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- Insider released its seventh annual list of the most innovative chief marketing officers.
- These execs are rising to challenges presented by the pandemic, economic jitters, and privacy changes.
- Their approaches are shaping their companies, industries, and the culture itself.
The pandemic, economic upheaval, and privacy changes have thrown new challenges companies’ way. And it’s fallen to their chief marketers to translate those hurdles for consumers to remain relevant and ensure continued growth.
Insider’s seventh annual “Most Innovative CMOs” list presents 31 people who have risen to the challenge. Our picks — based on our consulting with industry experts and nominations from the marketing community, including Lola Bakare, Katie Klumper, and Kai D. Wright — represent a cross section of industries and company sizes.
They stand out for how they’re messaging to ad-weary consumers in new ways, challenging timeworn conventions, and leading the way in the metaverse — shaping their companies, industries, and the culture.
Click here to read how many of them are facing the challenges ahead, in their own words. And scroll down to read the list, in alphabetical order by last name.
Kofi Amoo-Gottfried, DoorDash
Amoo-Gottfried ensures DoorDash consumes the conversation on food delivery, and his marketing prowess has helped it dominate the space, as it accounted for 59% of all US meal-delivery sales in April, according to Bloomberg Second Measure.
Amoo-Gottfried, who was promoted to become DoorDash’s first chief marketing officer in January, is always pushing DoorDash into new territory, like getting the platform its first Super Bowl commercial in 2021 — a “Sesame Street”-themed spot featuring the actor Daveed Diggs.
He uses sharp insights to inform advertising, featuring NFL draft picks including Desmond Ridder who are also former DoorDash deliverers in an April campaign. He also realizes the value of multicultural marketing, launching DoorDash’s first custom Spanish and English multiplatform campaign targeting Latino audiences, “Antojo.”
Kyle Andrew, Athleta
The Olympic gymnast Simone Biles rocked the sports world by leaving Nike for the smaller Athleta ahead of 2021’s Tokyo games, saying the Gap brand better aligned with her values.
Athleta has been a bright spot for Gap, with fiscal year 2021 sales up 48% thanks to efforts by Andrew, its chief brand officer, to paint it as a champion of women and girls.
For athletes like Biles, Andrew reimagined the traditional sponsorship model. The “Power of She” campaign for Biles ahead of the Tokyo Games, for example, featured not only the superstar but also the community surrounding her on her journey to win four Olympic gold medals — a marketing move that Biles said secured her sponsorship deal.
Andrew is also behind the launch of one of Athleta’s big bets: A wellness platform for loyalty members.
Andrea Brimmer, Ally Financial
To some consumers, financial institutions might seem like supervillains. But Brimmer has made Ally heroic, teaming with DC and Milestone Comics to champion diverse comic-book creators.
It’s just one example of how Ally has made helping underresourced and overlooked customers central to its marketing. Ally eliminated overdraft fees in August, saying they mostly hit people living paycheck to paycheck or with low balances. It was part of a larger pandemic relief package that not only threw a lifeline but also meaningfully reinforced the brand’s mission “to be a true ally” to customers, employees, and communities.
Brimmer, who serves as Ally’s public-relations chief as well as chief marketing officer, also saves Ally money by running its programmatic marketing in-house. She estimated the effort had saved 25% in annual spend.
Jason Brown, Ntwrk
Companies have had limited success with live shopping, but Ntwrk is an exception. Brown has helped make it a destination by blending exclusivity and pop culture, with collaborations with celebs like LeBron James and Billie Eilish, partnerships to get products in music videos with artists like Future and Doja Cat, and a nonfungible-token platform.
Last year, the platform hosted 12 livestream festivals where creators sold everything from collectibles to street art to luxury home goods. Top creators, like Ben Baller, also figured into Ntwrk’s first ad campaign, “Shop. Watch. Connect.” Helped by deep pockets (Ntwrk’s latest raise last year netted $50 million from Goldman Sachs and others), Ntwrk has grown its users by 5,000% since 2019 to 3 million app downloads.
Tina Edmundson, Marriott International
Under Edmundson and a new executive team, fusty Marriott has grown into a hospitality innovator with 30 distinct brands.
When the pandemic foisted an existential crisis on the industry, Edmundson and her team seized the moment to reinvent Marriott, leaping into the homeshare space dominated by Airbnb and helping make up for dwindling hotel bookings.
But Marriott Homes & Villas is less about competing with Airbnb and more about “extending the ability to earn and redeem loyalty rewards in any travel scenario,” Bloomberg reported.
