers with their information.”

Telling life-changing stories. “We have a product that has changed people’s lives. These stories were all over the place but they were trapped in the building, at events, with evangelists.” Eventually, Zissimos sold the storytelling concept through video to Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff and the rest is history (and a fun story that you’ll have to listen to).

“We’re all story-tellers,” Zissimos shared. “Everything you deliver to your customer has to have story elements — empathy, conflict, authenticity. Millennials attach themselves to brands that stand for something — that are about sustainability and community.”

Where do you start with brand experience? “You have to ask yourself these questions — where are you? Ask both your best customers and the ones who have left you. You also have to ask — Why are you here? Is it just to make a profit? Or is it about something bigger? Dreamforce (Salesforce’s annual user conference) is a great example of listening to the community because we’re doing something bigger together. There’s tons of volunteering that goes along with the event that week.”

Unifying the brand. “Plugging into the mother brand is the best way to grow. Early on there were a lot of groups and it was more silo-ish. We had to tie it together through processes and systems. I have a 24-hour plan and a five-year plan. I always wanted to bring everything together but never in a way that stifled innovation.”

“Insight is key. It’s a hard step and a lot of people are skipping it. I have to explain, I have to intellectualize about the why. Why is this on brand? Why is this better? It’s subjective. If you want the most power, be the one to write the brief. Then let it go. Let the team take over.”

What brand has made John smile recently? “Social Print — you can build a framed photo from your Instagram feed. But they do something great with what they actually send you.” As an avid Instagram user, I’ll have to check this out.

To learn more, go to Salesforce.com. For more information on John or his work, please visit zissimos.com and follow John on Twitter.

3 Ways to Create Stories that Resonate with Your Audience

John Zissimos

As the Chief Creative Officer for Salesforce, I’m responsible for overseeing our brand, wherever it appears — across our different web properties, in advertising campaigns, at massive events like Dreamforce, and everywhere in between. And to build a great brand, you must first have a great story to tell.

One of the most important aspects of my job is telling stories — our Salesforce story, our employees’ stories, and the stories of our amazingly innovative customers. I’ve been a storyteller for as long as I can remember. Most of us are; storytelling is a fundamental part of being human. From the way you talk to your spouse about your day at work to how you report performance metrics back to your boss, you tell a story. You make decisions about which details are important, which to leave out, and package it all up into a beginning, middle, and end.

As a storyteller for a corporation, I’m not just trying to elicit an emotional response with the stories we tell (although that’s certainly important). I also use data to inform choices around user experience, design, and response rates. I want the work we create to generate clicks, which become leads, which eventually, through the hard work of our salespeople, become customers.

But in order to drive those clicks to meet those new potential customers, there needs to be a story — and it needs to be a good story. I want to inspire people — to get them to imagine and understand that there’s a better way with Salesforce. In my years as a storyteller, I’ve learned that you can’t inspire people without three key ingredients.

1. Don’t Bore People

This may be obvious, but it’s actually pretty difficult to do unless you’re paying close attention to your craft. Start by asking yourself, ‘Why should anyone care?’ If you’re going to put something out there — if you’re going to take the time to sit down and write a story, or create a film — don’t bore people. When you’re telling a story, remember that people want to hear something profound, and they want to be moved.

2. Show Change

People who talk about their own low points and what they did to change, and how they got to a certain place — those are the stories that we all want to hear. If you’re telling a story about how a business has transformed its customer service, you’ve got to talk about when the customer service was terrible. There’s nothing perfect about any of our lives or our businesses. We’re all trying to be better. If we’re not, or if we’re trying to pretend that everything is already perfect and we’re in denial, we won’t be in business much longer.

3. Be Honest

For any story, no matter what it is, you have to be honest. When people ask me what I believe makes a good manager, I can start with all of the things I do that inspire my employees to push themselves to innovate and think bigger than ever. And yes, that’s certainly interesting to a degree. But with some vulnerability, I can make that story much more powerful by talking about mistakes I’ve made along the way, or misconceptions about what makes a good manager that I’ve since corrected about myself. You have to reach the extremes of the theme that you want to tell — that’s when you can pull somebody in. People can smell inauthenticity a mile away, but they believe you when your story is real, and it’s honest.

Of course,  these tips are much more widely than just brand or corporate storytelling. I believe that what makes stories compelling is agnostic of the topic — whether you’re talking about a company, or an individual, or an idea. Stories are what make people interesting. Stories are why we will matter in the world long after we’re gone. When you’re thinking about telling a story, remember the power that stories can have, as well as the formula for how to tell a great one.  

This blog post first appeared on the Salesforce blog. The “What I’ve Learned” series features interviews with top Salesforce executives on what they’ve learned about business, success, and life. Keep your eyes peeled for more insights from top Salesforce executives, coming soon on the Salesforce Blog. In the meantime, check out Zissimos's first post, What I've Learned About Innovation.  https://www.salesforce.com/blog/2016/05/create-stories-that-resonate.html


What I’ve Learned About Innovation.

John Zissimos

One of the most important things I’ve learned in my career is how little I know.

I’ve worked in creative roles for over 25 years, so I bring a lot of experience to the table when it comes to setting a brand strategy and driving innovation. But I’ve learned, over and over again, that you have to come in every day and start fresh. Erase what you learned yesterday, and take a new look. That’s where you find innovation — in the things you realize you don’t know.

The enemy of innovation is the old narrative — statements like “We’ve already tried that” or “We always do it this way.” All the innovation that I’ve seen happen at Salesforce, especially in our marketing department, has come from someone stopping and saying, “It’s time to take a fresh look at this.”

