SXSW 2019: These Brands Aren’t Political: They’re Doing What Their Consumers Expect

There’s no doubt that consumers are asking more and more from brands. But it’s not accurate to say that the response from companies like Patagonia, Lyft and Airbnb are politically motivated: in fact, they’re motivated by each company’s core founding vision and the consumer expectations related to that.

That was the key takeaway from Saturday’s ‘Brand: The New Political Reality,’ panel which included panelists Joy Howard, CMO of Lyft, Corley Kenna, senior director, global communications & PR at Patagonia and Nancy King, director of global guest marketing at Airbnb.

“In many ways, it’s not about politics. This is about the 40+ years of advocacy that this company has, and standing up behind it. I think that’s what allows us to, no matter where we are in the world [. . .] to take the positions that we do and to challenge governments to do better to protect the environment,” said Kenna.

For Patagonia, initiatives such as securing Bear’s Ears national monument, or preventing the construction of dams in the Balkans are existential to their business.

“We’re still in business today because we fight to protect those places.”

“It’s not [a] political statement. Amid a world that is becoming more polarized: What are our values? How do those manifest in the world, and how do we make decisions based on those beliefs?” said Kenna.

Nancy King of Airbnb echoed the sentiment.

“Our CEO talks about, what does it mean to be a 21st-century company? It’s that we have to support all of our stakeholders—and so those are shareholders and communities. Without our community, without our hosts, without our guests, I don’t know where Airbnb would be.”

King also had choice words for so-called corporate social responsibility or CSR and whether it’s sufficient for brands.

“Now that I work at a company where the language is values and purpose, the idea of CSR is kind of like eating your peas: something that you have to do. I really hope that it changes [. . .] a lot of companies see it as a marketing lever instead of something that’s baked into the DNA of the company and actually shapes the way they behave, and the decisions that they make. My hope is that more companies will start to embed that thinking into their decision-making process.”

Why is embedding values into a company’s mission statement so important? It all goes back to what consumers expect of brands in the current political climate. Or, as King explained: “Making decisions now becomes marketing.”

“I think being a CMO is getting harder and harder,” said King, noting the obligation to drive culture through brands. “Especially at tech companies, there’s an appetite for marketing to move closer and closer to the product development process […] At Airbnb marketers sit on product teams, which is amazing because we finally have the opportunity to share what’s being built and not just how to talk about what’s being built. ”

Lyft’s Joy Howard stressed the point further: “You’re not just a marketer anymore, you’re not just a communications person anymore. There’s an appreciation for [. . .] the mission we’re going towards. I love it when someone from accounting is like, ‘did you see what’s going on here? Shouldn’t we be talking about this?’”

What does this mean for the bottom line and shareholder value?

“I don’t think you can be a great brand and not be close to your customers,” noted Howard.

Kenna put it bluntly. “Patagonia’s revenues, profits have quadrupled in the last 10 years […] for us, it’s absolutely benefited business.”

King agreed: “We see that as a key driver of our growth.”

According to a report from Sprout Social, “Sixty-six percent of consumers say it’s important for brands to take public stands on social and political issues.”


SXSW 2019: Brands Discuss The Importance Of Sound In An Age Of Voice Search

With comScore predicting that voice search on the web will be 50 percent of all searches in the next few years, brands are discussing how to carve out a sonic niche in an increasingly noisy environment.

That was the core of the conversation at Saturday’s SXSW panel, ‘The Invisible Brand in an Audio-First World,’ moderated by Man Made Music’s Joel Beckerman and including chief marketing officer for NPR Meg Goldthwaite, Citi’s managing director of global branding, media and marketing Mark Ingall and Matthew Benson, advanced innovation lead at Faurecia.

According to Beckerman, “audio-first media is exploding: devices, immersive spaces, smart speakers like Alexa, while traditional media like television and radio is in decline.”

“As technology becomes more and more intertwined in our lives, the winners will be the brands that humanize technology while getting credit for every aspect of their role in experiences and products humans love,” said Beckerman.

But it’s not that sonic logos and audio branding are necessarily new; you can hear it in the soft hum of HBO’s opening to the satisfying ‘swoosh’ of an email being sent. However, there’s a renewed focus for brands to lay the groundwork for a future where most consumers interact solely through voice technology and to do so in a way that’s sensible for the consumer interaction in question.

For NPR, sound is part and parcel of its storytelling and brand identity. CMO Meg Goldthwaite put it like this: “It’s the play on sound that is what we want to do as marketers because that’s what we’re trying to elicit: emotions that are affiliated with the brand.” “We’re sort of tied to this old-timey device of a radio,” said Goldthwaite. “Radio has been purported to be dead for quite a long time. It’s my job as the chief marketing officer to that people know that NPR isn’t just radio.”

