These days, if you’re going to successfully market goods or services to digitally savvy consumers, you better be skilled at using the latest technologies and hippest channels to forge meaningful messages that delight and inspire. Toward that end, “It’s a tremendous competitive advantage to have a leader who can survey the confusing and rapidly changing landscape and identify the innovations that hold promise,” says Richard Giuliani, experience director at CP+B, which has partnered with Domino’s digital chief Dennis Maloney for numerous cutting-edge campaigns. Maloney and the 19 other pivotal players profiled here fulfill the promise of fusing tech innovation with marketing smarts to drive interest and sales. Google CMO Lorraine Twohill, also featured below, sums it up best: “Know the user, know the magic, connect the two.”
Last year, to tout its order-tracking technology, Domino’s delivered a piping-hot pop-culture pastiche that put a fresh spin on the famous running-home scene from the 1986 movie Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. In the update, Joe Keery of Stranger Things raced across neighbors’ lawns, bounded over hedges and bounced on a backyard trampoline to beat the pizza guy to his front door.
That campaign ranks among several high-profile efforts trumpeting Domino’s transformation “from a pizza company which sells online to an ecommerce company that sells pizza,” says Dennis Maloney, who arrived at the chain from Coca-Cola in 2010 to lead multimedia development. Adding the title of chief digital officer three years ago, he’s helped guide Domino’s technological evolution and shaped its marketing mix. The results have been tasty, with digital sales passing the 60 percent mark (half of those orders are placed on mobile devices), a 10 percent increase from 2015.
“Tech folks would say I’m a marketing guy, but the marketing folks would say I’m more tech—guess that puts me right in the middle,” says Maloney. And that’s just the way he likes it, because “we are well past the point where a CMO can be successful without understanding both the basics and the mechanics of technology and digital marketing. Anyone who isn’t considering the digital aspects of a complete marketing program really is missing out on a big opportunity to add significant layers of engagement and reach through available digital platforms.”
Under Maloney, Domino’s “layers of engagement” have become complex and intertwined while maintaining a focus on fun and added value. “Consumers can easily spot innovation used purely as a marketing gimmick,” he says. “Innovation that lacks any real consumer benefit, or improvement to their experience, just isn’t going to work.”
Case in point: Domino’s wedding and baby registries generated plenty of publicity, but they’re also real resources that thousands of customers have used to gift pizza for special occasions.
“The wedding and baby registries worked so well because they are both digital extensions that capitalized on and extended existing customer insights: Pizza is often part of the experience for both weddings and baby showers,” Maloney says. “Customers who love pizza often find a way to order it at the end of the reception and their friends wanted to be able to ‘gift’ pizza as part of the process. The challenge was to develop the interfaces and processes to allow this to happen in a fun and seamless way.”
Given Domino’s business model, it’s not surprising that much of its innovation focuses on deliveries. In 2015, the chain launched a nationwide fleet of modified Chevy Sparks with oven space to warm 80 pizzas, and it began testing a driverless Ford prototype last year.
“We had the chance to collaborate on the user interface for the driverless car’s food pickup window,” says Richard Giuliani, experience director at Domino’s agency partner CP+B. “You could see how important testing and generating customer feedback is to Dennis. He’s always pushing to get new technology into the marketplace first. And he’s constantly fine-tuning to make sure it’s not just first, but best.”
“It really isn’t a question of if autonomous vehicles will happen,” adds Maloney, “but more a question of how and when.”
Someday soon, you could find yourself racing home to beat a Domino’s robo car to your door.
Since rising through the ranks to CMO last May, she’s made a considerable investment in positioning BofA as a financial resource that facilitates human connection. To boost enrollment for the bank’s mobile app with person-to-person payment technology, her team created activations leading up to “Pay Back a Friend Day”—Oct. 17, 2017—encouraging consumers to settle debts. This led to a 54 percent enrollment uptick during the six-week campaign. “Marketers can now leverage data to create the seamless, relevant experiences,” she says. “This is particularly important for me, as there are few consumer/brand relationships more personal than the one between an individual and his or her financial services provider.” In the works: a platform to crunch customer data in real time and serve content based on immediate interests and needs.
