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My name is Daniel Incandela

This is my digital home for creative thinking and everything you need to know about my career. Thank you for visiting. Enjoy.

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I like to write, take photos and travel.

  • 2015

    Return Path

    As Chief Marketing Officer, Daniel oversees global brand, creative, demand generation, digital, events, marketing operations, public relations and sales development.

  • 2012

    Salesforce Marketing Cloud

    Daniel served as Senior Director of Brand and Global Digital Marketing for the Salesforce Marketing Cloud where he drove creative and digital marketing strategy for the company across five continents, overseeing brand, development, design, content, social and email/mobile communication.

  • 2010


    Daniel worked as Director of Online Strategies at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and IndyCar Series, leading strategy for online marketing, social media, content creation, and online community development.

  • 2004


    Daniel spent five years as Director of New Media at the Indianapolis Museum of Art where he established the new media team, renowned for museum technology innovation, brand development, and digital content delivery.



    Daniel launched, a forum to showcase high-quality video art content.

  • Keynote Speaker

    Daniel was honored to be the keynote speaker at the National Digital Forum in New Zealand

  • IBJ Forty under 40

    Daniel was recognized by the IBJ for being a leader in his field.

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A Three-Pillared Approach to Marketing Leadership

When you work in and talk about marketing long enough, you begin fine-tuning a personal philosophy about your craft. In recent months, I have pondered the overall role of marketing within a company and how I want to shape it in my own personal style.

This has lead me to what I think of as the three pillars of marketing. It may seem overly simplistic, but at the very least, I believe marketing should fulfill three basic promises to the rest of the organization.

Build, drive, and evolve a healthy brand
Deliver meaningful demand, new business, and metrics
Contribute and add to a thriving company culture

In your own marketing role, I challenge you to think about your underlying philosophy. It will help you frame your leadership style, but will also provide a structure for how you position marketing’s role to the rest of the organization. As marketers, we are also storytellers and it’s important to communicate across the company.

Pillar 1: Branding
Let’s jump into the first pillar: branding. It can be intimidating at times. It’s difficult to measure. And it can be hard to define. Here’s how I think about branding: it’s the personality of a company.

In reality, the brand is owned and embodied by the entire company, but it is absolutely marketing’s responsibility and duty to build the brand identity, drive brand awareness, and evolve the brand as the business (hopefully) grows and changes. Employees are the best brand ambassadors, and marketing will have many supporters within the company, like your HR or Sales team. But brand begins with the marketing team.

Think about it this way. A marketer’s job is to create wonderful experiences like events and campaigns and content; or in this case, a culture. Take this responsibility seriously. A healthy brand drives healthy results. And in this era, marketing is expected to deliver better results.

Additionally, the brand weaves itself into a number of integral marketing functions that often go overlooked. The brand voice, messaging, and positioning are all inspired by the company culture and mission.The adjectives used to describe your brand are likely the same or similar to the ones that pop up in your corporate messaging and competitive differentiation. They describe, how your customers are treated. Jeff Bezos sums it up nicely when he says, “A brand for a company is like a reputation for a person. You earn reputation by trying to do hard things well.”

Don’t underestimate the power of good, authentic branding.

Pillar 2: Demand
I don’t recall another time when marketing was under such immense pressure to deliver results and justify their program spend. We have at our fingertips an unprecedented amount of data we can use to make better decisions with more pressure to perform.

I love this quote from Ewan McIntyre with Gartner for Marketers: “As CMOs survey the landscape, one thing is clear—previous budget increases have come with weighty expectations, some of which have yet to be met.” We have a duty and responsibility to perform. We should be held accountable in delivering meaningful demand, driving new business, and improving metrics. I love this approach, because numbers do not lie.

Marketing is often perceived as emotive, experiential, and left-brained. And while that’s true, it also doesn’t tell the whole story. This disconnect can lead to confusion internally about the exact role marketing serves, how we spend money, etc. Again, this is why I appreciate the numbers.

Driving towards a strong ROI, justifying your spend, and delivering results to your sales team is the best way of improving credibility and perception within your organization. This leads to more freedom, support, collaboration, and a “seat at the table” when it really counts.