From that perspective, it’s a marketing coup, as is Marriott’s rebranding of the Caribbean’s Blue Diamond resorts as luxury all-inclusives under the Ritz-Carlton, Westin, and other brands. The goal is to attract and retain a new generation of travelers, and the result should be continued dominance for Marriott.
Greg Fass, Liquid Death Mountain Water
When you’re marketing bottled water, you’re promoting — water. But Fass has managed to make drinking water seem like a transgressive act with marketing that ups the ante.
Instead of asking Tony Hawk, a Liquid Death brand ambassador, just for endorsements, the marketing vice president asked for the skate legend’s blood to decorate a limited-edition board. The internet gulped it up.
Then, he recruited porn stars for a “Don’t Fuck the Planet” campaign dissing single-use plastic bottles in favor of Liquid Death’s cans (Joanna Angel, an adult-film actor, is also a brand partner).
“If we can make more people laugh more often, they’ll be more likely to share Liquid Death with the world in place of large-scale media budgets,” Fass said of the brand’s emphasis on entertainment-first content.
Vicky Free, Adidas
Free has helped Adidas battle longtime rivals Nike and Under Armour as an early mover in the white-hot Web3 space.
Under the global marketing senior vice president, Adidas released a collection with the famous NFT brand “Bored Ape Yacht Club” and bought land in the virtual world The Sandbox.
She’s also led Adidas’ commitment to diversity in its marketing in the aftermath of the George Floyd protests in 2020 — when employees protested Adidas’ corporate culture — with efforts like its “Impossible Is Nothing” campaign that featured athletes like the trans volleyball player Tiffany Abreu and the Indian sprinter Hima Das.
Dustin Godsey, Milwaukee Bucks
When Godsey joined the Bucks in 2012 as the team’s first marketing hire, he was focused on getting people to the games. With a rebrand, the opening of the Bucks’ home arena, Fiserv Forum, in Milwaukee in 2018, and the development of the surrounding neighborhood as the “Deer District,” he has built up a massive global following for the team.
Thousands of people now crowd the Deer District for Bucks watch parties, and the space has become a cultural hub for the community, with other events, fitness programs, and festivals held there.
Coming out of a pandemic lull in 2021, about 18,000 fans packed Fiserv Forum to see the Bucks win their first NBA championship since 1971. Now, with a winning team and its superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo, Godsey has plans to turn the team into an even greater global content and entertainment brand.
Melissa Grady Dias, Cadillac
The Cadillac Automotive Co. was born in 1902. That alone should convey Dias’ heavy lift when she became its chief marketing officer in 2019. Instead of getting mired in legacy, Dias has brought swagger to the GM brand.
For the relaunch of Cadillac’s Lyriq all-electric crossover vehicle, she partnered with stars like Regina King under the “Be Iconic” tagline, offered Lyriqs to 15 North American universities with the challenge of making the cars better, and bolstered Cadillac’s longstanding relationship with Black consumers through events and paid media.
The Lyriq’s 2023 release sold out within minutes after it became available to reserve online.
“We have a clear vision of the Cadillac brand,” Dias told Brand Innovators. “It’s about big dreams, bold ambitions, and being entrepreneurial.”
Natalie Guzman, Savage X Fenty
Behind Rihanna’s fearless, confident, and body-inclusive line of lingerie is its copresident and chief marketing officer, Guzman.
She’s at the forefront promoting those core tenets of the brand as it makes its foray into brick-and-mortar and, according to Forbes, eyes an initial public offering that could value it at $3 billion.
Guzman said she listened to Savage X Fenty’s customers when the brand developed a lingerie line including satin boxers and lacy thongs for men and nonbinary people.
“Sensuality and how you express yourself is not gender-restrictive,” she said of the effort.
On the tech front, Guzman has cited the use of Fit:Match, an app that uses 3D body scans to help customers find the right fit and make it easy to shop in stores.
Carla Hassan, JPMorgan Chase
Hassan became the chief marketer of JPMorgan Chase in October, at a time when Wall Street started upping its marketing to reach customers seeking more services from their banks.
In her short time there, Hassan has already had an influence, opening a branch in the metaverse and expanding its series of financial-education podcasts.
She’ll also be key to attracting a new customer base keen on dining out with perks like credit-card rewards following JPMorgan Chase’s acquisition of The Infatuation, the operator of restaurant-recommendation sites and apps, and its properties including the biannual food festival Eeeeeatscon.
Melissa Hobley, OkCupid
OkCupid started advertising in 2017 with the hiring of Hobley as competition heated up from rival dating sites.
