Renowned publications like Forbes and Business Insider regularly rank the world’s most influential chief marketing officers (CMOs). Here at COR, we were keen to assess which CMOs have made the biggest impact in these unprecedented times. So, we’ve compiled our pick of the most important marketing leaders since the start of the pandemic. Read on to find out who made the grade.
What does a CMO do?
Chief Marketing Officers head up a company’s marketing team and direct brand and advertising strategy. Arguably, they’re the most influential members of any organization’s c-suite team. They’re responsible for developing brand awareness and customer experience. And as the ones who define a brand’s messaging, they influence our thoughts and values. They also play a key role in shaping the internal direction of a company.
What features should a top marketers have?
The key features of top CMOs can be classed into the following key areas:
- A solid understanding of the consumer. Consumers are increasingly concerned about issues like climate change, the pandemic and inclusion. So CMOs need to communicate how brands fulfill their customers’ values, and not just how their product solves a problem.
- Leadership. The most influential CMOs aren’t afraid to champion good causes and speak up for minorities. They drive change both within their businesses and the wider society as a whole.
- A solid understanding of ever-changing digital marketing and tech trends. The top CMOs are constantly keeping up-to-date with the dynamic digital space. They proactively adapt to new trends to improve customer experience.
Our Top CMOs
When compiling our top 10, we assessed how each CMOs measured up against the 4 key areas mentioned in the previous section. We also looked at how they navigated their way through the health crisis of 2020.
So, in no particular order, here are COR’s top 10 most influential CMOs.
Ann Lewnes – Executive Vice President and CMO at Adobe
Why we love her:
Having held senior roles at Adobe and Intel, Ann has a wealth of industry experience. In March 2020, she launched “Honor Heroes”, Adobe’s creative response to the Covid-19 crisis. The company invited its community to create digital artwork of frontline workers as a tribute to their heroism. It’s also donated over $3 million to organizations across the globe to help with the pandemic response. “Creativity has the power to bring us all together even in the most challenging times”, commented Ann at the start of the campaign.
She was also responsible for the launch of free online classes to over 30 million students around the world. Ann’s vision is for Adobe to be a platform that gives a voice to creatives from minority backgrounds.
Since taking up her role as Adobe’s CMO in 2006, Ann has led the brand’s transformation. She’s taken them from an “inside-out” to an “outside-in” approach to marketing, as she describes it. The brand now focuses its messaging on the customer and how Adobe solves their problem. In 2020, Adobe partnered with Lady Gaga as part of its ‘Chromatica’ campaign.
Antonio Lucio – Former Global Marketing Officer at Facebook
Why we love him:
Throughout his long and varied career, Antonio has consistently championed diversity and inclusion. As CMO at HP, he challenged their partner ad agencies to hire more workers from diverse backgrounds. He continued this policy at Facebook, stating agencies should “design their work with a diversity mindset from the get-go”.
He led Facebook’s response to the Stop Hate for Profit movement, removing white supremacists from the platform and introducing a labeling system for unverified information. In August 2020, he stepped down as Global CMO at Facebook to spend the next few years helping marketers with inclusion challenges. Announcing his departure on LinkedIn, he stated that “striking the right balance between preserving freedom of speech and eliminating hateful speech” is a “generation-defining question”. Antonio has also been CMO at Visa, HP and Pepsico.
At HP, Antonio was responsible for the brand’s shift towards a more “emotional connection” in its messaging. And at Facebook, he led “Never Lost” and “Born In Quarantine”, two of the giant’s Covid-19 marketing campaigns.
Diego Scotti – Executive Vice President and CMO at Verizon
Why we love him
Diego’s impressive career has seen him oversee marketing operations at Condé Nast, American Express and, most recently, Verizon. He’s been at the forefront of “Citizen Verizon”, the company’s sustainable business plan. Launched in 2020, it’ll see Verizon commit to spending $3 billion on economic, social and environmental causes. The plan includes the goal of achieving zero carbon emissions within its operations by 2030 and providing skills training to 10 million young people across the globe.
Diego also launched the novel idea of “the challenger board”, a jury of colleagues from across Verizon whose job it is to question and critique his ideas. He also set up “AdFellows”, the industry-leading fellowship that aims to bridge the gap “when it comes to diversity and inclusion in the advertising and marketing industries”.
