Walmart taps Target exec for chief marketer

Linda J. Dodson

Table of Contents

Dive Brief:

  • Walmart named Target executive William White as its new chief marketing officer, according to an internal memo sent Wednesday by Chief Customer Officer Janey Whiteside. Bloomberg first reported the hire.
  • White joined Target in 2013 and while there “developed comprehensive marketing strategies and executed plans that worked to drive sales, build brand equity and create a loyal customer following,” Whiteside said in the memo. Before Target, White served in various positions at Coca-Cola.
  • He replaces Barbara Messing, whose resignation Walmart announced in August, about a year after Messing had started the job. White begins at Walmart May 11 and will have a team of six other executives reporting to him.

Dive Insight:

While at Walmart, Messing, who came from TripAdvisor, had helped put together a team within the marketing organization meant to support the retailer’s merchandising, store initiatives and e-commerce business. The company never disclosed why she left but said she was returning to the Bay Area with her family. 

In Messing’s absence, Rich Lehrfeld, senior vice president of brand, creative and media at Walmart, took on a leadership role and “stepped up to the challenge to unite the team and make us all storytellers,” Whiteside said in her memo.

According to an earlier article by Ad Age, Walmart’s marketing unit “has seen considerable flux” since the 2015 departure of long-time chief marketer Stephen Quinn. 

So has Walmart’s U.S. business, which has pushed digital growth at a rapid clip and already been through some major transitions. The retailer has picked up digitally savvy brands only to sell them off — in the case of ModCloth— or downsize them, as it did with Jet and Bonobos. In Messing’s absence, Walmart also launched its first Superbowl campaign, which touted its pick-up service. 

The company’s digital push continues, with varied results. While the company’s online grocery sales have grown at blazing speed, executives have acknowledged the need to grow sales of higher-margin general merchandise categories. And although the retailer’s online market share has grown, it still lags far behind that of Amazon, after billions of dollars of investment. 

That will likely be among the chief challenges White will have to navigate as CMO.

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