The 25 most innovative CMOs in the world in 2020

  • The advertising industry is changing radically.
  • Chief marketing officers are dealing with fragmented consumer attention and figuring out data-driven marketing while adapting to a landscape altered by the novel coronavirus.
  • Here's Business Insider's fifth annual ranking of the CMOs who most stand out in overcoming these challenges.
  • Click here for more BI Prime stories.

Innovation has taken a new meaning in 2020.

Global advertising and marketing spend was poised to swell further to $612.6 billion this year — until the coronavirus pandemic came along and upended the advertising business, bringing the forecast down to $563 billion.

The radical transformation of the advertising industry has only been accelerated by the novel coronavirus. Marketers have been forced not only to steer their organizations through challenges like fragmented consumer attention and data-driven marketing but also to slash their spending, tweak their campaigns, and shift their dollars to adjust to a population in crisis.

They're also guiding their companies' responses to the collective reckoning sweeping the US over issues of racism and police brutality in the aftermath of George Floyd's death.

Business Insider is recognizing CMOs and top marketing executives who are rising to the occasion; pioneering new ways of melding data and marketing; building in-house capabilities; creatively reaching consumers; finding new ways to cut costs; and turning traditional advertising on its head.

Methodology

We determined the list through our reporting and input from the Forrester analyst Shar VanBoskirk, the Pivotal analyst Michael Levine, and our sister company Insider Intelligence's principal analyst Jillian Ryan.

The list also considered executives' impact on their company's performance overall and during the pandemic, the breadth of their role and responsibilities, the size of the brand, and their impact on the industry overall.

Our picks represent a cross section of industries from beauty to tech and established companies such as Anheuser-Busch and Pepsi as well as challenger brands like Glossier and Carbon.

Here's our fifth annual list of the world's most innovative CMOs, in alphabetical order by last name. Click here to see last year's list.

Matthew Anderson, Chief Marketing Officer, Roku

The pandemic has accelerated the shift from cable to streaming, from several years to just a few weeks. Anderson, Roku's first CMO, has ensured that the company maintains its lead through this period among consumers and advertisers.

Under him, Roku has made it easier for viewers to find content as they spend more time at home, highlighting its expanded library of free video content and offering free trials with some premium-subscription partners. It also increased live programming, including a virtual graduation event called "Graduate Together" and the global concert "One World: Together at Home."

Roku said these efforts had paid off, with its users watching more than 3 million hours of this content, its Roku Channel growing substantially faster than the overall platform, and people streaming 80% more hours year over year in April. The company ended 2020's first quarter with 39.8 million active accounts, up from 29 million in the same period last year.

Anderson also oversaw the launch of Roku's creative-service tools recently to help brands produce creative for the platform and overcome their production and budget constraints, and he has helped the company expand outside the US in the past year to markets including the UK, Canada, Mexico, and Brazil.

Leslie Berland, Chief Marketing Officer and Head of People, Twitter

Berland, who is head of people as well as CMO at Twitter, has to broaden adoption of the social-media platform beyond its power users — something it's manged to do through the coronavirus outbreak.

Twitter saw a 24% increase in daily users during the first quarter of 2020 year over year as people turned to the platform for real-time information about the pandemic, with 166 million users versus 134 million in the same period last year, the company said in its earnings call. Revenue was also up at $808 million during the quarter, up 3% year over year.

Last year, Berland, a former American Express executive, oversaw "Me on Twitter," a light-hearted, meme-heavy outdoor ad campaign that made the point that unlike other social networks, Twitter was a place where quirky, funny, viral things happened.

The platform also recently launched an emoji that appears when users send out a tweet using words like #thankful and #gratitude to express gratitude during the coronavirus pandemic, and it was one of the first companies to announce that employees could continue working from home for as long as they want.

Lynne Biggar, Chief Marketing and Communications Officer, Visa

In four years as Visa's chief marketing and communications officer, Biggar has driven several initiatives including digital and contactless payments and branding featuring animation and sound as they become an increasing priority for the industry, including competitors like MasterCard.