There are a few actions I think are crucial to setting your marketing team up for success in driving demand and proving value to the organization:

Own a healthy relationship with sales
Deliver a ROI focused approach to marketing initiatives
Empower your entire marketing org to lead with data and metrics
Be fully transparent to the entire company in your decision making

Pillar 3: Culture
Culture got a brief mention earlier when I was talking branding. Apologies if that is confusing! Branding and culture are good friends—in fact, they’re connected at the hip—but they’re not the same thing. Marketers need to give some serious thought to how they can shape a more positive culture within their organization, independent of brand.

Internally, marketing has always been considered a “service industry.” We help our colleagues across departments, we get countless requests for help, and we embrace collaboration. We are also champions of company culture, which is something we should not take for granted.

Marketing is like a heartbeat, providing energy, creativity, and inspiration. This manifests in many different ways, including how the company operates, how our offices look and feel, and how we come together as a group. This can be hard to measure and goes far beyond our current metrics driven obsession. But it remains important.

A great culture positions everyone for success. A selfless approach to the company’s success inspires those around us. And a healthy, thriving culture will influence everything from employee retention to customer success to product innovation to meeting revenue targets. The brand and culture is owned by everyone. But marketing should lead the charge. Brian Chesky, co-founder and CEO at Airbnb puts it much better than I can: “Culture is simply a shared way of doing something with a passion.”

These are my three pillars of marketing. What are yours?


The Top Skill for Marketing Leaders in 2018

At the beginning of each new year, thoughts inevitably turn to plans for the year to come: new projects to undertake, goals to attain, books to read, skills to develop or strengthen. For many marketers, as 2018 gets underway, this will include ideas around creating new and innovative marketing campaigns, finding new sources of data, improving the relationship between sales and marketing, getting more accurate with pipeline projections, increasing conversion rates, and much more.

But while those things are important, my opinion is that none of them individually rise to the level of the “most important” thing for marketing leaders to focus on in 2018. Instead, we need to take a step back and focus developing a skill that’s far simpler—and infinitely more complex.
It’s managing change.

CMOs have the shortest average tenure of any C-level position at just 42 months. This means that marketing leaders face mounting pressure to deliver solutions to address business challenges on a shorter and shorter timeline. The amount of data and technology at our disposal can lead to impressive results, but it also means we have to perform at higher levels to keep up. I have some theories on this, and they all relate to change (but surprisingly, not changing jobs).

A marketer’s role is to respond to the current conditions, business challenges, and competitive landscape—all of which change frequently. Just because something worked last year, or in your previous role, doesn’t necessarily mean it will remain a proven strategy the next time. Anyone who intends to succeed in the business world will have to become more comfortable with change. This means being comfortable with the uncomfortable, at peace with being in uncharted territory, and having the confidence to take risks.

But there are also several steps we can actively undertake to make change easier to manage. Here are just a few.

Be a marketing advocate. I still believe that within most companies, marketing remains a poorly defined and misunderstood function. At a very high level, marketing exists to develop a strong brand, drive business demand, and help the shape the company’s culture. As marketers we take this for granted, but we should also not assume that everyone within the company understands this.

It’s up to us to educate those around us about the marketing function, strategy, and goals. We should be able to readily and intentionally explain how marketing improving the brand and helping drive demand.

Even more importantly, when we shift strategies, we should be communicating how and why we’re making those changes. Modern marketing is a moving target and strategy is not static. It’s on us to inform the CEO and others as to the challenges we face, but also the solutions we develop. After all, marketing is a key part of a company’s strategy, and advocacy ensures that it will remain so.

Stay agile when it comes to data. There’s no question that today’s marketing is driven by data. We analyze leads by channel and region, develop new target accounts, calculate productivity per head, map marketing programming to pipeline generation, and estimate the amount of potential new business at every event.

These are the tactics we employ today, but this aspects of our approach will undoubtedly change in three, six, or nine months. And we need to be prepared for how this will change our strategy and tactics. New technologies will emerge, and the prospects of tomorrow will have new needs and expectations. Our collection methods and the type of data we assess will likely change as well.
Keep this in the back of your mind, and watch for signs of change around marketing data. Be ready to respond to these changes when they come, because adapting to change is key to your success (and that of your team).

Think beyond marketing. If marketing is to play a role in shaping the company culture, then it’s on us to help all areas of the company succeed. This sounds like a selfless goal, but there is a self preservation element to this as well. For example, if sales isn’t hitting targets, then marketing’s demand generations efforts are somewhat irrelevant. For most marketing teams, this will require a shift in the way we think about the scope of our responsibilities.