She’s helped bring acceptance to online dating with its cheeky “DTF” ads, reminding users that “the F should be your F to choose” and encouraging people to find partners by matching on the issues that matter to them, with profile badges that show their positions on Black Lives Matter, abortion, and the like. (OkCupid was one of a few brands to take a stand on abortion rights with its pro-choice badges as Roe v. Wade faced scrutiny by the Supreme Court.)
As a result, OkCupid reported a 700% increase in dates last year, which helped boost revenue 17% to $2.4 billion for its parent company, Match Group.
The global chief marketing officer has proved herself a dating expert in her own right, making various media appearances to relay the dos and don’ts of online dating — like, beware of typos.
Greg Joswiak, Apple
At a time when consumers are increasingly leery of tech giants, Joswiak has aggressively capitalized on Apple’s pro-privacy stance to make the iPhone maker synonymous with privacy.
A new series of ads has gone to great lengths to show consumers how intricately they’re tracked by apps and how Apple gives them control over how their personal data is collected, with tools like its 2021 App Tracking Transparency move that required app makers to ask permission from Apple-device users before tracking them across other apps and websites. Take that, Google and Facebook.
Since joining Apple in 1986, Joswiak has been a part of its biggest marketing moments, including the launch of the iPod. He took over as the senior vice president of worldwide marketing from Phil Schiller in 2020.
Soyoung Kang, Eos
“Bless your f#@%ing cooch.” By leveraging that signature sign-off from an enthusiastic product reviewer, Kang built a TikTok presence for the skin-care brand Eos that’s mushroomed to 4 billion views and counting.
Kang’s relentless, highly strategic use of the platform has made Eos one of its first Culture Drivers, a dean’s list of influential brands, while connecting Eos with a notoriously capricious Gen Z audience.
Eos’ signature egg-shaped containers got another boost from its FlavorLab, which collaborated with influencers on capsule collections with feel-good tastes and smells like honey lavender. The line became a hit, with online commenters saying the products affected their state of mind.
At a moment of high anxiety for consumers, Kang told StyleCaster, “Applying lip balm is a small but frequent moment throughout the day, so why not make it a feel-good moment?”
Zach Kitschke, Canva
Australia’s Canva, which provides free design software to everyday people and businesses, has become one of the hottest startups with a value of $40 billion, helped by Kitschke’s massive efforts to boost awareness.
Founded in 2012, Canva took off during the pandemic when remote workers turned to its tools to develop online presentations. Kitschke doubled Canva’s marketing department to 400 employees and built a 60-person in-house creative agency that handles brand marketing, social media, public relations, and other functions.
Two major campaigns last year, “With Canva You Can,” which highlighted individual users, and “What Will You Design Today,” focusing on business users, including, helped bring in more than 35 million new users in 2021 for a total of 75 million.
Carl Loredo, Wendy’s
As the pandemic battered restaurants, Loredo helped Wendy’s come out on the other side with a breakfast business worth more than $1 billion and hundreds of thousands of fans on Twitter and.
The chief marketing officer told Marketing Dive that constantly hearing customers’ disappointment with fast-food breakfasts spurred Wendy’s to push a new morning menu, even as competitors cut their offerings amid the pandemic.
He’s also helped keep Wendy’s relevant to young consumers — its gaming campaigns have made it one of the top streamers on Twitch, and its snarky tweets have earned it 3.8 million followers. (It’s not all roasts: Last year, Loredo’s team created an ad based on a story drawn by a boy who had tweeted it at the company.) And Loredo oversaw Wendy’s expansion of its partnership with the cult cartoon “Rick and Morty,” which involved custom Coca-Cola flavors and a restaurant pop-up.
Barbara Messing, Roblox
From its beginnings as a cartoonish video game for teenagers, Roblox has become the virtual platform of choice for brands to reach the elusive Gen Z consumer. Behind its appeal for marketers is Messing, who’s masterminded collaborations with some of the most prestigious and popular brands.
Drawn to Roblox’s 50 million daily active users, the likes of Gucci, Nike, the NFL, Spotify, and Chipotle jumped aboard in the past year, selling digital wearables, hosting virtual concerts, and more. Roblox is also causing marketers to rethink their playbook to stay relevant with a new generation.
“We are actually seeing this shift of focus on communities across the board with marketers making sure they involve their customers and fans in cocreating products, campaigns, and are sharing their IP with their communities,” Messing said.
Kenny Mitchell, Snap
Snap has gotten millions of people using its augmented-reality features, but Mitchell has doubled down on AR, helping ensure Snap will continue to stand out from bigger rivals.