Demand for contactless payments has increased during the coronavirus pandemic, and 31 million Americans used a Visa contactless card or digital wallet in March, up from 25 million in November 2019, according to the company.

The company has also adapted its Olympics and NFL ad sponsorships in response to the pandemic. It ran PSA-style videos featuring athletes including Sky Brown, Katie Ledecky, Sean McColl and Kenneth Tencio promoting sanitary practices to prevent the disease COVID-19, and a 30-second spot showed the NFL stars Saquon Barkley, George Kittle, and Larry Fitzgerald holding up jerseys advertising their favorite local small businesses.

Chris Brandt, Chief Marketing Officer, Chipotle

When Brandt took over Chipotle's marketing in 2018, the burrito chain was still reeling from its food-safety crisis. He helped the company bounce back to achieve consistent growth in sales over the past two years and all-time stock-price highs.

Brandt helped launch a new tagline, "For Real," added new menu items like paleo and keto bowls, started using TikTok and Venmo, and helped build digital features including its loyalty app and delivery and online-order pickup. These moves contributed to sales growing 14.8% in 2019 year over year and digital sales increasing 90% between 2018 to 2019, according to the company, and helped prepare Chipotle to adapt its business when the pandemic struck.

The company moved ad spending from live sports on TV to digital and online channels as well as streaming services like Hulu and Roku, and emphasized free delivery in its ads in response to the crisis. It also highlighted new tamper-evident packaging, delivery tracker, contactless instructions, and digital kitchens.

Daily signups to its loyalty program nearly quadrupled during the pandemic, to 11.5 million members.

Stephanie Buscemi, EVP and Chief Marketing Officer, Salesforce

Buscemi has helped Salesforce become a $17 billion enterprise juggernaut while also boosting its brand recognition — Interbrand named it the second-fastest-growing brand behind MasterCard, citing factors like differentiation and responsiveness.

She brought data, events, creative, and digital to its B2B advertising, resulting in campaigns like "We Bring Companies and Customers Together" that helped the company increase its deal size by 40% on average across cities including Houston, Philadelphia, and New York.

The former SAP executive also helped launch initiatives to help Salesforce's customers cope with COVID-19, like the "Leading Through Change" content series offering tips and resources from leaders like the entrepreneur Mark Cuban and Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson; and Work.com, a hub of resources to help businesses reopen safely and responsibly.

Bruno Cardinali, Head of Marketing North America, Popeyes

Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen was just another fast-food restaurant when it tasted overnight success in 2019 with its new $3.99 fried-chicken sandwich — sending US same-store sales soaring by 10.2% in the third quarter of 2019 and contributing to the fast-food chain's strongest growth in nearly 20 years.

Cardinali, who was running marketing when the sandwich sold out within two weeks, kept the hype going with a "BYOB" campaign that encouraged people to bring their own bun to make sandwiches with Popeyes' chicken tenders instead. Most recently, he's rolled out a new restaurant and logo design.

When the pandemic broke out, Popeyes responded with "NOLA STRONG," selling a special meal and apparel with 100% of the proceeds going to Second Harvest Food Bank in Louisiana.

It did, however, take knocks for tweeting "Popeyes is nothing without Black lives" against a black background in response to the Black Lives Matter movement. The tweet was removed.

Fiona Carter, Chief Brand Officer, AT&T

Note: This list was compiled in spring 2020 when Carter was still at the company. She left at the end of June to join Goldman Sachs.

As consumers, stakeholders, and employees demand more from companies, giant ad spenders like AT&T have been grappling with how to hold ad platforms more accountable.

Under Carter, AT&T pulled out of YouTube in 2017 and again in 2019 after reports of pedophiles using it to prey on children.

She also struck new sponsorship deals with the NBA and other esports organizations in the face of the coronavirus pandemic; promoted initiatives like #SeeHer to improve women's portrayal in the media; and consolidated AT&T's media spend to one single agency — Hearts & Science — from five, helping it save an additional $200 million in media, according to AT&T.