One of the most important relationships within the company is the one between sales and marketing. Thinking beyond marketing means building that relationship and providing the right messaging, content, and pipeline so the sales organization can flourish. Consider too the relationship between marketing and other areas of the company. The hand off between product management and product marketing. The importance of insight from relationship managers and the services team in enhancing customer marketing efforts. The list goes on and on.

With a slight change to our current approach, marketing can be the common thread that connects seemingly separate areas of the company. By taking a more holistic approach to marketing, our efforts can complement and amplify the impressive work of our colleagues.

Is it really possible to to manage change while driving a great brand and a healthy demand engine, educating our colleagues on the latest marketing strategies, watching data trends, and supporting our colleagues in other departments? Absolutely. It just requires us to be ok with change and open to following an unfolding path that may twist and turn with alarming frequency.

I love this quote from George Bernard Shaw: “Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.” As we continue to move forward, we will be influenced by an enormous amount of data, rapidly evolving technology solutions, and morphing challenges for our customers.

Marketing is going through a period of rapid change. It’s fun, exciting, and daunting. The stakes are high—but the upside potential is staggering. Let’s do this.


My best photographs of 2017

Another year in the books, but not my most productive or impressive year behind the camera.

Lots of work, lots of work travel, getting married, herniating two discs in my back, some ups and downs, and the discovery of an upcoming baby for our family. There were lots of great ‘life’ moments to not take photos and that’s ok. In the meantime, please enjoy a quick look at my favorite snaps of the year.

Let’s get started with my wife, Leslie. I love this photo because it was a spur of the moment shot as we explored Old Havana while making our way to dinner. She looks stunning and the back lighting adds to the drama of this photo. I did good, huh? (With Leslie that is).

Beautiful Leslie

Another shot from Havana in an old square where kids were playing some soccer. I loved this scene and the clouds only added to the cool factor.

Kids playing soccer Plaza Vieja in Havana

Every summer Ollie and I do a photo shoot. He’s at ease, I’m at ease. Kinda hard to take a bad photo. Here he is hamming it up for the camera. Two photos of people in this year’s batch! Very rare for me.

But hold the presses! Another photo of a human! This was a person Leslie and I saw at the Hemingway Home in Cuba and I had to take her photo. Turned out swell!

Female visitor at Finca Vigia

I adore Cuba. The postcards you see of the old 1950s cars? It’s legit!

1950's cars in Havana

If anything’s clear after pulling this all together…I need to take more photos in 2018.

Happy New Year!


The Benefits of Servant Leadership

The Benefits of Servant Leadership

I often say that my responsibility as a leader is to drive a vision, defer credit to the right people, get approvals, remove obstacles, find budget, and be nice.

My personal leadership style didn’t have a specific ideology attached to it, but I recently learned about Servant Leadership. The concept piqued my interest, and after studying it, I found it really resonated with me.

I realized a lot of my natural style for managing or leading had parallels to this approach. Not identically, and some areas need improvement, but it was enough to inspire me to embrace this approach and learn more. So much so, in fact, that I am now writing in an effort to inspire at least one of you.

Servant Leadership was coined by Robert K. Greenleaf in his essay, The Servant as a Leader, back in 1970. There is a now a Center for Servant Leadership, and they summarized Servant Leadership in the following way:

“A servant-leader focuses primarily on the growth and well-being of people and the communities to which they belong. While traditional leadership generally involves the accumulation and exercise of power by one at the “top of the pyramid,” servant leadership is different. The servant-leader shares power, puts the needs of others first and helps people develop and perform as highly as possible.”

I love this description because the underlying text is that we, as leaders, need to suspend our own egos. I’ve spent a lot of time in my career trying to downplay the role of my own ego in how I manage, interact, collaborate, and communicate in the workplace. I remain thankful for this epiphany, but no matter what you do, the ego is always waiting to be fed. The real challenge lies in finding ways to recognize this underlying need while considering something beyond yourself.

I’ve seen the benefits of Servant Leadership first hand and wanted to share some of my observations:

This approach can allow your team members to flourish. Imagine creating an environment where you are there to encourage individual expressionism, problem solving, and project ownership? The results will be impressive. While I personally would argue that leaders should take the blame and team members should be given the credit, even an ego-focused leader would find this approach to be fulfilling.

