Hilton’s CMO Is Leaving the Company a Day After Layoffs Announced

Kellyn Smith Kenny has been with the hospitality brand since 2018

Kellyn Smith Kenny
Hilton joins Marriott as hospitality brands without a CMO after Smith Kenny's departure. Adweek

Hilton CMO Kellyn Smith Kenny said today she is leaving the hospitality brand.

In a post on Linkedin, Smith Kenny, who has been with Hilton since 2018, said that “to secure Hilton’s future, we needed to dramatically reduce our workforce and say goodbye to some of the finest people I have ever had the privilege of working alongside.”

“We have worked tirelessly to create, build and reimagine what was possible and the results have been extraordinary,” Smith Kenny wrote. “The events of this week represent the conclusion of a chapter we’d hoped would end differently but this moment also offers an opportunity to turn the page and start a new chapter.”

Smith Kenny’s departure comes after Hilton let go of nearly 2,100 employees Tuesday at its corporate headquarters in McLean, Va. Marriott, which has been without a CMO since Karin Timpone stepped down at the end of 2019, also faced similar furloughs that have been extended until the fall.

During her tenure, Smith Kenny doubled down on Hilton’s loyalty membership marketing and grew the program to nearly 100 million members.

In a statement announcing the staff reduction, Hilton CEO and president Christopher Nassetta said that “never in Hilton’s 101-year history has our industry faced a global crisis that brings travel to a virtual standstill. Hospitality will always be a business of people serving people, which is why I am devastated that to protect our business, we have been forced to take actions that directly impact our team members.”

Smith Kenny previously served as CMO of Uber between 2016 and 2018, a journey she talked about with Adweek’s chief community officer Nadine Dietz in this CMO Moves podcast.

It’s been a week of major marketing departures. MediaLink’s chief transformation officer, Dana Anderson, and AT&T’s chief brand and advertising officer, Fiona Carter, departed their brands earlier today. On Tuesday, Buffalo Wild Wings CMO Seth Freeman also left the company after less than two years.

@RyanBarwick ryan.barwick@adweek.com Ryan is a brand reporter covering travel, mobility and sports marketing.