“My challenge is that as our content gets disaggregated, and you’re not just hearing [. . .] “This is NPR,” before every bit of audio, it’s trying to find a way to brand our audio and make certain that people understand that what they’re about to hear is good, quality sound: that sound that has made NPR the most loved and most trusted for over 50 years.”

Mark Ingall of Citi has a different challenge: how do you sonically translate feelings of security and trust while providing consumer touchpoints that are sensible for a banking company?

“Sometimes the best sound for a customer is no sound,” said Ingall. “There’s a fascinating thing where people would rather interact with machines than they would persons [. . .] It’s only when you’ve got a problem and you want someone to scream at.”

“What you don’t want to hear is when people make a mistake [. . .] that ‘BZZZ’ sound.” That audio cue can make the difference between punishing or rewarding a consumer for their transaction.

Whatever the touchpoint, Ingall’s priority remains the same: “How can we make people feel comfortable about their money [. . .] how can we make sure we’re present in that transaction?”

“If you’ve signed up to get stuff from us, that email push sound feels like us as well. It doesn’t sound like Apple, it doesn’t sound like Chase, it doesn’t sound like anyone else. You know that it’s Citi that’s actually giving you something.”

“When you transact on our app, what we’re looking for is that you’re reassured that that action has gone through and what you intended to happen has happened.”

Beckerman concluded with a few statistics: “If you like the sound in association with a particular experience, you’re 86 percent more likely to actually want to have that experience again with that brand [. . .] If you’re doing a step-by-step process to fix something, scored experiences actually help people. It’s 20 percent more likely that you’ll find that experience fast or easy and it’s 32 percent more likely you’ll want to have that experience again. These things actually have data-points which can monetize across experience.”


SXSW 2019: Brands Discuss The Importance Of Marketing To Women

At ‘Women are Building the Brands We’ve Always Wanted,’ panelists gave their perspectives on why consumer connection is critical and why women should be leading marketing efforts behind consumer brands.

The panel was moderated by Jamie Gilpin, chief marketing officer at Sprout Social Inc. who shared statistics to support why consumer connection is essential, especially the relationship that brands have with women.

“We look to the trends. It’s more than a feeling. Seventy-to-eighty percent of consumer goods are purchased by women [while] 50 percent of traditional male products are purchased, or driven by women. It’s not just about filling a functional need, and that’s what a lot of brands have done in the past. It’s about [the] connection [. . .] 68 percent of female consumers say they want to connect with a brand.”

Gilpin put it bluntly: “The stakes are high for us marketers. To feel connected to a brand, female consumers, over half of them say, ‘we feel connected to a brand when they understand us and our desires.’”

Also included in the panel were Amanda Clark, head of NA development/senior vice president of Taco Bell, Rachel Blumenthal, founder & CEO of Rockets of Awesome and AJ Hassan, VP, executive creative director at R/GA.

“Time’s are a-changing,” said Amanda Clark, reflecting on brand evolution over the past few years. “I think brands are embracing a lot of the qualities that we as a society label as traditionally female [. . .] those characteristics, we talk about them as transparency, connectedness, honesty, emotion.”

In the case of Taco Bell, this comes through in their brand voice across social and the transformation of retail spaces into places where people want to stay.

“We never try to talk down to people,” she said. “If you look at Super Bowl ads, and I look at my own industry [. . .] maybe we had some busty women selling burgers, tacos. That’s not a good thing. We’ve got to progress.”

But, there’s a wrong way to progress.

“You have to stay true to you are [. . .] OK, Gilette. I think they took a hard left [but] you still have to be authentic to your brand voice.”

AJ Hassan, who led the Always campaign “Like A Girl” for R/GA, tied its success to the team that created itand a divergence from the brand communication of confidence as the ability “to wear white pants.”

“Because it was rooted in something that’s so visceral for these girls, we needed to create a work that was truly representative of a woman’s point of view, and really bring in partners to do that in the most authentic way, and also to manifest a piece of work that [. . .] let the girls use their own voices to share those experiences.”

Hassan also elaborated on the need for connection through a physical brand space, brick-and-mortar.

“I think as much as people love the convenience of Amazon Prime there’s still a craving to touch materials, to see things in person, and I think the brands that we’re going to see succeed are thinking about creating those experiences.”

“We’ve seen the whole generation of millennials, 80 percent of them being belief-driven buyers, because of technology [. . .] they’ve grown up living in their phones. And there’s a power in the ability to keep up with everyone you’ve ever known on Facebook, but there’s also a degree of anonymity that’s ironic in that it does get to this lack of connection. That’s what brands are really looking at with technology: to create more meaningful connections, to bring more purpose, to understand my audience,” said Hassan.