The brand did face a setback recently when the National Advertising Review Board upheld the National Advertising Division unit of BBB National Programs' finding that asked AT&T to stop using "5G Evolution" slogans in its advertising.

Claudine Cheever, Global Head of Brand and Fixed Marketing, Amazon

In her four years at Amazon, Cheever has helped the e-commerce giant become one of the most valuable companies in the world.

She's overseen marketing of Amazon's flagship Prime Day and helped make the company a regular Super Bowl advertiser.

When the pandemic struck, she launched "tiger teams" to keep up with changes in messaging and develop ads in 48-hour windows. She has also rolled out ads like "Meeting the Moment" promoting how the company is serving customers while keeping its employees safe — though the company has also come under fire for its handling of workplace safety during the pandemic.

Sanjiv Gajiwala, SVP of Marketing, White Claw

White Claw's meteoric rise in the summer of 2019 seemed to happen overnight, but it was actually a deliberate effort that has made for a case study in word-of-mouth and social-media marketing.

When the YouTuber Trevor Wallace posted a tongue-in-cheek video "*drinks White Claw once*" teasing seltzer bros obsessed with the beverage, Gajiwala and his team embraced the mockery. That prompted several other viral videos and memes, pushing White Claw's popularity even further.

White Claw actually cut its media spend by 30% to ride the wave of word-of-mouth marketing, and demand climbed so high that it created a shortage, boosting its appeal even more.

White Claw remains the No. 1-selling hard-seltzer brand in the US, with 59% dollar share, according to the IRI.

Rick Gomez, Chief Marketing Officer, Target

With revenue growing 11.2% year over year to $19.6 billion in its most recent quarter, Target has continued to defy grim "retailpocalypse" predictions with help from Gomez.

In the past year, his team has shifted its advertising to emphasize its pickup and delivery options, relaunched its digital in-house media business Roundel that lets advertisers aim ads at people using Target's data about them, and started Target Circle, a loyalty program that now has more than 70 million active users, per the company.

Gomez's mandate recently expanded to include strategy in addition to marketing and media strategy, creative, guest research, loyalty, e-commerce, and digital strategy.

Gomez also leads Target's corporate-responsibility efforts, including the company's recent coronavirus response, which committed $10 million — its largest donation to a single relief effort to date.

Dirk-Jan van Hameren, Chief Marketing Officer, Nike

Nike made noise with its Colin Kaepernick commercial in 2018, and van Hameren has helped ensure that its earnings continue to beat expectations while staking out a position on the Black Lives Matter movement.

Nike was early in speaking up against racism with an ad that proclaimed "For once, Don't Do It." Sixty percent of respondents in a recent Ace Metrix study perceived the ad as empowering, and it was even retweeted by its rival Adidas.

The 28-year Nike veteran also led the company's response to COVID-19, which included a $17 million donation; the "Play for the World" campaign that encouraged people to play inside; and the "Living Room Cup" — a digital workout series in which athletes like the soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo set challenges for people to do at home.

Jackie Lee-Joe, Chief Marketing Officer, Netflix

Lee-Joe joined Netflix from BBC Studios last September as it faced new competitors like Disney and WarnerMedia, and she's helped it maintain its lead, with the streaming giant adding 16 million new subscribers in the first quarter, its biggest gain yet.

The Australia native has made her mark with the November takeover of New York's Little Italy to promote "The Irishman" that transported people to 1975 and the push for "6 Underground," which used the actor Ryan Reynolds as a marketing tool. The streaming giant continues to deliver on its social strategy, with viral meme challenges like one that prompted people to tweet phrases they can say during sex and other activities.

More recently, she's adapted Netflix's marketing to the pandemic, overseeing an outdoor billboard ad campaign in Los Angeles spotlighting on-set workers who have lost their livelihoods because of the pandemic with the hopeful message "You will work in this town again." She also led live virtual table reads for productions including "Big Mouth," "Grace and Frankie," and "Dead to Me."

