By Nat Ives
Five new CMOs began this year facing challenges that went beyond
the usual, at Facebook Inc., Uber Technologies Inc., the National
Football League, Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. and Under Armour Inc.
Here's what happened next.
Facebook's earnings have soared throughout the controversies
over its privacy and content practices, giving CMO Antonio Lucio
room and resources for a strategic shift that could more than
double the company's ad spending in two to three years.
"By being silent, by not reacting on time, people created a
story around us evaluating who we are, why we do things and even
the intention behind [our] leaders, he said. "So we needed to
create a more proactive framework."
Mr. Lucio built a corporate brand system to distinguish the
company from its consumer apps, began marketing those apps
individually and rebranded them to make clear that Facebook owns
them. "People around the world want to know where their products
and services come from," he said.
In February, Facebook will bring its ad campaign for Facebook
Groups -- which positions the platform as a uniter, not a divider
-- to the Super Bowl.
Still, Mr. Lucio was faced with challenges in his first year as
several problems worsened. Facebook and other tech giants became
the subject of multiple federal investigations. Meanwhile, Sen.
Elizabeth Warren and others hammered Facebook for not fact-checking
the political ads it accepts. If elected president, Ms. Warren
promises to break up Facebook, Amazon.com Inc. and Google.
The Facebook brand's net favorability score, a measure of
consumer perception from tech survey company Morning Consult, fell
again this year after declining in 2018.
The going is still early, Mr. Lucio said. "We tried to lay the
foundation for what is going to be a five-year-plus journey."
Uber was already trying to put its problems behind it by the
time Rebecca Messina came in as CMO in the fall of 2018.
Travis Kalanick had left the chief executive post more than a
year before she was hired, following allegations against the
company of failure to act on sexual harassment, theft of trade
secrets, and mistreatment of drivers and riders.
But the work was far from done. "There certainly are some
populations around the world who haven't forgotten or forgiven the
company's mistakes from a few years ago, and that's completely
fair," Ms. Messina said a few months after she was hired.
"We'll probably only be able to convince them through our
actions," she said of the company's critics. "But I do think we
have come a long way already, in both who we are and how people see
us, and my job is focused on continuing that momentum and
consistently expanding the meaning of what Uber stands for."
She didn't get the chance.
In June, CEO Dara Khosrowshahi announced Ms. Messina's departure
after only nine months, eliminated the CMO role and called the
brand still challenged. He soon cut another 400 people from the
On other fronts, the company released a safety report to
increase transparency in an area where it and other ride-sharing
services have been criticized. It said it received 5,981 reports of
sexual assault involving U.S. passengers or drivers during 2017 and
Uber also took steps toward putting allegations of sexual
harassment behind it, settling with the Equal Employment
Opportunity Commission after the agency found it had allowed a
culture of harassment and retaliated against people who
The company increased revenue in the third quarter, and Mr.
Khosrowshahi projected that it would deliver its first full-year
profit on an adjusted basis in 2021.
The National Football League hired CMO Tim Ellis in 2018 amid
sliding ratings and controversy over player protests during the
national anthem at games.
By some measures, the NFL is still recovering. Its net
favorability score is improving but still below its 2017 level,
Morning Consult said.
But audiences rose 6% through the season's 15th week ended Dec.
16, according to media metrics and research firm Nielsen.
The league settled the grievance filed by protest leader and
former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick. And
renewed acrimony over an attempted workout for teams that could
bring Mr. Kaepernick back to play quickly faded from headlines.
Mr. Ellis said he restructured the marketing department to
improve its competency in social, influencer and data-driven
marketing. He tried to humanize players with a "helmets off"
strategy that included social-media training to help them build
personal brands. "That ultimately benefits the NFL brand," he
The league also hired content creators to keep social-media
video and photos flowing.
Audiences for games on digital platforms are up 50% from a year
earlier, the league said.
Chipotle continued to put distance between itself and repeated
food-safety problems in prior years. The fast-casual restaurant
chain introduced a nationwide loyalty program, emphasized delivery
and called its new carne asada menu item a success.
CMO Chris Brandt said he also centralized marketing, pulled back
on promotions and tried to make Chipotle more relevant in pop
culture. "Driving culture may have been a little bit of a reach for
us because of where the brand was, but hey, you certainly have to
have some aspirations," he said.
Not all of the company's initiatives have paid off. There was a
late-night push that didn't really work, for example.
But online sales grew 88% during Chipotle's third quarter, now
accounting for 18% of business, while same-store sales growth of
11% beat analyst expectations.
CMO Alessandro de Pestel joined Under Armour in the fall of
2018, just before The Wall Street Journal reported on a corporate
culture that female employees found demeaning, including strip-club
visits on the company dime.
Founder and CEO Kevin Plank promised to do better, but 2019
delivered new bumps in the road for the sports-apparel company.
High-profile endorser Stephen Curry broke his hand early in the
National Basketball Association season, sidelining him until at
least the spring.
North American revenue declined 3.4% in the first three quarters
of the year, compared with the period a year prior, and the company
lowered its 2019 forecast.
"2019 marked another year of strategic and operational
transformation for Under Armour," a spokeswoman said in an email.
The company continued to focus on greater media efficiency and
effectiveness, using consumer insights to inform highly targeted,
high-return strategies, she said.
Under Armour plans to begin a global brand campaign in
Write to Nat Ives at email@example.com
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
December 20, 2019 16:25 ET (21:25 GMT)
Copyright (c) 2019 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.
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