“Who do you make friends with? You make friends with someone who gets you, who can have a conversation with you, who understands you.”

While the panelists agreed that there has been some progress in terms of representation, the statistics are startling, as Gilpin points out.

“Only 28 percent of CMO’s are females, and only 30 percent are leaders in the agency world.”

Donut Fries: How Influencers Impacted Both Dunkin And McDonald’s Launches

McDonald’s recently launched Donut Sticks to its breakfast menu, eliciting some Twitter sass from Dunkin. Talkwalker measured social engagement with both brands and determined that influencer marketing had a significant role in the conversation.

In 2017, McDonald’s placed a higher priority on long-term growth which included the retention of existing customers. Part of this strategy, the company said in its annual report, was to focus on breakfast.

Lo and behold, the quick-service restaurant giant introduced donut fries in February—fried strips of dough packaged similarly to French fries. But as Dunkin pointed out, the new product was eerily similar to its own, limited-edition donut fries last summer.

Dunkin fired back with an illustration of Dunkin-branded packages made to look like the cardboard boxes used for a Big Mac.

“What a coincidence,” the Dunkin Twitter account joked, “McDonald’s just released donut fries and we just released blueprints to our new donut packaging.”

Talkwalker took a look at the buzz surrounding each donut fries launch to determine which brand was leading the conversation.

Dunkin’s Donut Fries launched its donut fries after a pre-run in Boston last year. The topic generated cumulated 25,900 mentions and a strong 708,000 engagements in the last 13 months, Talkwalker observed.

Despite only having launched a month ago, McDonald’s Donut Fries grossed 9,900 mentions but 306,200 engagements, “thus still staying behind’s Dunkin’s social media storm.”

A comparison of the two launch strategies found that Dunkin relied heavily on influencer marketing to gain social traction on National Fry Day (July 13). A sponsored post by food and fashion influencer Rebecca Azamolo garnered 104,778 shares/likes. Social influencer Nia Sioux, meanwhile, earned 74,138 likes posing with the fries and Miranda Sings made a music video calling donut fries one of the best pregnancy cravings. The post has earned 93,478 likes to date.

Talkwalker attributes part of Dunkin’s social success to its photogenic pink packaging. McDonald’s is serving its donut sticks in relatively plain white bags.

That’s not to say that McDonald’s isn’t getting any traction on the new menu item. Influencer Trysha Paytas filmed herself trying the donut fries and garnered over 1.1 million views. Make-up artist Jeffree Star posted a photo of the treat on Twitter, earning over 43,000 likes.

Since their launch, however, McDonald’s has slowed its promotional efforts. As of this writing, the brand has not replied to Dunkin’s joke tweet, either.

“There are many takeaways, one of them being the importance of timing: these products are relatively similar, but the #NationalFryDay boost might have given Dunkin the winning advantage,” Talkwalker CEO Todd Grossman told AList. “Dunkin also managed to transform this new McDonald’s launch into one more opportunity to get their name out there through clever tweets, and ultimately remind their audience that they ‘own the Donut Castle’.”


Ad Council, Square Enix Fight Bullying With ‘Kingdom Hearts’ PSA

The Ad Council and Square Enix have released a new campaign that uses Kingdom Hearts to promote kindness and inclusion in the video game community. This partnership marks the first time that The Ad Council has worked with a game publisher.

Characters from Square Enix and Disney/Pixar’s video game Kingdom Hearts III star in a new spot for The Ad Council’s “Because of You” anti-bullying campaign. The campaign includes 30-second TV and digital videos, out-of-home (OOH) billboards and bus shelter placements around the US.

“Our hearts are made stronger by how we treat others,” says a video called “Light.” “The light you share can impact those around you, but so can the darkness.”

The campaign is aimed at US teens. The Ad Council says that according to research, two-thirds of teens say they’ve experienced bullying, but most of them don’t think they contribute to the problem. “Light,” as well as the entire “Because of You” initiative, encourages teens to look at their own behavior as well as others to make sure they’re not contributing to the problem.

The Center for Disease Control warns that students who are both targets of bullying and engage in bullying behavior are at greater risk for both mental health and behavior problems, compared to students who only bullied or are only bullied.

The Kingdom Hearts franchise is a mash-up of Disney, Pixar and Square Enix characters, who team up on an action RPG adventure. The series places a strong emphasis on friendship, making it a natural fit for The Ad Council’s initiative.

“The Kingdom Hearts story is filled with characters overcoming trials and tribulations through friends helping and supporting each other in tough times,” said Brendan Docherty, senior manager of product marketing at Square Enix in a statement. “We thought these themes matched very well with the valuable life lesson of the Because of You campaign.”