A service approach compels a better company culture. Company cultures are shaped by more than values and a brand. They are influenced by behavior at the top. Think about what type of company you want to help shape. I prefer one where leaders at all levels are committed to supporting their teams and giving them the freedom, framework and encouragement to innovate. I don’t have time for leaders obviously in it for themselves.

One of my mentors, Scott Roth, once said that it was his role as a CMO to build a marketing function that could run without him. I couldn’t agree more. A servant approach requires greater responsibility and accountability across the entire department or organization and naturally creates an environment for future leaders to learn, make mistakes, flourish, and understand various company strategies. It’s our job as leaders to set companies up for success – with or without us – and our responsibility to cultivate the next crop of leaders.

Commerce (Business) Without Morality (Ethics): this was one of the Seven Deadly Sins, according to Mahatma Gandhi, and an idea I was first introduced to as a college student some 20 years ago. We’re in business to make money, but that doesn’t mean we have to abandon important principles like mentorship, empowerment, opportunity, praise, and simply being nice. Servant Leadership embodies this and helps create leaders that are inspirational and aware. Twenty years later and I’m finally making this connection.

Whatever we’re doing as we progress through our careers, it’s important to think about the end. I’m not so interested in determining what my legacy is. As a leader, I’m more focused on being in the moment and practicing a daily philosophy that helps people, leads with compassion and respect, and contributes to a positive, inclusive culture. For me, this is philosophy is Servant Leadership.

What’s your philosophy?

If you’re interested in learning more about Servant Leadership, here are some resources I found useful:

On Wikipedia.
From Inc’s 7 Secrets of Servant Leadership
Greenleaf Center for Servant Leadership How to Become a Servant Leader


How to Build a Marketing Team: 5 Steps

Building a Marketing Team? Do these 5 things first

When building out a marketing function, there are an endless number of things you can do. And that’s the problem.
Earlier this year, the Wall Street Journal reported that the average tenure of a Chief Marketing Officer dropped another 6 months in the past two years. That puts the total average tenure for CMOs at 42 months.

This means you need to move fast but also keep an eye on long-term strategy. No instant gratification. Your early decisions need to yield quick wins, but also need to set you up for the future. Nothing you do will happen overnight, but your day-to-day decision making is key in making Marketing successful within the company.

The good news is, you can make immediate decisions that will ensure short and long term success.

Let’s jump right in.

Technical Depth

Marketing has become a lot more than branding, messaging, and great design. It’s a complex time for marketers with more accessible data than ever experienced in the history of humanity! Data provides insights; insights that will improve your decision making, optimize your channels, and increase conversions. You must embrace data.

Which means, you must invest technically. A modern marketing team needs developers, front end designers, data analysts, and digitally-savvy marketers. Creating a strong technical bench within the marketing team will prepare you to handle the speed in which technology moves and changes, as well as put you in a position to make data-driven marketing decisions.

A popular topic within Marketing right now is the Marketing Technology Stack. What kind of content management system are you using? Who is your email service provider? What advertising platform are you on? All common questions. Building out the right technical team ensures you will be initiating the correct technology-philosophy and positioning your team to move with agility, speed, and decisiveness. The majority of your pipeline and new business channels, such as direct to website, email, advertising, downloads, event registrations, webinars, and so on, will perform because of this Marketing Technology Stack. Invest in a technical team and avoid ill-advised and costly technology decisions.

The New Marketer

The talent moving through the marketing ranks at the moment really excites me. It’s a new type of marketer that is skilled at all forms of communication, but also inherently talented at all things digital. This person can login to your CMS, build a landing page, gains insights from analytics, work effortlessly across a number of tools, think creatively to drive better engagement, track campaigns through a CRM, generate expert reporting, work in an agile framework, and make sense of data.

This is the new super star within marketing. Build your team around people like this. As they grow, they will be well suited for a number of management and leadership roles within the team—such a content, demand generation, digital, marketing operations, and more. They will be the future CMOs; so hire lots of them.

Marketing and Sales

Initially, I underestimated the importance of a strong, collaborative, positive relationship with the Sales team. Don’t make this mistake.

Sales and Marketing should be a like any good buddy duo in history: Starsky and Hutch, Jordan and Pippen, Frank and Charlie (It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia)—you get the idea.