Julie Liegl, Chief Marketing Officer, Slack

Liegl is tasked with helping grow the workplace-chat app globally as a newly public company while fending off competitors like Microsoft Teams.

She's done that by pitching Slack as a helpful tool in a remote world. It recently released a PSA highlighting how companies are using Slack to coordinate their coronavirus efforts — its first national ad campaign as a public company — and another TV ad, called "You Got This," which shows people navigating various remote-work situations.

The Salesforce vet also led the development of a remote-work resource center and free webinars to help users during the pandemic. Slack also gave nonprofits free access to its Standard or Plus plans for three months.

Slack posted revenue of $201.7 million in the three months that ended in April, up 50% year-over-year.

Antonio Lucio, Global Chief Marketing Officer, Facebook

In 2018, when Facebook was looking to repair its image after a chain of crises including the Cambridge Analytica scandal, it turned to Lucio, a marketer with more than 30 years of experience at the likes of Visa, Pepsi, and HP.

Lucio has been focusing on building trust and ran Facebook's first major brand campaign, "More Together," in May 2019 and a star-studded $11.2 million Super Bowl ad in February. He's upped the company's marketing budget from $7.8 billion in 2018 to $9.8 billion in 2019, per its fourth-quarter 2019 earnings report.

Lucio also did a rebrand that made the Facebook name more prominent as the flagship app's audience growth has slowed. While he said the impact of the rebrand might not be apparent for another five years, monthly-active-user numbers for Facebook's products increased to 2.99 billion people a month in the first quarter of 2020 from 2.89 billion people in the fourth quarter of 2019.

While Facebook recently faced employee unrest for letting an inflammatory post from President Donald Trump about the George Floyd protests remain on the platform, Lucio's push for groups has paid off, with 2 million people joining more than 2,000 local community-support groups since the start of the outbreak.

 

Greg Lyons, Chief Marketing Officer North America, PepsiCo Beverages

Lyons has helped the soda giant go beyond its splashy marketing and expand its product portfolio as people ditch sugary drinks.

He helped centralize data from 25 million households into a data hub and develop tools and analytics to give its marketing teams real-time, consumer-centric insights. He also kept the innovation flowing with new products such as Lifewtr and Bubly.

Lyons also reorganized the US business and marketing operations into four regional divisions to give teams a better grasp on regional consumer preferences and paired Pepsi's marketers with consumer "pen pals" to understand customers better.

The flagship brand has demonstrated five consecutive quarters of growth under Lyons. He also helped the brand weather the coronavirus by boosting its e-commerce business and pivoting its advertising, even though Pepsi was mocked on Twitter after it put a large ad for soda on a COVID-19 testing-site sign.

Fernando Machado, Global Chief Marketing Officer, Restaurant Brands International

Machado has consistently delivered witty and zeitgeist-hitting advertising campaigns for Burger King, helping it win Cannes Lions' first creative brand of the year in 2019.

So this year, he's been tasked with bringing the sibling chains Popeyes and Tim Hortons up to speed.

At Burger King, he's hacked Google Home devices and used geofencing to drive downloads of its app, pledged to remove plastic toys from kids meals, and showed the signature Whopper sandwich covered in mold to highlight Burger King's move away from preservatives. More recently, he's rolled out "social-distance crowns" in Germany to keep customers 6 feet apart. 

The parent company Restaurant Brands International has also rallied in the face of COVID-19, prioritizing its drive-thru, takeout, mobile orders, digital payments, and curbside and delivery options, which have helped it offset its revenue taking a hit, falling from nearly $1.27 billion in the first three months of 2019 to $1.23 billion in the same period this year. 

Marcel Marcondes, US Chief Marketing Officer, Anheuser-Busch

Beer sales have declined in recent years, but Marcondes has been trying to fix its image problem with new marketing alongside rolling out new products.