Kingdom Hearts III launched on January 29 and according to Square Enix, has shipped over five million copies. The newest installment includes a variety of worlds ad stages based on franchises such as Tangled, Rapunzel, Hercules, Monsters, Inc., Toy Story and Big Hero 6.

Kingdom Hearts III is one of the year’s biggest game releases, and we’re excited to see the game’s message of support and friendship reach millions of teens,” Anastasia Goodstein, SVP of digital product management at the Ad Council said. It’s a great fit with our campaign’s idea that everyone should reflect on the power of their actions.”

Women’s Day: Brands Take To Social To Show Support

Brands celebrated International Women’s Day 2019 with tributes, videos and events designed to inspire and empower. Here are some of our favorites.

The woman’s role in society is very different now than it was even just a few decades ago. For Women’s Day, Budweiser revamped some of its print ads from the 1950s and 1960s to reflect modern values. The activation was created in partnership with #SeeHer, a non-profit organization devoted to the equal representation of men and women in media and advertising.

Each of the ads has been reimagined by female illustrators to more accurately reflect modern sensibilities. One ad, for example, showed a woman pouring her husband a beer while he was hard at work. The new ad shows the same couple taking a break from working on the project together. Another ad originally put a bride front and focuses on the role of homemaker. The new version shows the same woman, but she is surrounded by friends.

Budweiser’s campaign will appear online and in print ads featured in The New York Times, Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune

Uber released a three-part video series in the UK that celebrates pioneering women from London. Over the years, British Heritage has honored notable pioneers with a blue plaque. Uber is calling attention to the fact that only 14 percent of them are for women and asking its passengers to nominate more women to British Heritage. Three women—GRL PWR Gang founders Kirsti Hadley and Naysap, as well as director and dancer Kelechi Okafor take viewers through London to point out inspiring women that either received a plaque or should have.

An app takeover March 8 alerts riders when they pass one of these blue plaques or “celebratory” destinations that Uber designates on the map, such as where a pioneering woman lived or worked.

Visa introduced its Visa Everywhere Initiative in 2015 and introduced its first Women’s Global Edition on Friday. The global program invites women entrepreneurs to tackle problems such as how they could transform consumer payments and/or commercial experiences. Those with the winning solutions in each category will receive $100,000.

The program will culminate with a finals event to be held during the kick-off of the FIFA Women’s World Cup France 2019.

HBO shared a video tribute called #BecauseOfHer that encourages women to start a little trouble and make their voices heard, as told through a quote by filmmaker Nora Ephron (Sleepless in Seattle). The video features several characters from HBO shows such as Game of Thrones, Veep and Westworld, but also films like Norma Rae.


SXSW 2019: Macy’s Plan To Compete With Amazon Is To Treat Their Employees Like Influencers

Shoppable content is driving sales and innovation for Macy’s, with the legacy brand leveraging their own employees—and the model may work for others, too.

The biggest eCommerce challenge for Marc Mastronardi, EVP of business development at Macy’s Inc., is the “connection of bringing an experience into the shopping world.”

For the company, this meant rewarding their employees for sharing fashion items from the store through a proprietary editorial tool that provides employees insight into what items to shift based on season, store location and internal initiatives.

At Friday’s SXSW panel, ‘Why Storytelling Sells: Platform Purchasing Power,’ including James DeJulio, president and co-founder of Tongal, who built the platform, alongside Marc Mastronardi and Lauren Wilner from Macy’s Inc. spoke about how their Macy’s Style Crew program is an iterative and scalable solution to a problem many enterprise brands face.

At 18 months into the program, Macy’s Style Crew is a way for the 160-year-old brand to differentiate.

It’s open to anyone within the Macy’s organization, from sales associates to programmers to execs. So far, the program has 1,000 ambassadors from 40 states leading to an average order value of $175, with a single post netting up to $22k in sales.

“For us, our consumer is constantly changing,” said Lauren Wilner, Macy’s VP of business development, fashion. And what does that consumer expect? “It’s giving [the consumer] a voice, and speaking in an authentic voice.”

“The ability to transact simply is where everyone has to be, but the differentiator is: can you create an experience?” said Mastronardi.

Mastronardi summed up their presence as a healthy eCommerce entity while restating the challenge:

“We’re the 8th largest seller of anything on the internet. Making sure we maintain that momentum [. . .] is how you bring the editorial side, the experiential side, the moment that makes you stop and pause and want to be engaged in shopping with us.”

The paradigm shift, as Macy’s puts it, is to transform “from a company selling to people to people selling to people.”


