McDonald’s names global CMO after 11-month vacancy

Linda J. Dodson

Dive Brief:

  • McDonald’s named a new global chief marketing officer after the position sat empty for nearly a year, CEO Chris Kempczinski said in a company announcement. Alistair Macrow, former CMO of McDonald’s international business, has been promoted to the role as SVP, chief marketing officer. Colin Mitchell, who led the chain’s marketing team since July 2019, is stepping down as SVP of global marketing and leaving McDonald’s to puruse other challenges.
  • Macrow, a 15-year veteran of the fast-food giant, will work with Morgan Flatley to accelerate the brand’s recovery from the coronavirus pandemic and report directly to Kempczinski. Macrow’s new responsibilities include global menu strategy, global brand and insights and global marketing enablement. Macrow will also work on improving marketing training programs and career planning processes.
  • Meanwhile, Flatley has been promoted to SVP, U.S. chief marketing and digital customer experience officer. She is tasked with marketing, digital, media, CRM, brand content and engagement, consumer insights and strategy and menu oversight for the U.S.

Dive Insight:

McDonald’s naming a new global CMO is another sign that the pendulum is potentially swinging back in favor of marketing leaders who have broad oversight of their brands, a change potentially spurred by the tough business realities of the coronavirus pandemic. McDonald’s previous Global CMO Silvia Lagnado stepped down last July, and in the 11 months since, the brand’s marketing has been split among several senior marketing executives, primarily Mitchell, who is now departing, and Bob Rupczynski, SVP of marketing technology.

The downplaying of the CMO role in favor of various SVP appointments centered on growth and technology has become common in marketing in recent years, but the trend shows some signs of reversing. When Lagnado left last summer, it initially seemed as though McDonald’s was putting the position on pause. The move would follow an example set by other companies like Coca-Cola, which retired its global CMO spot — seemingly for good — in 2017. But Coke resurrected the global CMO role late last year as it sought to meet fast-moving changes in consumer habits and unify its operations.

Since Lagnado’s departure, McDonald’s strategy has gone through some considerable changes. Last fall, it named Wieden + Kennedy New York as its lead creative agency in the U.S., and the shop has produced some cutting-edge work for the marketer, including a recent campaign that named victims of police brutality and racial violence.

In his year spearheading the brand, Mitchell was credited with marketing progress and brand growth, particularly around activating global brand positioning and giving McDonald’s a fresh energy and style. With Mitchell out, Macrow will now be the highest-ranking marketing official at the fast-food behemoth. He is tasked with working directly with Flatley to lead the brand out of the coronavirus pandemic, which caused same-store sales around the globe to fall 22% in March. When the company reported Q1 numbers, they retracted annual forecasts because of the uncertainty ahead.

The brand’s marketing will be crucial in encouraging people to go back to store locations as coronavirus-related lockdowns start to lift. Macrow will need to focus on building customer trust, as many people may be wary of dining in restaurants for the foreseeable future.

“As we emerge from this global pandemic, consumers’ trust in the McDonald’s brand and compelling marketing programs in every country where we operate will be critical to re-establish the strong business momentum we enjoyed leading into this crisis,” Kempczinski said in the announcement.

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