Adweek Announces Winners of the 2016 Brand Genius Awards

Adweek is pleased to announce the winners of its annual Brand Genius Awards. Now in their 27th year, the awards recognize the talented men and women behind the most inventive, ambitious and successful brand-building efforts across 10 categories. The honorees will be recognized at a gala awards dinner at the Rainbow Room atop Rockefeller Center in New York on the evening of Tuesday, Oct. 25. For more information and to purchase tickets, go to:


Marisa Thalberg

Restaurants Category
Chief Marketing Officer
Taco Bell

Marisa Thalberg joined Taco Bell last year after leading the social and digital marketing efforts of Estée Lauder. While cosmetics and restaurants might not seem to have much to do with one another, Thalberg’s digital savvy knows few boundaries. In her brief time at the fast-food giant, she introduced TacoBot (imagine a soused Siri who takes your lunch order), a $40,000 effort that yielded $10 million in advertising value. Thalberg was also behind the brand's Cinco de Mayo Snapchat lens, which notched 224 million views in a single day. Defying those who thought Taco Bell had already cooked up as many permutations of Mexican food as possible, Thalberg also unleashed the Quesalupa, whose debut was heralded with one of the most popular spots of this year's Super Bowl.


Steve Fund

Technology Category
Chief Marketing Officer

By now, millions of consumers know that there’s “Intel inside” their computers, but how many could name other areas the brand has revolutionized? For 48 years, the Silicon Valley giant has kept a relatively low profile, but earlier this year, Intel embarked on a major rebranding campaign with the goal of creating a public face. Led by CMO Steve Fund, the effort kicked off with “Experience Amazing,” a web hub and video (created with agency mcgarrybowen) featuring the immense range of technologies made possible by Intel—from DreamWorks animation to NASA’s Space Shuttle. Intel’s other public-facing efforts included a partnership with Lady Gaga for her Grammy Awards tribute to David Bowie and the Drone 100 sky-performance project, which dazzled the residents of Sydney this summer.


Jane Lauder

Health & Beauty Category
Global Brand President

It’s not easy keeping a 47-year-old cosmetic brand fresh, but thanks to the efforts of Jane Lauder, Clinique has reached a whole new generation of consumers. Beginning with last year’s #FaceForward campaign, Lauder has spearheaded a colorful range of digital marketing efforts, including a partnership with social media star Tavi Gevinson, the launch of the digital magazine The Wink and the kickoff of the TEDWomen conference. With a creative assist from agency Wieden+Kennedy, Lauder also launched Zara Larsson’s “Play with Pop” music video, which notched 500 million global impressions. Forgoing the usual beauty images for vibrant interactive content hosted by influential millennials has transformed Clinique into a truly 21st century brand, boasting more than 8 million Facebook likes.


Olivier Francois

Automotive Category
Chief Marketing Officer
FCA Global

Any brand marking its 75th anniversary demands memorable marketing. When Jeep reached the milestone this year, Fiat Chrysler Group CMO Olivier Francois was at the wheel. Francois (who Adweek honored with a Brand Genius Award in 2012 for his work on Chrysler’s historic “Imported from Detroit” campaign) worked with Iris Worldwide on “Portraits,” a paean to Jeep owners (famous and not) that introduced the tagline “We don’t make Jeep. You do.” ("Portraits" would turn out to be one of the most popular ads in this year's Super Bowl.) Meanwhile, the online effort #MyJeepStory encouraged Jeep drivers to share photos and stories of their adventures. By shifting the spotlight from the brand to its customers, Olivier reemphasized that Jeep isn’t so much an auto brand as an American institution.


Denise Karkos

Financial Services Category
Chief Marketing Officer
TD Ameritrade

As TD Ameritrade evolved from an online broker into a broad-based financial services company, Denise Karkos assembled a new brand identity in the course of just a few months. Working with agency Havas Worldwide, Karkos developed the popular “The Best Returns Aren’t Measured in Dollars” campaign, which broke with traditional bank marketing to stress that often what's most valuable in life has nothing to do with money. Karkos led TD Ameritrade’s high-profile partnership with the NFL, including signing Colts quarterback Andrew Luck as spokesperson. The CMO also developed what’s believed to be the industry’s first cognitive marketing campaign by using Watson Personality Index to gauge fans’ confidence in their teams and send a group of lucky winners to the Super Bowl. The financial services segment is seldom known for its colorful marketing. Karkos’ work is helping to change that perception.