At #SXSW, Diversity Starts At The Top

For marketers, it’s not enough to meet consumers with purpose and inclusivity-driven marketing initiatives: the work starts internally, in the boardrooms of corporations, fashion houses and ad agencies.

That was the message at ‘Feminist Rising: Why Brands Must Take A Stand,’ a panel moderated by Jennifer DaSilva of Berlin Cameron and including Rebecca Minkoff and  Kimberly Jenkins from the Parsons School of Design; Pratt Institute, Becca McCharen-Tran of Chromat.

For Kimberly Jenkins, an educator currently working with Gucci to guide top-down diversity after their recent ‘blackface’ debacle, it begins internally with the people behind the brand.

“For a multi-national luxury brand, it’s questionable how diverse it is at the top,” said Jenkins. “It’s important to have someone lead the course and help guide them in expanding their scope of vision.”

“When you have someone who can educate you about other people’s lived experience […] it really helps to walk the walk of innovation and bring in a diverse group of people.”

Jenkins continued, “If you want to cater to this new market, this is what you do: educate yourselves and from within, create a workforce or executive team that reflects that.”

The sentiment was echoed by Chromat founder Becca McCharen-Tran. For her, every brand is automatically political and any communications reflect the brand. That’s why it’s so important to listen to the people on your team that have a lived experience relative to your diversity initiative.

“We’re not doing this just to get more money or just to get more customers. We’re doing it because this is the world we want to see.”

Behind the curtain, McCharen-Tran is ensuring that diversity is foundational. Representation is about what her teams look like, from hiring femme photographers, black makeup artists and disabled photographers.

“People see themselves in the brand […] that personal connection has helped us really build trust and loyalty and a really wonderful community because of that.”

Why is it so important for companies to walk the walk? It’s easy enough to send an International Women’s Day tweet or champion diversity with consumer-facing marketing. But, it’s really not enough. Case in point, there’s been a fair share of campaigns that fall flat.

“I think you can notice it and consumers can smell it when it’s just for advertising’s sake,” said Rebecca Minkoff. “What is the reason why you’re doing this? Does the company stand behind the values they’re talking about?”

Developing a company culture and a diverse workforce that reflects those values is imperative. “Those brands that you can smell… they’re not authentic from their gut,” said Minkoff.

Kimberly Jenkins agreed. “Internally, if you have a shaky foundation, things just fall apart.” She continued, “When you look up who’s running this thing […] it’s bound to fall apart. You can see right through that.”

So, what do you do if a crisis hits your brand and a campaign is called out for its inauthenticity?

“It’s an honor. It means that they care about you enough to help you,” said McCharen-Tran. In short, it’s a moment to educate the creators and decision-makers so it doesn’t happen again.

For brands, the alternative to not taking these steps internally can mean missing out on a much-needed perspective and listening opportunity, a miscalculated campaign and an enormous demographic. After all, women drive 80 percent of consumer purchasing decisions.

Wondery Welcomes SVP; Netflix CMO Resigns

This week’s executive shifts include podcast network Wondery welcoming a senior VP of marketing, Price Chopper Enterprises appointing a new CMO, Netflix’s CMO resigning, Kraken hiring a CMO from Sony, WGBH naming their new marketing leader, Church’s Chicken appointing a new global chief marketing officer, Smoothie King hiring a CMO, Recording Academy appointing new chief digital officer, Complexity Gaming hiring a chief marketing officer, Roar picking up a CMO, NorCal Cannabis appointing a former Twitter VP as CMO, UPS appointing a VP of diversity marketing, Genius picking up a marketing veteran from Vox Media and a chief marketing officer for KASA Hotels.

Check out our careers section for executive job openings and to post your own staffing needs.

Wondery Welcomes A Senior Vice President Of Marketing

Podcast producer Wondery appointed a media veteran Rena Unger as the network’s senior vice president of marketing.

Unger, a previous industry lead for IAB and head of marketing for SiriusXM, will be responsible for overseeing all Wondery’s marketing efforts and listenership development.

“Wondery’s storytelling enrolls listeners in unparalleled ways. By engaging all senses through thoughtful cinematic and drama building sonic signatures, Wondery is hitting the content mark audiences are craving the most. This is a marketer’s dream. I am beyond excited to have the opportunity to be instrumental in telling Wondery’s unique story to the industry and listeners at large,” she shared in a press release.

Price Chopper Enterprises Appoints New Chief Marketing Officer

Price Chopper Enterprises has has promoted Casie Broker to chief marketing officer.

Broker has been with the company for eight years, most recently serving as a VP of marketing. In this role, she successfully rolled out grocery delivery for all stores, as well as brokered a sponsorship with the Kansas City Royals. Previously, she was the director of marketing for Cosentino’s Food Stores and spent five years in marketing with Associated Wholesale Grocers.