Touting the camera as an opportunity to improve the way people live and communicate, Snap launched an AR-driven ad campaign directed at users, followed by advertisers. Mitchell then led the platform to launch suites of tools for creators and an AR creative studio called Arcadia for advertisers.
The strategy is paying off: Snap reported in April that more than 250,000 creators worldwide had built upward of 2.5 million Snap lenses. While Snap has been part of a broader tech stock downturn, it still forecast revenue to grow 20 to 25% in the second quarter.
Ukonwa Ojo, Amazon Prime Video and Studios
The global chief marketing officer of Amazon’s slate of titles across Prime and Studios, Ojo uses a mix of machine learning and human intuition to learn which characters and elements to highlight, delivering stunts that have kept Amazon in the conversation as competition for viewers heats up.
For “The Wheel of Time,” a fantasy series released on Amazon Prime Video, she worked with the London creative studio Amplify to create an anamorphic 3D campaign that had characters jumping off screens to touch passersby in high-traffic areas, including London’s Piccadilly Circus and New York’s Times Square, which attracted tons of media attention. It also featured a stream so anyone could experience the billboards.
“All of our efforts are focused on using marketing to drive larger conversations around culture and entertainment,” Ojo said.
Marc Pritchard, Procter & Gamble
Pritchard is one of the most influential marketing leaders in the world as the chief brand officer of P&G, perennially a top global advertiser.
P&G spent $11.5 billion across its 65 brands, such as Gillette and Tide, in its 2021 fiscal year, and Pritchard uses his perch to promote inclusivity and oppose bias in the industry and the culture alike.
His latest anti-bias effort, “The Name,” sparked a conversation on how to properly pronounce Asian American and Pacific Islander names. Last year, he pushed to get rid of the term “general market,” which had been understood to mean white consumers, in favor of diverse, multicultural marketing. And amid economic jitters, Pritchard has helped sales soar despite inflationary price hikes by pushing superior-value claims for products.
Raja Rajamannar, Mastercard
“Consumers hate ads,” Rajamannar has said. With that in mind, he has been laser-focused on discovering novel ways to get their attention.
Under his watch, Mastercard has helped demystify cryptocurrency, unveiled multisensory Mastercard brand identities — including scents dubbed Passion and Optimism — and embraced eco activism with its Priceless Planet Coalition, which hopes to restore 100 million trees.
Rajamannar has also distinguished Mastercard with inclusivity campaigns that mean something, like the Touch Card for people with visually impairments and the transgender-focused True Name feature, which lets users choose first names on cards without a legal name change.
Kate Rouch, Coinbase
Is crypto dead? Not yet — at least according to Rouch, who helped Coinbase win the Super Bowl ads battle with her unorthodox marketing efforts as the crypto exchange soared.
Spending almost $14 million on an ad depicting nothing but a dancing QR code might seem like a folly, but the stunt drove 20 million visits to Coinbase’s site in under a minute and catapulted its app from 186th to 2nd place on the App Store.
Rouch is selective of where to deploy Coinbase’s $6 billion war chest. A partnership with the NBA star Kevin Durant and one with the international art fair Art Basel were among the company’s other rare marketing initiatives.
Recent layoffs after a fall in the market bring fresh questions for Coinbase. But the company has stood firm, releasing an ad in May focused on the obituaries written on crypto.
“It’s easy to write an obituary. It’s hard to bring something new to life,” Rouch wrote in a blog announcing the ad.
Nathaniel Ru, Sweetgreen
Sweetgreen’s IPO filing in October noted that a remote-work future could challenge its success, Quartz reported. But Ru, the salad chain’s chief brand officer and cofounder, is rewriting that story by targeting Sweetgreen’s core Gen Z consumer in new ways.
A redesigned ordering app lets people tailor their menu options; a seemingly nonstop roll of TikTok recipe videos reinforces the brand’s “healthy-fast-food” message. Most notably, Ru created an in-house creative agency to “move at the speed of culture,” as he put it. And the brand continues to master partnerships, with the Phoenix Suns shooting guard Devin Booker joining the tennis star Naomi Osaka as brand ambassador.
“Athletes speak to a new generation of eaters,” Ru told Adweek. “Ultimately, Sweetgreen wants to be recognized for the ways we connect culture and food.”
David Sandstrom, Klarna
From blue to hot pink: That’s how Sandstrom characterizes Klarna’s brand evolution from a staid financial institution to “consumer lifestyle brand and shopping platform with a fully licensed bank.”