If the company isn’t hitting its quarterly goals, then marketing and sales has a lot of reflecting to do. Work with sales. Understand their needs. Drive the needed pipeline for them to close deals. Listen to them. They are on the front lines with prospects and customers that consume everything marketing publishes. It’s a living focus group for you to know if marketing has the right message, content strategy, and targeting. You can’t do this alone and data can only do so much—you need human feedback. And in this day, when we are moving from traditional B2C and B2B, to Business to Human, a healthy relationship with sales is imperative.

And let’s be honest. The best way to exceed 42 months as CMO, is to hit your numbers. Figure it out.

Marketing Operations, the Situation Room

Think of Marketing Operations as the marketing situation room. You need data-driven and obsessed individuals within your marketing team to assess every threat and opportunity you face on a quarter-to-quarter basis. The marketing budget, pipeline, demand generation, and program calendar should be tied to the hip, an interdependent ecosystem that illustrates the true health of your marketing team.

This will allow you to focus on a number of things:

  • A heavy focus on improving marketing ROI
  • Pipeline health through every stage of a quarter
  • Optimizing demand generations channels like advertising, PPC and email
  • Investing budget in the right places
  • Ensuring pipeline coverage throughout the year based on marketing programming
  • Aligning with Sales around account-based marketing initiatives and field marketing events
  • Provider detailed data for Sales Development
  • And so much more

Now combine this with the new marketer and an investment in technical talent and you’ve got something special brewing; a marketing machine.

Have Fun

If you can’t have fun working in marketing, then there’s something very wrong. Marketing is a blast.


Marketing is just fluff without a real focus on the technology, data, and collaboration behind your strategies (see the previous 4 points). Once you have defined the infrastructure, platforms, foundations and all of the hard and tedious hurdles—then you can have fun.

Because, when you have built the right data and technology marketing foundation, it allows everything else to flourish. Here’s what I mean:

  • Bring the brand alive through compelling customer experiences
  • Shout your messaging from the rooftops
  • Allow design to evolve the brand across all of your channels and touchpoints
  • Innovate with content and watch as your metrics increase
  • Test, test, test
  • Create event experiences that reflect the company’s story and brand DNA
  • Drive and disrupt the industry through creativity

Marketing should be the heartbeat of a company, providing the energy, drive and creativity to push to the next level. If we have 42 months to do this, we may as well have fun.


My best photographs of 2016

2016 wasn’t the most prolific year for taking photos, but I still got in a few good shots. Let’s jump right in.

Selfie, huh? I don’t take many, but I really love this one. I think it has more to do with Ollie’s expression, but this was a genuine moment caught with my iPhone. I’ll take it.

Father and son

Whenever I travel, I try to pack my Fujifilm X-Pro 1 and a lens or two. One of my new purchases was a Lensbaby lens. In all my trips to Vegas, I’ve never made it to the welcome sign. So…I took my new Lensbaby and trekked down to the sign. Here it is.

The iconic Las Vegas sign

One of the perks of working for a NYC-based company is the chance to actually go to the Big Apple. I love the energy of the city. And I am a sucker for the Flatiron building. I like this shot because I was trying to think about a different way to shoot the building. Love the low, low light.

Green light

Another fave thing about NYC? The coffee. Gregory’s is my favorite coffee shop and I wanted to capture the shot from my perspective. I often stay at a hotel directly across the street.

Gregory's Coffee

Spring had sprung. And I wanted the capture the life of Spring in a new way. This is a shot taken by my $20 Chinese CCTV lens I got through Ebay. Not bad.


Uncle Herm. Founder of Dilla’s Donuts in Detroit and Uncle to J Dilla, James Yancey. Leslie and I made the pilgrimage this summer and we enjoyed part of the morning talking with Uncle Herm about donuts, J Dilla, Detroit and hip hop. And we ate some donuts.

Uncle Herm

I wish I knew the name of his church, but I didn’t have much time in Vienna, so I just snapped away. Initially, I was disappointed that the weather was so dreary, but in this shot, it really pulls out the rich colors and the gold. Danke!

Golden touch

Garden of the Gods. Enough said.

Garden of the Gods

How do you take photos of such popular, recognizable landmarks? Similar to the Flatiron building, I wanted to shoot this in a different way, focusing on a smaller details and a different lens (lens baby). Here is the result.

Opera House Peaks

Summer’s have become very meaningful to me, mainly because Ollie stays with us for the entire time. This is him at Gen Con, our annual expedition to see all of the cool, creative characters. What a handsome boy.

Ollie at Gen Con

That’s a wrap everyone. I hope you all have a wonderful 2017. See you next year!

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