7-Eleven, Kellanova, Milani Cosmetics CMOs Share Their Bold Takes

10 provocations from brand bosses as ADWEEK's Marketing Vanguard Summit kicks off

Leaders from Glossier, Shopify, Mastercard and more will take the stage at Brandweek to share what strategies set them apart and how they incorporate the most valued emerging trends. Register to join us this September 23–26 in Phoenix, Arizona.

Today, 100 chief marketing officers, along with rising stars, academics and other C-suite executives, will convene at ADWEEK’s annual Marketing Vanguard Summit in Chicago to discuss how to navigate an industry in flux.

With the brightest marketing minds gathered in one room, speakers will engage as “provocateurs,” setting the agenda for discussions with bold takes that challenge the audience, their peers and the industry about the marketing role and remit and where it’s headed.

Discussions will include how brands such as Kellanova are scaling artificial intelligence; a talk with Pernod Ricard’s former U.S. CEO, Ann Mukherjee, on rewriting the CMO narrative; and lessons in culture marketing with Molson Coors and the National Women’s Soccer League.

As we kick off proceedings, we’ve gathered provocations from 10 CMOs and brand leaders that give an insight into the hot takes and edgy conversations that will take place on stage at the event. Scroll down to see their bold opinions on the industry.

1. Charisse Hughes, CMO at Kellanova, on breaking the test-and-learn cycle:

“With the acceleration of mobile, digital ecommerce and now AI, have we gotten to pilot purgatory? We [need to] talk about how to organize around AI, getting CEO and chief financial officer alignment early, and setting clear priorities on focus domains.”

2. Marissa Jarratt, executive vice president, CMO and sustainability officer for 7-Eleven, wants marketers see the people, not just the data:

“I keep thinking about how all of this ‘data’ that surrounds us as marketers [is] really people in disguise.  How can we continue to harness the power of data while increasing our empathy and understanding for the people we’re marketing to?”

3. Jeremy Lowenstein, CMO at Milani Cosmetics, has questions about the CMO’s ever-expanding scope:

“The role of the CMO continues to expand to include everything from product, communications, channels, culture, DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) and more.

“How does one best prioritize time and organize a team to maximize efficiencies and drive results while maintaining a consumer-first mindset and bringing the cross-functional partners along the journey?” 

4. As does Lynn Teo, CMO at Northwestern Mutual:

“There is no other title in the C-suite that creates more nomenclature confusion than the CMO role.  I’ve seen CMOs most recently recast as chief market officer or chief commercial officer: Why? Is it because marketing doesn’t have commercial merit on its own?

“[I’ve also seen a rise in titles such as] chief customer officer—if marketing isn’t about the customer, what could it possibly be about? Then there’s the chief experience officer, chief digital officer, chief brand officer and chief advertising officer.

“Our industry is sorely in need of agreement and alignment on what we call ourselves. Perhaps this points to the ever-morphing skill-set requirements of a CMO and what it takes to drive a business successfully. Is the work we must focus on outside the walls of marketing or inside?”

5. Emilio Collins, partner and chief business officer at Excel Sports Management, thinks marketers need to rethink what authenticity means:

“Authenticity in marketing has become anything but. Brands [are] finding every angle to position themselves as authentic, without actually being true to their ethos or the maturity of the audience they are targeting.

“How do we redefine what it means to truly be authentic in today’s marketing landscape?”

6. Good Feet Worldwide CMO Doug Zarkin has questions about driving connection in the age of AI:

“In this era of automation, how can a brand genuinely embody the essence of human connection and stay attuned to the needs of its audience?”

7. Marisa Thomas, CMO at Good-Loop, says it is time to talk about marrying purpose with growth:

“The responsibility for a brand to do good is nearly always placed on the desk of marketing leaders. However, the purpose remit is growing as more is expected across the three pillars of people, planet and profit.

“It feels impossible for all three to be prioritized equally. So do we believe brands really need to be good to grow?”

8. Tyra Neal, CMO at Vivid Seats, wants to see brands walk the walk on DEI:

“How do we make good on our promises to promote DEI and belonging to our organizations and our teams when DEI has become a ‘dirty word?’ Does DEI need a rebranding effort so that we can continue on this good and valuable work?”

9. Jennifer Polk, Feeding America’s CMO and digital experience officer, thinks marketers need to showcase the value of their department:

“For marketing leaders to show up as executive leaders first and functional leaders second, what roles do we play in helping the organization recognize the full potential value and the cost and risk of emerging marketing tactics, tools and platforms?

“From generative AI to niche social media platforms, how do we help organizations see the potential and plan for resources needed to test, learn and scale in order to realize that potential?”

10. And Maggie Schmerin, chief advertising officer at United Airlines, believes that it is time for a culture reset:

“Marketers are responsible for driving culture. Yet the culture of advertising has not changed in decades.”

Find out more about the Marketing Vanguard Summit here, and don’t forget to check out our regular Marketing Vanguard podcast, too.