“Casie has been an extremely valuable part of our team for many years,” said Peter J. Ciacco, Price Chopper Enterprises’ CEO. “We’re pleased to have her take another step forward in her career within Price Chopper.”

Netflix’s CMO Kelly Bennett Resigns

Netflix CMO of almost seven years, Kelly Bennett, is leaving the company, Variety reported in an interview with the marketer on Thursday. Bennett will remain with the company for an interim transition period and is committed to staying at Netflix through the end of the year if necessary, and Netflix confirmed that the company is searching for a new chief marketing officer.

Bennett told Variety that this decision was his personal choice and that he wasn’t asked to resign by Netflix CEO Reed Hastings.

“Given the success, we’re at today — the way we’re performing as a team — it’s the right legacy for me to leave while we’re at our very best,” he said. Bennett’s plans for after the leave are to be semi-retired. “I likely will never work full-time again. That’s not something I’m particularly interested in,” he told Variety.

He also said that he’s planning to pursue roles in the non-profit sector or teach, and possibly serve on a few boards of other companies.

Kraken Crypto Exchange Hires Former Sony Studio CMO

Kraken hired Matt Mason to be the company’s first chief marketing officer. He was previously the studio head for Sony-Funded 1-800-N0TH1NG and the chief content officer for BitTorrent.

In an interview with CoinDesk, Mason spoke about his decision to join Kraken, “I’ve been interested and involved in distributed technology for much of my career, and there isn’t a better brand in the crypto space than Kraken. I’m incredibly grateful I get to work with this amazing group of people.”

WGBH Names Tina Cassidy Chief Marketing Officer

WGBH President Jonathan Abbott announced the appointment of Tina Cassidy as the company’s new CMO.

Cassidy, previously public relations and strategic marketing executive, will lead WGBH’s marketing, communications and public relations efforts. She will also be responsible for local and national marketing, institutional branding, events strategy, creative and design services, station relations, as well as audience and media research.

“I am a native New Englander who grew up with WGBH. Its educational programming helped shape who I am and instilled a love for this brand, which I am so honored to now be a part of,” Cassidy said in a statement, “The way we tell stories and connect with audiences is evolving rapidly with new technology, shifting demographics and consumer preferences, all of which creates new opportunities for extending the reach of this organization at a time when trusted content has never been more important.”

Church’s Chicken Hires Former Burger King Exec As CMO

Atlanta-based Church’s Chicken welcomed a new global chief marketing officer, Brian Gies, on Tuesday. Gies’ background includes overseeing marketing efforts at TGI Fridays and Burger King and he will officially start his new role as a CMO on March 18th and focus mainly on leading the improvement of market share.

According to Atlanta Business Chronicle, the CEO of Church’s, Joe Christina, said in an announcement, “Brian is joining the team at a very exciting time. He has proven successful in building winning teams, delivering results and working with franchisees to grow their business.”

Rebecca Miller Joins Smoothie King As CMO  

Smoothie King Franchises Inc. announced that Rebecca Miller will join the brand as a chief marketing officer. Miller will succeed Jennifer Herskind, the former CMO, who left the company in February. The industry veteran, Miller will lead Smoothie King’s marketing strategy in addition to its “Clean Blends” initiative.

Miller previously served as senior vice president of marketing for Dallas-based On The Border Mexican Grill & Cantina and spent almost 10 years in various brand marketing and product innovation roles, which includes Plano, Texas-based Pizza Hut Inc., a division of Yum! Brands Inc.

Recording Academy Appoints Lisa Farris Chief Digital Officer

The Recording Academy announced on Wednesday its appointment of Lisa Farris to the role of the company’s chief digital officer. Farris will lead a digital media team, oversee content strategy, data analytics, audience growth and product strategy. Her background includes serving as chief digital and brand officer for analytics firm MetricVision and chief marketing officer for Move Inc.

Academy president/CEO Neil Portnow, to whom Farris will be reporting, said in statement for Billboard, “[Farris] is a leading digital innovator who recognizes the Recording Academy has incredible opportunities to inform and inspire music fans through new products and platforms, and we’re very fortunate to have someone with her depth of experience and far-sighted perspectives on the industry join our team.”

Complexity Gaming Hires Chief Marketing Officer

Complexity Gaming, an esports team owned by the Dallas Cowboy’s owner Jerry Jones, has appointed Cameron Kelly as the company’s chief marketing officer. Kelly was previously the director of strategy at United Entertainment Group. According to a statement, at UEG “he conceptualized and oversaw integrated marketing campaigns for major corporations, such as Toyota, Frito-Lay, S.C. Johnson, Allstate, JCPenney, and more.”