To extend Walmart’s ecommerce shelf life, Rogers continues to tout the brick-and-mortar giant’s ongoing transformation into a digitally savvy retail juggernaut. “Our customers tell us they want a retail partner who not only helps them save money, but helps them save time,” he says. “So we’re bringing stores and digital together to serve people—and in the process we’re strengthening our relationship with our customers. They can trust us to be there for them no matter how they choose to shop.” Recently, he launched a multifaceted campaign to support omnichannel shopping, with a focus on two-day shipping, easy reorder, pickups and other services. Internally, he unified Walmart’s marketing team, which had been split between stores and online sales, into a single unit.
“We have to be rule breakers to succeed because we can’t wait around hoping to not be disrupted,” Reynolds says, and he’s putting Clorox’s money behind that mantra, with more than 50 percent of the company’s annual media spend supporting digital efforts. Highlights include “What Comes Next Is Everything,” which stresses how clean spaces can accelerate personal satisfaction and achievement, and Brita’s popular “Best Roommate Ever” video, which leveraged YouTube influencer King Bach and spokesman Stephen Curry. (Brita’s favorability rose 36 points as a result.) Fresh Step kitty litter got its claws into first-party data for a campaign that doubled the brand’s ROI over previous digital efforts. “On our best day we reach our consumer using technology so artfully that it becomes invisible,” he says.
Biggar wants you to know that Visa provides all sorts of convenient, cutting-edge ways to pay. To illustrate that message, the company installed 1,000 terminals at the Winter Olympics, enabling mobile and wearable payments, and introduced gloves, pins and stickers allowing fans and athletes to make transactions. To tease such innovations, the company harnessed the power of its 54 Team Visa athletes, who posted the ads in their Instagram feeds. At Super Bowl LII, Visa upgraded 700 concessions with contactless technology. “We are agnostic about whether you dip, swipe, click or tap,” says Biggar. “We just want you to choose Visa, and we see enormous opportunity as the world increasingly transitions to a cash-free society.”
Fuller joined Accenture in September from rival Deloitte, bringing a wealth of knowledge about moving consultancies further into the advertising sphere. Her main mission: identifying and assessing new and novel ways AI, blockchain, robotics and quantum computing can drive client business on a global scale—and making sure Accenture helps businesses, governments and leaders safely navigate the ever-expanding, oft-confusing digital landscape. Toward that end, “Accenture has developed the first assessment tool that tracks critical drivers of ethical culture and decision-making,” she says. “We’re currently using it to advise a global banking client how to build, deploy and monitor AI systems to operate responsibly.”
AR and VR experiences keep bubbling up for brands in Lyons’ portfolio. At the Super Bowl, the beverage and snack titan sponsored the halftime show and launched its “Pepsi Generations” push, a WebVR experience that let fans “step inside” two of its iconic commercials. VR, AR, gaming and drone racing popped last year for Mountain Dew, which teamed with Doritos Blaze at Super Bowl LII for a ballyhooed marketing blitz launching Mtn Dew Ice. “We will also continue to grow our ecommerce capabilities to create the premier online shopping experience for our consumers,” Lyons says. Pepsi is reinvesting some of its savings from the recent federal tax cuts in such initiatives, which generate about $1 billion in annual sales.
Just drive, she said! In the past year, Waters put the emphasis on fun, innovative campaigns saluting Lyft drivers as a point of differentiation with hard-charging, troubled ride-share rival Uber. “Our challenge was to introduce Lyft to millions of new drivers and passengers,” Waters says. “We did this by focusing on what sets us apart: our mission, our culture and our values.” That approach—which included a celebration of driver ambitions and an integrated push that looked at the history of human transportation—helped put Lyft in the fast lane, with the service more than doubling its total rides in 2017.
Mathieu helped restore Samsung’s image after an explosive controversy stemming from the tendency of its Galaxy Note 7 smartphones to catch fire. Post recall, he shepherded successful launches for the Galaxy S8/S8+ and Note 8, with ads explaining how AI-powered voice assistant Bixby and other features help lighten the load for harried users. Positioning Samsung products as tools to facilitate personal growth, he forged partnerships with Arianna Huffington’s Thrive time-management app and The New York Times’ Daily 360 news platform. Under the global “Do What You Can’t” mobile marketing banner, he launched an initiative with creators to share real-people stories about Samsung products and services.
Scotti is determined to portray Verizon as a caring, woke enterprise, amplifying that message with the “Humanability” initiative that broke in December, and fostering diversity and inclusiveness internally. A multicity AR scavenger hunt with iPhone 8s as prizes, digital videos showing how the company wired the Super Bowl and AR enhancement of its Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade livestream on YouTube were nods toward openness and fun. Verizon’s Ad Fellows program aims to get diverse young people jobs at the company and roster shops McCann, Momentum, Rauxa, Zenith and Weber Shandwick. Despite such initiatives, online privacy and net neutrality advocates claim there’s a big disconnect on various hot-button issues.