Of course, truly changing your own perspective isn’t easy to do. For me, it’s the product of a long career with a lot of mistakes made along the way. When you’re shaken to your core and your deepest beliefs are challenged or you make a really stupid mistake, you learn the kinds of lessons that enable you to develop new perspectives. You learn to be able to say, “There’s a better way to think about this.”

Which mistakes taught me the most? It’s hard to say. As a creative professional, your early career depends on your ability to build a great portfolio. That is, in essence, a selfish endeavor: You’re holding ideas in rather than sharing them. It’s the right thing to do for a while, but if you don’t let that go, you become someone who can’t lead or manage people because you’re always focused on your own work.

It happened to me: I found myself in a position where I was leading people, but it wasn’t going well because I kept trying to impose my will on their idea. They kept pushing back until one day, it hit me: They had a really great idea, and I was destroying it by trying to make it my thing. Now, I really try to inspire people without imposing my own views — even letting them make their own mistakes, which isn’t easy. The great thing about Salesforce is that if you have a great idea or a fresh perspective, you’re able to act on it. I’ve never seen a great idea get shot down here.

When it comes to innovation, though, great ideas are only half of the equation. The other half — the half that’s infinitely harder to achieve — is turning ideas into reality. And, surprisingly, your ability to get something made usually isn’t about your budget or internal authority. While these are important, the secret to successful innovation is much simpler, and much more difficult to achieve. It is patience.

The more transformative your idea is, the more patience you’ll need to make it happen. People are creatures of habit; disrupting those habits can be a long, slow, sometimes painful process. And bringing your vision to life — so vividly that others buy into its power to transform — is often just as painstaking.

When I first joined Salesforce in 2010, we did not tell our brand story the way that I thought we could (and should) tell it. You would go to Dreamforce, and there were customers, admins, these fiercely loyal superfans beyond anything I had seen at any other company. But that story wasn’t making it out of the building. I had a vision for how I wanted to tell that story, but turning my vision into reality was a serious challenge. It took a long time talking, convincing, putting presentations together, tinkering, and occasionally being willing to fight for what I believed.

At times, it was discouraging. When you have a vision you believe in, it can be difficult to understand why others don’t jump on board. But you have to have empathy; you have to try to see what unique experiences and convictions the other person brings to the table. In my case, each obstacle only made me more certain of my vision to change the way this company told stories. And ultimately, I did. I’m proud to say that our customer films have redefined the way Salesforce tells its brand story, largely by letting those superfans help tell our story for us.

So how did I keep going despite the doubters, naysayers, and incremental failures? One of the best tactics is to develop multilevel plans that align with your vision. I’ll have an end goal, which may be one or five years down the road, but I’ll also have plenty of short-term milestones along the way. This helps me focus on incremental change while keeping the big picture in mind. If I meet a short-term obstacle, I’m less easily discouraged; I can tell myself, “OK, that’s a five-year thing. I have to let that go. I’m not going to change the company this week.”

But, of course, that doesn’t stop me from doing everything I can to create the kind of change that will make a profound difference eventually.

This blog post first appeared on the Salesforce blog. The “What I’ve Learned” series features interviews with top Salesforce executives on what they’ve learned about business, success, and life. Keep your eyes peeled for more insights from top Salesforce executives, coming soon on the Salesforce Blog. https://www.salesforce.com/blog/2016/04/what-ive-learned-about-innovation-john-zissimos.html


Welcome to the Age of the Customer

John Zissimos

Today’s customers are more powerful than ever, with the ability to shift markets and define a company’s success in a matter of seconds. They’re not looking for products, features, or gimmicks; they’re looking for a complete and effortless customer experience. They don’t just want to solve problems; they want to build a faster, smarter future — and they’re disrupting entire industries in the process.

We are all customers, and we are living in the age of the customer.

This is nothing short of a revolution — the fourth industrial revolution, a blurring of the physical and digital worlds — with customers at its center.

Amid this change and opportunity, the question for every business becomes: How will you adapt? How do you shift your entire strategy to create the connected experience your customers demand?

At Salesforce, that’s precisely the problem we’re helping companies solve. Salesforce Lightning connects your entire business around the customer, aligning your sales, service, marketing, community, analytics, and apps around a unified goal: customer success.

So what exactly does that mean?

The sales process is drastically shifting away from the linear model. Succeeding in selling means knowing where your customers are at all times, and being prepared to engage with them on their own terms. Your team needs selling tools designed for this faster, mobile, customer-first world. Sales Cloud Lightning puts the power of the lightning experience into every sales rep’s pocket for a faster, smarter selling experience.

But in the Age of the Customer, selling is only one piece of the puzzle. In this new era, customer service reigns supreme, and your agents need shareable, omnichannel, 360-degree views of every single customer. Service Cloud Lightning empowers your agents to make your customers love you, and Field Service Lightning expands this power to your field service technicians.

It’s crucial for your business to connect to customers, but also to leverage and build peer-to-peer relationships. With Lightning Community Builder, you can build a powerful community of customer evangelists and create more meaningful, one-to-one experiences for every customer. And with Lightning Trailhead, you can continue learning and building even more connection points to your customers.

The Age of the Customer is a powerful shift. The opportunity has never been greater, and every business needs to innovate and transform in order to succeed. But at Salesforce, where we’ve been focused on the customer for the past 17 years, we have the tools your business needs to succeed in this new era.

This blog post originally appeared on the Salesforce blog, 2016: https://www.salesforce.com/blog/2016/03/age-of-the-customer.html