Marketing Briefing: How Fernando Machado’s long tenure at Burger King ‘absolutely broke the trend’

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It’s rare for a CMO to stay with a company for more than a few years. Case in point: Marketing leaders spend just 41 months on average in the role, according to 2020 research data from executive recruitment firm Spencer Stuart.

That’s why Fernando Machado’s departure from Burger King, after nearly seven years, to be the chief marketer at Activision Blizzard, is so notable. Machado’s unusually long tenure at Burger King allowed him to become a champion of zany, oddball marketing. Machado had worked his way up to global chief marketing officer for Restaurant Brands International (Burger King’s parent company) and chains including Popeye’s and Tim Horton’s — which helped him become one of the most beloved CMOs in the industry.

“When you look at it compared to the rest of the c-suite, the CMO is the least-tenured c-suite officer,” said Jay Pattisall, principal analyst at Forrester. “Fernando absolutely broke the trend with quite a long run. He is an exception.”

Few CMOs are given the freedom to work with agencies to come up with creative campaigns that resonate quite like Machado’s Moldy Whopper or Whopper Neutrality work. Doing so likely only comes with tenure and trust earned in a long-standing working relationship not only with other c-suite execs but agency partners, according to industry observers and agency execs. (Of course, not all of Machado’s Burger King campaigns were hits; most recently, a tweet highlighting International Women’s Day work was deleted after facing backlash.) With many CMOs only in the role for an average of 41 months, it’s uncommon to attribute breakout work that helps grow a brand to the position.

For some CMOs, having an impact on a brand is dependent on whether they’re prepared to make an agency change at the get-go. “Sometimes, they have a team they have already worked with and simply choose to move the business to a resource they know,” explained Nancy Hill, founder of Media Sherpas and former 4A’s president. “That can help them have an impact right away.” 

Hill continued: “Other times, they go through an agency review process, which can take six months to a year, then they have to get the new agency up to speed and able to execute. You could be talking about as much as two years to really have an impact or see a change. By that time, they may only have another year left before they either choose to leave or the company gets tired of waiting for things to happen. It creates a terrible cycle for a brand as it then has to start all over again.” 

That cycle and CMOs’ short tenure can lead to risk-aversion, explained Scott Harkey, co-founder and managing partner of full-service agency OH Partners, adding that risk-aversion can make it harder for marketers to make their brands more relevant via campaigns, particularly with limited budgets.

Industry observers and agency execs believe marketers need to find a way to take more control now rather than fearing being cut from the role and letting that impact the ability to change a brand.

“The reality is the CMO position is very fraught today,” said Pattisall. “The CMO needs to recapture marketing and reclaim marketing in the broadest sense beyond just communications and campaigns. [CMOs need to be involved in] product development, retail and distribution and pricing.”

3 Questions with Kroll CMO Marty Dauer

We’re coming up on a year of the pandemic. How has it changed your approach to marketing and digital advertising?

I’ve told my team this many times, but in 2020 we had our best year during the worst year. Worst obviously because of the pandemic and the profound negative impact that has had on so many. But for our marketing team, the best because, despite the disruption, our team maintained focus, adapted seamlessly and innovated to ensure we kept our company in front of our clients. One of the biggest changes is that we’ve learned to be more flexible, nimble and digital. We’re better equipped to quickly respond to marketplace conditions and the needs of our customers. When it comes to digital, it has been and remains a cornerstone of our plans, but 2020 helped us see how to better leverage digital channels without sacrificing experiences and interactions.

As vaccine rollout continues and things start to open back up, what does your company’s future of work look like when it comes to returning to the office and the post-pandemic environment?

At Kroll, we have always had a flexible approach to the workplace and now we are redefining our workspaces to better accommodate this structure. When we return to the office it will look different — with a focus on collaboration in the office and much greater acceptance of remote working. As for reopening offices, we are taking a localized approach across our 70+ global offices, with a focus on allowing employees maximum freedom to best meet their organizational and personal requirements/goals.

Diversifying media strategy is a hot topic. How has your team approached diversifying media and what will that look like for your team a year from now?

When it comes to media diversification, I see two elements. First, as it relates to risk — mitigating and managing risk. Risk is a big part of our business — seeing the opportunity in how to leverage it and how to be smart about risk-taking — both have certainly influenced our media strategy. When it comes to our approach, we look holistically across owned, earned and paid media to ensure we have a balance and mix in the channels we utilize and tactics we deploy.

The second element of diversification is about variety. In B2B we face an increasingly complex ecosystem of buyers and a lengthy buying journey. For perspective, a typical buying group is comprised of 6 to 16 members across a purchase process that can easily take 6 to 18+ months. So when you think about building a communications program targeting that many buyers, sustained over that length of time, diversity is a necessity. So in addition to ensuring that we have a mix of channels and tactics, we also need variety in regards to the conversations and content.

With the vaccine rollout, we are looking ahead to a post-pandemic environment, one where many of the changes from the past year will persist. We plan to carry the lessons of 2020/21 forward — more open to change, less afraid to test and learn, strong appetite for the right risk. — Kimeko McCoy

By the numbers

It’s the end of mobile advertising as we know it. Conversations around Apple’s new privacy control have been bubbling up with the company’s plans to require developers to ask users’ permission before tracking them on the horizon. Advertisers are scrambling, figuring out what to do next. Meanwhile, less than 1/3 of smartphone users are even aware of the policy changes, according to a new survey from the Mobile Marketing Association and analytics company AppsFlyer. Find key statistics from the report below:

  • Older groups are far more likely to be concerned about data privacy, with 38% of those 65+ extremely concerned and 41% of those 18-24 moderately concerned.
  • While 1/3 will not allow tracking under any circumstances, the majority will allow some form of tracking rather than pay a subscription fee.
  • Although consumers are reluctant to pay in exchange for not being tracked, the Netflix effect is seen in that just under half (48%) will pay for streaming video and 37% will pay for music. 
  • There is a disconnect in how people think companies use their data, with 39% agreeing that the sale of their data was to make money and just 14% agreeing it was to improve their experience or deliver more relevant content.  — Kimeko McCoy

Quote of the week

“Personal data that somebody is opting to give us is [better quality information] than making assumptions based on who visits the website, goes to a makeup foundation page and then we retarget them.”

— Marnie Levan, Maybelline vp of integrated consumer communications, told Glossy beauty reporter Emma Sandler on the importance of loyalty programs and the need for first-party data.

What we’ve covered

  • Electronic Arts is aiming to be seen as a media company, reports news editor Seb Joseph.
  • Georgia-based brands faced pressure to speak out against new Republican-backed legislation, dubbed Jim Crow 2.0, that would put new regulations and restrictions into place for voters, reports marketing reporter Kimeko McCoy.
  • Parenting publishers are shifting their tone, taking a break from Covid coverage, reports media reporter Sara Guaglione.

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