Kelly’s “role [will include] all marketing initiatives for the organization, from creating and distributing original content to increase brand awareness, all the while navigating the ever-changing, complex esports landscape.”

Roar Picks Up Chief Marketer

Roar Beverage Company has hired Eric Berniker as the company’s chief marketing officer. Berniker was previously CMO of CORE Nutrition and prior to that he was the VP marketing for Pirate’s Booty.

“I think a big part of the job will be to continue to fan the fire,” Berniker told BevNet. “The brand last year grew 500 percent and that was with a really lean team doing some amazing things. So it’s about how do we take those things and scale them and continue to raise awareness for the brand in different ways.”

Twitter Veteran Leaves For Cannabis Company

NorCal Cannabis Co, a cannabis consumer goods company, has appointed Joel Lunenfeld as the company’s chief marketing officer. Lunenfeld left Twitter in 2017 after six years as VP, global brand strategy.

Lunenfeld spoke to Benzinga about his new appointment: “When I started at Twitter in 2011, social media was just starting to become a mainstream mode of communication in society. Being able to tell our story and educate people about how and why to use Twitter was our top job. At NorCal, educating people about cannabis and building consumer trust is the most important pillar of our growth as well. It will be our number one job moving forward.”

UPS Creates VP Marketing, Diverse Segments Position

UPS has appointed Kathleen Marran to the newly created position of vice president of marketing, diverse segments. Marran is a longtime marketer at UPS and her current title is VP of US marketing.

UPS chief marketing officer Keving Warren said of the appointment: “These initiatives will expand our capabilities within the small and medium-sized business space and leverage our global logistics expertise to help accelerate the growth of minority- and women-owned companies. Adding additional professional resources and new product and support programs is part of our focus on offering solutions that support small businesses in their goals.”

Genius Hires Ex-Vox Media For VP

Genius, the NYC-based digital music media company, has hired Keisha Wright to be the company’s VP, integrated marketing. Wright comes to the company from Vox Media, where she was SB Nation’s director of network development. Prior to that she also worked for a number of years at Time Inc, InStyle, Macy’s and the NBA.

Genius also announced the appointment of Laura Ostler Kinniburgh as head of music licensing and Devan Joseph as head of video.

KASA Hotels Announces CMO

KASA Hotel Collection has appointed Pablo Gonzalez as the company’s chief marketing officer. Gonzelez previously worked in marketing at regional Hyatt hotels in Mexico City and Playa del Carmen.

According to a press release, Gonzelez will be “responsible for the positioning of the KASA Hotel Collection and for growth through traditional and digital marketing and management. He will manage a staff of 12 people, with responsibilities ranging from content creation to reservations.”

Editor’s Note: Our weekly careers post is updated daily. This installment is updated until Friday, March 8. Have a new hire tip? We’re looking for senior executive role changes in marketing and media. Let us know at

Job Vacancies 

Chief Marketing Officer eBay London, UK
Chief Marketing Officer Moog Music Group Asheville, NC
Vice President, Marketing Strategy  Saks Fifth Avenue New York, NY
VP, Brand Marketing Carl’s Jr. Franklin, TN
Head of Marketing Uber London, UK
VP Marketing Analytics DISNEY New York, NY

Make sure to check back for updates on our Careers page.

Sony Mobile’s VP Don Mesa On The Brand’s Core Messaging And Measuring Brand Effectiveness

Don Mesa, Sony Mobile’s VP of marketing, sat down with AList at MWC19 to discuss 5G’s effect on marketing, the redefining of Sony and measuring brand effectiveness.

What would you say is Sony Mobile’s core message is in 2019?

Redefined. I think it starts with the Sony Group. It used to be the case where a lot of us didn’t talk so much with each other; we just had a name that we shared. These days—especially this year at CES—our group, CEO Kenichiro Yoshida, talked about the notion of this creative entertainment company that Sony is now. At first glance, it was a little bit hard to understand what that meant but what he was getting at was the idea of convergence between our entertainment assets with our professional grade technology and finding a way to create that convergence and synergy between each other.

Where in the past, entertainment is entertainment, technology is technology, but how do we combine this and become a new force? That is redefining at the group level and then we are taking it to our level at Sony Mobile.

That’s how we’re looking at Xperia—being redefined. Honestly, we can be the embodiment of that. The requirements for content drive us at the high end and we need to make sure we are meeting that at the technical level with the mobile phone.

Do you think that mobile, in terms of marketing, has become the most important place for consumer’s eyes?