To get there, Sandstrom spearheaded envelope-pushing partnerships with stars like Lady Gaga and Snoop Dogg, and cast Maya Rudolph as four tiny cowboys in a Super Bowl ad.
He’s also aggressively expanded Klarna’s relationships with retailers, cementing its primacy in the payment space, even as it faces losses and heightened competition. Klarna’s Virtual Shopping platform, directed at replicating in-store experiences, counts Foot Locker, Macy’s, and Sephora among its partners.
Shoppers are more than 20 times more likely to make a purchase when Virtual Shopping is involved, a Klarna spokesperson said. That includes categories like sex toys, Sandstrom has said, which consumers prefer to buy online.
Cara Sylvester, Target
At a time when shoppers are increasingly fickle, Sylvester has helped build Target Circle into one of the biggest retail loyalty programs in the US, with 100 million members.
Sylvester, executive vice president and chief guest-experience officer, has also built out Target Plus, a curated platform of products from third-party sellers that helped boost the retailer’s digital business 20% in comparable sales in 2021, on top of a 145% lift the year before.
Musa Tariq, GoFundMe
“I believe the best brands in the world are built on an inherent human truth. GoFundMe is built on two: People need help, and people want to help others,” GoFundMe’s chief marketing officer said.
Tariq joined the crowdfunding platform in the beginning of 2021 amid the pandemic, which led to an influx of fundraisers. He’s focused on destigmatizing the act of asking for help and has made GoFundMe a destination for entrepreneurs and small businesses in need of funds.
Tariq said he focused on promoting the deep, personal stories shared on GoFundMe and strategized how best to help each campaign reach its goal — whether it be to take a hyperlocal or global marketing approach. He’s also driven global support for the “Stand with Ukraine” fundraiser from the actors Mila Kunis and Ashton Kutcher, which has garnered more than $36 million.
Everette Taylor, Artsy
Taylor is helping democratize the art world as the chief marketer of one of the biggest online art marketplaces, while promoting inclusivity and price transparency in the industry — areas it’s historically lagged in.
His campaigns have had a big influence on underrepresented artists and galleries, including one that raised $6.5 million for the Art for Justice Fund to support criminal justice and end mass incarceration.
In all, Artsy raised $16.5 million for charitable causes in 2021, double what it raised in 2020. The serial entrepreneur also pushed Artsy to make all the prices of its art public, something he says most galleries don’t do and collectors consider a barrier to buy.
“The art market has traditionally been opaque and exclusive, and we are transforming the industry and legacy habits,” he said.
Robert Triefus, Gucci
The Italian luxury brand has managed to retain its exclusive cachet over 100 years despite family feuds, a near bankruptcy, and multiple turnarounds. Last year, it reinvented itself yet again under the leadership of its chief marketer.
Triefus helped make Gucci relevant with new audiences with forays into Web3, including releasing sought-after NFTs in collaboration with the virtual artist Superplastic, setting up acommunity, and even accepting crypto for in-store payments.
The marketing chief also kept Gucci top of mind with Gen Z through a collaboration with Roblox, selling a digital bag for more than $4,000, and a digital-clothing drop on the South Korean social-media app Zepeto.
Allyson Witherspoon, Nissan
With shoppers unable or unwilling to visit dealerships in the pandemic, the Nissan chief marketing officer pushed her team to create the automotive category’s first end-to-end e-commerce solution for consumers.
Built and launched in weeks, the Nissan@Home program lets consumers shop, drive, and buy a Nissan from home. The site has helped Nissan ramp up close rates for sales from 20% to 30%, the company reported.
Witherspoon also tapped e-sports’ massive fan base. By making the 2023 Nissan Z sports car into an in-game car for the popular “Rocket League” game, her team vaulted Nissan into the company of Lamborghinis and “Fast & Furious” vehicles. Fun fact: Witherspoon, a “Game of Thrones” fan, likes to be called Mother of Dragons.
Deborah Yeh, Sephora
Yeh has harnessed her personal convictions in leading retail to be a force for change. She was behind Sephora’s Racial Bias in Retail study that uncovered unfair treatment of people of color in retail and helped it become the first major retailer to support the 15 Percent Pledge to dedicate at least 15% of shelf space to Black-owned businesses.
Since then, the chief marketing officer of the Americas and global chief purpose officer led Sephora’s first dedicated campaign for Black-owned brands and partnered with Google and the ad agency R/GA to help Black-owned beauty brands get found in online searches. And Yeh’s marketing helped relaunch the Black-directed beauty brand Fashion Fair with a documentary on its comeback story. This May, she led Sephora to enact the “Open to All” pledge with 28 other retailers to combat racial bias.