Diego’s marketing strategy at Verizon includes a strong focus on collaboration. He works with famous people and influencers. Under his leadership, Verizon has partnered with big names such as Selina Gomez and Enrique Iglesias for its advertising campaigns.
Keith Weed – Former Chief Marketing and Communications Officer at Unilever
Why we love him:
Starting out as an engineer in the 70s, Keith switched to marketing in the early 80s when he first joined Unilever. Now at the helm of the brand’s marketing operations, he’s played a key role in championing diversity. He founded the #unstereotype campaign after research by the company found that gender stereotypes were present in over half of all ads. The study, which looked at 1000 promotions, led Unilever to phase female stereotypes out of its advertising. It’s hoped other brands will follow Unilever’s lead. Keith is also a major advocate of sustainability, with sustainable brands now making up over half of Unilever‘s catalog.
During his tenure at Unilever, Keith launched the “Brands with Purpose” strategy. They found that businesses with strong messaging about the purposes they back, grew up to 70% more than those without. The company is now working to transition all of its brands to be socially and environmentally responsible. Keith believes that corporate responsibility will be essential for growth in the 21st century.
Linda Boff – General Electric Chief Marketing Officer
Why we love her:
Based in New York, Linda is one of the world’s most successful marketing leaders. Under her leadership, General Electric has transformed it’s brand from a 124-year-old company to something akin to a ”Silicon Valley start-up”, as she describes it. Under her leadership, GE released a series of popular podcasts. So effective was the storytelling in “The Message”, many fans didn’t even notice it was advertising and the podcast even made it to number 1 on iTunes chart.
Earlier this year, she launched “Next Engineers”, an initiative that aims to “increase the diversity of young people in engineering”. Linda believes a diverse pool of talent is required to tackle society’s biggest challenge this century.
Linda has put digital innovation at the heart of GE’s transformation. She focuses on “embedding meaningful marketing strategy” while “marrying the art & science of marketing”. She describes “content, design and technology” as pillars of her strategy.
Marc Pritchard – Chief Brand Officer at Procter & Gamble
Why we love him:
With nearly 40 years at the helm of Procter & Gamble, Marc is a respected and well-known marketing leader. He’s been a prominent figure in promoting equality in the advertising industry and believes branding can be a “force for good”. Last year, he launched the brand’s #ACTFOREQUAL movement, which in 2021 teamed up with the UN to raise awareness for gender equality. As part of the movement, P&G’s marketing team launched a campaign highlighting the achievements of women in sport.
Speaking after 2021’s virtual Cannes Lions festival, the marketing veteran hailed P&Gs leadership in promoting inclusion. Marc believes that economic and social equality will be essential to business growth in the coming years, as consumers are increasingly more aware of societal causes. He hopes that other big brands will follow P&Gs lead in promoting equality, which will, in turn, bring about far-reaching changes.
Raja Rajamannar – Chief Marketing and Communications Officer, Mastercard.
Why we love him:
Raja’s long and varied career has seen him head up marketing teams at Unilever, Citigroup and Anthem. In 2013 he joined Mastercard and has led the company through its transformation into the digital age. In 2020, one of his initiatives included setting up a fund of $250 million to help small businesses survive the pandemic. As a leading figure in the industry, Raja defined how brands should respond to the crisis, saying “there’s a time to sell and time to serve”. He claims the pandemic is a “time to serve” and brands should be doing all they can to support their customers through troubled times.
Raj regularly posts thought-provoking articles on LinkedIn as well as regularly going live on the platform. In 2020, he announced Mastercard would be committing $500 million to “help close the racial wealth and opportunity gap for Black communities across the U.S”.
Writing on LinkedIn, Raja calls on all brands to adopt a purpose and a cause to champion. He also states that AI will be revolutionary for digital advertising, as it will allow marketers an even greater insight into consumer trends in a non-intrusive way.