The phone has become your own personal screen and it has your life in it. You’re always going to look at it and it’s certainly a place where they have all the attention. It’s your personal phone; it’s your personal life. How much of that can be fed with promotional information? That is the true challenge. You certainly don’t want to be blasted with advertising, especially when you’re trying to find some personal stuff and “Boom!”–it hits you.

As a manufacturer, when you hand over the phone to the consumer, whatever they do with it, becomes them, right?

It becomes a personal self. For us, when we are working with the top end creators, whether it’s in film, TV, or games, we are not talking about just simple “oh, just put out some video.” We are working with guys who are making Jumanji and Spiderman, so they’re a little picky about a lot of things. We need to make sure we are catering to their needs. And cater to what they feel is the most pristine look and feel of their products. I certainly binge a lot on Netflix on my phone now, and regardless of where I’m at—playing Clash of Clans—it’s something you’re personally invested in and immersed in.

We want to value that time that you’re putting in there. By looking at sheer utility is not how we can see this because we know we are working with our sister companies that are saying, “Look, this is what we value,” so we have got to make sure that we have similar values all across.

How do you think 5G will affect marketing? Can you think of the applications that can come from it?

The values that 5G can bring to the table are things like location-based and real-time activity and there is a lot more interactivity, wherever you are. I think these days, the freedom of being able to speak is not something you can just prepackage; you can’t just take your time and say [that] we are going to have the perfect message, perfect look and feel. You’ve got to be instant.

We see a lot of that’s happening already: a lot of people are already filming and creating their content and doing their promotions in their way, but that’s at the ground level—grassroots level. But how do you look at formalizing that and still [remains] authentic and instantaneous, wherever you are, and yet get that message across? I think there is a lot of creativity in being interactive, but you have to be authentic. You can’t just manufacture a statement; you have to make sure that you’re living the brand, that you’re connected with the brand, and that speaks a lot to Sony’s core values.

Are you working with influencers?

We hadn’t in the past; we are certainly doing that now. That has a lot to do with what our devices can enable people [to do]—the camera especially. In fact, the person who was behind the Alpha camera series and our RX camera series is now the head of development on our side. He actually brought the Alpha camera technology. We have professional camera stuff in here. It’s like you have your own little personal studio. You can film your content, edit it and you can output it right on the spot. It’s amazing how much technology has come with the phone. All these things that used to be separate pieces are converging into one.

Do you believe its harder than ever to control a brand’s identity or messaging?

The brand itself has to have that equity and it does have to stand for something. [Brands] also have to refresh it. It will resonate for a generation, but here is a new generation, what does that mean now? For us, [it means that] we have to look at our core values constantly. What do we stand for? Who are we talking to? What is that model? What is that driving force for us? I think that’s when we know what the driving force is for the generation we are speaking to; that’s when we know we can put it in their hands and let them do the talking.

As a marketer and VP, how do you abandon micromanagement? 

A lot of trial and error. It’s always hard to let go. If you’re able to keep the focus simple, you remind [your employees] what’s the core, what’s the value proposition, who you are talking to and what are they doing that’s different. I look for the people that can and have their voice. I want to hear your voice, let that come out. What is your story? I certainly can’t do what younger people are doing now. Especially with all the tools that they have. I think seeing what they’re capable of doing is what excites me, so I’ll tell them, “Hey here is your box. So long as you’re hitting these marks, this is who we are trying to talk to. Here is what we stand for. Where do you take it from that point? It’s ok to make a mistake—I’ll help correct and guide—but let’s see what you can do.”

How do you measure brand effectiveness?

It’s certainly about the engagement, so I am looking at the likes, the shares, the comments, and at the same time, I’m looking at the level of resonance that is happening when we put something out there. I’m ok if only 1,000 people are looking at our stuff. If we have consistency. We know we have a base to start with, then [we] are building from there. I don’t mind the waves—the ups and downs—but I want to make sure that we are consistently building a base.

What areas of marketing technology are you investing your time and part of your budget in?

I’m going a little old school, I guess. I’m going back to touchpoint marketing, where activations are empowered by collaborations. You know how those hip hop artists who are all you have three of them on one record and they all have their parts, but that thing is a hit and hits each rapper’s base? I’m applying that at the ground level whether I’m doing, [whether it is] activations at a red carpet with one of Sony Pictures’ properties or I’m at a music festival.

It must be nice to be able to work with Sony’s entire family.

It’s fun and it’s very creative because I can’t do the same thing every time. I did pick that up from the gaming site; gamers quickly move on to the next thing. You can’t just rehash. I’m just happy that I can actually go back and still do event activations, but just do it in a different flavor. These days people need to have that hands on. You get the information going around digitally and over the air, but getting on the ground and getting people to feel the legitimacy to it, the tangible aspect—I think there is room for that now. Everyone wants memories and it has to be on the spot.