As Its CMO Departs, Walmart Turns to Former Target Marketer

Michael Francis will step in when Stephen Quinn retires

Next month, Walmart, the world's largest retailer, will turn to former Target Stores marketer Michael Francis to boost the chain's image as its longtime U.S. CMO, Stephen Quinn, steps down.

Quinn, who has been with Walmart for 10 years, serving as senior vice president and chief marketing officer for most of that tenure, will retire on Jan. 31 at the close of the company's fiscal year, Walmart said Thursday. His successor has not been named.

Francis comes aboard as a marketing consultant on Jan. 1. The executive spent 26 years at Target before leaving in 2011 and is widely credited with creating the chain's strategy of selling fashionable merchandise at affordable prices. Most recently, Francis served for three years as global brand officer at the Dreamworks animation studio. His resume also includes a brief stint as president of JCPenney.

"I'm committed to building on the strength of that brand, and I couldn't be more excited about the opportunity," Francis said in a statement Walmart supplied to The Wall Street Journal.

Walmart spends about $1 billion annually in domestic measured media, putting more of an emphasis on digital and mobile in recent years. Among its key partners are The Martin Agency for creative and Starcom MediaVest for media buying.

Walmart's "Save money. Live better" mantra debuted under Quinn, and he is credited for making the chain's marketing more sophisticated. Even so, the company has struggled in the face of stiff challenges from rivals ranging from Amazon to Costco.

On the plus side, Walmart's same-store sales have been rising in 2015 after several years of decline. They improved 1.5 percent for the quarter that ended Oct. 31. Consolidated revenue during that period fell 1.3 percent to $117.4 billion.