He got out co-branded partnerships like the crossover "Game of Thrones" Super Bowl ad with HBO last year, revived its character Bud Knight with Tide in Super Bowl 2020, and tried to associate beer with wellness through mass-meditation sessions.

Under Marcondes, the company has also reduced to 100 days the time it takes to get new products to market; rolled out new products like Bon & Viv and Bud Light Seltzer; and launched the creative agency draftLine.

He has also helmed the coronavirus response for Anheuser-Busch's brands, which included a platform to help people find local restaurants and bars that are open and bringing back Budweiser's catchphrase "Wassup" to encourage people to check in on their friends during the lockdown.

While the company's sales declined nearly 6% in the first quarter of 2020, some of these efforts — particularly its hard seltzers — have been a bright spot for sales.

Kenny Mitchell, Chief Marketing Officer, Snap

Mitchell became Snap's first CMO last summer when CEO Evan Spiegel installed a team of execs to steer the company after a botched redesign and a plateauing user base.

Mitchell led the launch of Snap's first global advertising campaign and has helped scale advertisers' campaigns on the platform, rolling out a new advertiser training and education portal in June.

He also marketed shows including "Nikita Unfiltered" and Will Smith's "Will From Home" on Discover, Snap's hub for curated content and shows, which have been watched by more than 22 million and 35 million people each, according to the company.  

He recently got Snap into sports sponsorships by getting a deal with the Los Angeles Rams, helping get attention for the app as a place to see sports-related content while live sports is off with the team debuting their new uniforms there.

These efforts contributed to Snap's 20% year-over-year increase in daily active users and 44% year-over-year increase in revenue growth in the first quarter of 2020, according to the company.

Janine Pelosi, Chief Marketing Officer, Zoom

Zoom has become an indispensable tool for many remote workers in a time of lockdowns. Its revenue skyrocketed by almost 170% year over year to $328 million in the quarter that ended in April, and the company expects to double its revenue this financial year.

But rather than going on a marketing blitz, Pelosi stopped all promotion to focus on new and existing users, producing educational assets such as blog posts and white papers aimed at students and teachers to facilitate distance learning on the platform.

These assets have been viewed 31 million times, with visits to a COVID-19 resources microsite peaking at 1.3 million views a week and visits to its live webinar events page also up 723% from February to March, per the company.

The company recently faced scrutiny over its handling of China's laws and regulations, however, when it deactivated an activist group's account for hosting a Tiananmen Square memorial event on its platform.

Marc Pritchard, Chief Brand Officer, Procter & Gamble

P&G is the world's No. 1 advertiser, selling products as varied as skin creams and toilet paper. But its brands' relevance is threatened by the rise of direct-to-consumer brands.

Pritchard has sought to promote loyalty to the company's products by using data that permits the company to reach consumers without repeating the same message over and over, producing nontraditional ads with comedians and musicians, and having brands take strong points of view on social issues — including in its latest ad, which implores white Americans to be more active in fighting racism.

Under the coronavirus lockdown, he's created ads around things such as how to cut hair at home, virtual childbirth classes, and how to shave to wear personal protection equipment and masks properly. P&G has continued to deliver strong business results, with a fiscal third-quarter net income of $2.9 billion, up from $2.75 billion a year earlier.

He's also clamped down on wasteful ad spend and demanded more accountability from tech companies on behalf of the industry.

Diego Scotti, EVP and Chief Marketing Officer, Verizon

Scotti has continued his focus on diversity, a topic that's taken on more attention in Corporate America in the aftermath of George Floyd's death.

His AdFellows diversity fellowship program has graduated three cohorts of fellows since its inception in 2017 and expanded to include brands like American Express and Anheuser-Busch InBev. In February, he launched the $5 million "Future Fund" to support new and emerging female talent in entertainment and technology.

Verizon's agencies have increased their minority employment level, with 37% of its agency teams comprising employees of color in the first quarter of 2020 versus 32% in 2016.