Bridget Russo

Lifestyle Category
Chief Marketing Officer

Under the leadership of Bridget Russo, Shinola has positioned itself not only as a must-have brand for consumers who value American craftsmanship but also as an engine for economic revitalization. From its "Built in Detroit” tagline to its video ads spotlighting Detroiters reviving trades long ago shipped offshore, Shinola has perfected a unique and affecting style of branding based on storytelling and built on local pride. Shinola’s ever-expanding grid of stores brings enough cool to overlooked urban districts to stoke their revitalization. Its been a winning tactic for the company, which posted $100 million in revenue last year, up from $20 million in 2013. It's also built a legion of powerful fans like Bill Clinton, who wore a Shinola watch at this summer's Democratic National Convention. Shinola has become a bona fide American success story.


Lisa McKnight

Toy Category
SVP & General Manager

Since moving over to the Barbie brand in February, veteran Mattel executive Lisa McKnight has assumed leadership of an ambitious effort to remake the legendary doll for a new generation of girls. Those efforts included the diversification of the dolls by skin tone and body type, and the highly successful digital effort “You Can Be Anything.” McKnight’s efforts specifically have included getting Barbie into Sports Illustrated’s 50th annual swimsuit issue and partnering with She Should Run, a nonprofit that works toward the election of female leaders, which set the stage for the summer introduction of Mattel’s new President and Vice President Barbie dolls. Thanks to a dynamic, long-term marketing vision, Barbie's sales rose 23 percent in the second quarter after years of declines.


Elizabeth Windram

Travel Category
Director of Brand Management and Advertising

At a time when the public loves to hate airlines, JetBlue has grown a loyal fan base thanks to the leadership of Elizabeth Windram and some of the most innovative marketing at 30,000 feet. From on-board promos like “Flybabies” and “Reach Across the Aisle” (which, with a creative assist from agency MullenLowe, also became viral videos) to entertaining, insightful content like “Humankinda,” a short film hosted by Sam Richardson, JetBlue has demonstrated that an airline doesn’t just sell tickets, it touches lives. Nowhere was that more evident than in JetBlue’s moving response to the Orlando shootings this past June. The airline not only flew family members to the city free of charge but contributed funds to support survivors.


Meredith Herman

Pharmaceutical Category
Digital Marketing Director

As digital marketing director for GSK Consumer Healthcare, Meredith Herman has led the effort to shift the pharma giant’s brands from traditional advertising to engaging and relevant digital content. Perhaps nowhere were those efforts better demonstrated than in last year’s work on behalf of Flonase. Under the banner “Be greater than your allergies” and with creative from agency Wunderman, Herman launched a new site rich with sharable content about allergies. Its central element featured the Eh Bee family on an allergy-free vacation (with guest appearances by country star Kellie Pickler) that fans could follow online, while contributing their own photos via Instagram. Thanks to that and other digital efforts, Flonase became the No. 1 allergy remedy on Amazon and racked up 108 million Instagram likes.


Jonathan Mildenhall

Hospitality Category
Chief Marketing Officer

Since joining the company in 2014, Jonathan Mildenhall has played a key role in developing Airbnb as, in its own words, “the world’s first community-driven super brand.” In partnership with agency TBWA\Chiat\Day Los Angeles, the marketing chief has effectively distilled the brand’s key pillars into a series of thought-provoking campaigns and activations that are relatable and buzzy and that have generated awareness for Airbnb in a whole new way. Work under Mildenhall include its first global campaign, “Never a Stranger”; the LGBTQ-friendly “Is Mankind?” TV spot; the much-praised “Night@" franchise; and the recent “Live There” campaign. Earlier this year, it partnered with the Art Institute of Chicago and Leo Burnett on a real-life homage to Vincent van Gogh’s “Bedroom in Arles,” which was rented out on Airbnb. Mildenhall came up through the agency ranks, working for TBWA, McCann-Erickson, Mother, BBH and others before joining the Coca-Cola Co. as its vp, global advertising strategy and creative. At Coke, he led the “Open Happiness” campaign, which helped earn the brand Marketer of the Year honors at Cannes in 2013.

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