Joy Howard – Former Chief Marketing Officer at Nike
Why we love her:
Having been CMO for Nike, Lyft, Sonos and Dashlane, Joy has a solid marketing background. From tech to e-commerce, she’s a leading figure within the advertising industry. While at Dashlane, she led the marketing team to amass over 13 million active users across 180 countries. Arguably, her defining moment at Dashlane came with the brand’s first Superbowl commercial, with many experts claiming this ushered in the start of password security.
Joy speaks out against hate speech and discrimination, regularly posting her thoughts on social media. Writing on LinkedIn, she defends what she calls “half-assed” Pride branding, stating that by adopting the LGBT+ flag in their branding, companies normalize diversity. She acknowledges public sentiment that brands only do this for self-interest, but states the increasing role many big names play in promoting equality and inclusion.
Joy is an advocate of listening to minority consumers and defending their concerns. She believes in marrying cultural significance with brand identity. Following the Black Lives Matter movement in 2020, Joy decided to back advertisers’ Facebook boycott and removed Dashlane’s advertising from the platform for a month in 2020.
Gerri Elliott – Chief Sales and Marketing Officer, Cisco
Why we love her:
Gerri’s trailblazing career has included tenures at big names, such as Cisco, Juniper and Microsoft. She’s a powerful voice in the industry when it comes to gender equality and the role of women in leadership. In 2015, she founded BroadRooms.com, an informational website aimed at supporting women who are currently on executive boards.
Her time at Microsoft saw revenue grow from $4.7 billion to over $8 billion in just 3 years. And this trend continued at Juniper, where she led the 3,500-strong team to record growth. She’s an active social media user, regularly posting on Twitter and LinkedIn. Earlier this year, she announced Cisco would be investing $150 million to help students of Historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs).
Through a recent post on LinkedIn, Gerri gave an insight into what guides her marketing and leadership thinking. Under her direction, Cisco aims to be the “bridge to possible” and that change is essential to nurture undiscovered talents.
Phil Schiller – Senior Vice President of Worldwide Marketing at Apple
Why we love him:
An Apple stalwart, Phil has played an important role in shaping one of the most influential tech brands of all time. He joined in 1987, working his way up the ranks until being appointed Fellow last year. Under his direction, the Apple brand has become a household name.
In 2020, he led the company’s inaugural Virtual Developer’s Conference, with any registered developer able to attend the blockbuster event. The online meetup was a roaring success, with many saying it paved the way for the new online events scene.
Having been at Apple for over 30 years, Phil has been responsible for developing a large number of marketing strategies. He currently leads the App Store and Apple Events, and regularly gives keynote speeches at conferences.
Jackie Lee-Joe – Former Chief Marketing Officer, Netflix
Why we love her:
Jackie’s varied career has seen her take the reigns at some of the world’s most iconic brands. She’s led marketing efforts at the likes of Skype, BBC Studios and most recently Netflix. She presided over the streaming giant’s rapid growth in 2020, as it gained 16 million new users in the first quarter. Jackie also oversaw Netflix’s first global brand campaign, One Story Away.
A champion for good causes, Jackie played an active role in the Black Lives Matter movement last year. In June 2020, Netflix announced it will team up with organizations supporting Black artists and business owners. According to Business Insider, the scheme is reported to cost $5 million. After just 10 months at Netflix, Jackie stepped down to work on new projects.
While at the BBC, Jackie was instrumental in diversifying the brand’s content strategy, empowering it to reach a wider audience.
What do our top CMOs all have in common?
While an undeniably diverse and varied bunch, our top CMOs all have several traits in common.
- They’re active on social media. Each one regularly posts and engages with their community on popular platforms like LinkedIn and Twitter.
- They encourage societal change and champion good causes. Our most influential CMOs use their positions to shape thinking and help raise awareness for good causes.
- They all have a tech background. While from a wide range of industries, at some point in their careers all of the top CMOs have been marketing leaders in the dynamic tech space.
- They regularly change roles. Aside from one or two notable exceptions, our most influential CMOs regularly switch roles, spending no more than a few years in the same businesses.
The new reality has brought about long-lasting change, and brands have had to quickly adapt to new consumer trends and concerns. Digital and online companies, like Netflix and Amazon, have all benefited from global pandemic. Our top industry leaders have all demonstrated the ability to change, lead and shape opinion in unprecedented times. Who will make the grade next time?