Scotti has also taken on digital and coronavirus-related efforts at Verizon. The "My Verizon App" and its rewards program, "Verizon Up," have seen annual membership growing 30%, according to the company. Verizon has committed more than $55 million to COVID-19 relief efforts and launched initiatives like "Pay It Forward Live," a weekly livestream series featuring sports, entertainment, and gaming stars that's meant to raise donations for small businesses.

He's also expanded Verizon's partnership with The New York Times that gives high schools access to the paper.

Lubomira Rochet, Chief Digital Officer, L'Oréal

Rochet has turned the cosmetics brand into a digital powerhouse, as evidenced by 20% of its revenue coming from e-commerce channels including its own branded websites or retailers such as Amazon and Walmart.

Under Rochet, who oversees L'Oréal's regional CMOs around the world, L'Oréal acquired ModiFace, which lets people try on virtual makeovers and hair color, and rolled out products that create foundations matched to people's skin tone and wearable devices that measure UV exposure.

These efforts helped e-commerce sales grow 53% year over year in the first quarter and online sales soar 300% and 400% year over year in April in Latin America and Africa and the Middle East, respectively, despite beauty sales being down overall during the pandemic.

L'Oréal also was quick to increase its online advertising and marketing spending to 70% of its total budget from 50% before the pandemic, according to the Financial Times.

Dara Treseder, Chief Marketing Officer, Carbon

While seen as revolutionary, the adoption of 3D printing as a manufacturing solution has been hindered by its obscurity and lack of demonstrable use cases.

Treseder, a former GE marketing exec, has used creative marketing to spread awareness of the 3D printing and manufacturing startup Carbon.

The #ProtectItAll campaign with the sports manufacturer Riddell in 2019 showed Carbon's real-life use case with a 3D printed helmet liner. Another, "Crafted by Carbon," tried to shift its image from a 3D manufacturing company to the creator of high-performing, brand-name products.

When the pandemic hit, Carbon sought to show how 3D printing tech could address a global manufacturing demand, developing swabs to test patients and face shields for healthcare professionals and first responders.

Carbon's latest round of funding, in July 2019, valued it at $2.46 billion, and the startup has brands like Adidas Ventures, Johnson & Johnson Innovation, Nikon, Autodesk, and BMW among investors in addition to venture-capital backers such as Sequoia Capital, Madrone, and GV.

Lorraine Twohill, Chief Marketing Officer, Google

It's not easy to market all of the products at a sprawling tech giant like Google, but Twohill has done that consistently over more than a decade — clinching the creative marketer of the year award at the Cannes Lions in 2018 for creativity, use of new technology in campaigns, and inclusive storytelling.

She's humanized Google with Super Bowl Sunday ads like one for Google Translate in 2019 and a tearjerker of an ad called "Loretta" in 2020 in which a virtual assistant helped a man remember his late wife.

She's also steered the company to help with COVID-19-related efforts, working with entities like the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to make official information more accessible through Google Search and promoting official content on YouTube like an interview with Dr. Anthony Fauci.

Ali Weiss, SVP of Marketing, Glossier

Weiss joined the $1.2 billion direct-to-consumer startup in 2015 when it was less than a year old. Despite her lack of traditional marketing expertise, she's helped Glossier write its marketing playbook and stand out from other beauty brands with its content blog, its minimalist social-media posts, and a constant consumer-feedback loop.

Last year, Weiss guided "Feeling Like Glossier," its biggest campaign to date spanning digital media, outdoor ads, and TV. She also developed a new program designed to help its full-time employees understand customers better by working on the floor of its flagship store. She's also been involved in opening physical stores in London and Los Angeles.

Glossier seems poised for growth, with more than $100 million in annual revenue and one tube of its $16 eyebrow pomade "Boy Brow" being sold every 32 seconds last year, according to the company, even as it faces pandemic-related questions about its retail ambitions.

Exclusive FREE Report: 30 Big Tech Predictions for 2020 by Insider Intelligence

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