When Fund boosts Intel’s brand at global sports extravaganzas, the sky is literally the limit. The tech giant flew 300 drones behind Lady Gaga during her 2017 Super Bowl appearance, transforming the star field into the U.S. flag. At last month’s Winter Games, the company choreographed 1,200 drones during the opening ceremony to form brilliant aerial versions of a snowboarder, a dove and the Olympic rings. Such consistently bold and lauded creative has helped raise Intel’s brand value in recent rankings from Forbes, BrandZ and Interbrand, and, in January, its stock soared to a 17-year high.
Bradford, who moved into the SoFi CMO slot last summer after two years as operations chief, isn’t risk averse when it comes to building buzz for the personal finance brand. “Most consumers don’t want to talk about their money in the first place,” she says. “And when they’re on the receiving end of safe, down-the-middle campaigns, they have no reason to change that. Everything we do is geared around provoking that conversation and taking action.” Bradford initiated “Raise Week,” which mixed social content and live events to teach participants how to claim their workplace value, and an avocado toast giveaway stunt for mortgage borrowers. Such efforts have really paid off, with loan originations up 60 percent in 2017.
Sciuto knows how to go with the digital flow. In 2016, he established the Consumer Engagement Center, an initiative focused on using interactive channels to deepen consumer relationships. Such efforts drastically reduced innovation time to launch from two years to, in some cases, as little as six months. He also formed an integrated eBusiness team and implemented the Salesforce marketing cloud to enhance and personalize the customer experience. Another innovation: smart coolers at retail stores that capture consumer data and display calls to action on embedded touchscreens. “The ultimate goal,” Sciuto says, “is to be a companion in their life and meet them with one voice, and with the beverages they need in the moment they need them.”
FRANK COOPER III
Cooper joined BlackRock last year, bringing serious media savvy and big-brand marketing chops to the global money management firm following tenures at BuzzFeed and PepsiCo. Since then, he’s leveraged machine learning to segment audiences beyond traditional parameters, enhanced the iRetire app to help customers get more out of their post-work lives, and translated complex concepts through smart storytelling across Instagram, Twitter and WeChat. “My motivation and intention in both marketing and technology are the same: to tap into unmet and sometimes unarticulated needs of people to help unlock human potential,” he says. “In the investment management industry, giving people knowledge remains important. Changing their behavior toward positive outcomes is nirvana.”
With senior posts at Flex, HP and Disney on his resume, Mendenhall joined IBM last summer as part of the company’s continuing effort to cast Watson as the ultimate digital rainmaker. In January, the AI joined with data marketer Jivox to deliver real-time contextual advertising based on changes in the weather (e.g., serving umbrella ads on rainy days). At the U.S. Open, the cloud-based system analyzed tennis matches in real time, and it dished on music and fashion at the 60th annual Grammy Awards. Moving forward, look for Mendenhall and his team to expand Watson’s reach into seemingly every cranny of popular culture.
Honored as Adweek’s Grand Brand Genius in 2011, Twohill continues to buck the trend of high turnover among marketing chiefs through consistently inventive efforts to drive growth across all segments of the tech giant’s portfolio. In recent years, she’s overseen the launches of Google Assistant (available on 400 million devices), the Made by Google hardware line and Grow With Google, a program to help people build digital-economy skills. In 2017, her team introduced the Android Oreo operating system and spearheaded the first consumer Chromebook campaign, increasing Q4 sales more than 70 percent. Regardless of scale—and Google views and clicks are counted in the billions—“We strive to have empathy for the user and focus on one, real person,” she says.
“Marketing is a combination of art and science,” White says. “Too many marketing teams in tech neglect the art.” Case in point: Last year, White hired Academy Award winner Errol Morris to make a series of unscripted spots for the online investment management firm starring diverse people speaking in frank, funny terms about their financial needs and relationships to money. Morris himself appeared in the most memorable clip, detailing in delightfully deadpan style a long-ago encounter with a wealth adviser who ultimately wound up under indictment. Partnerships are also a priority—for example, customers who put their homes on Airbnb get $400 in their Wealthsimple accounts.
Already Ford Motor’s CMO, credited with boosting the Lincoln nameplate globally through stylish cross-platform communications, Galhotra unexpectedly changed lanes on March 1, replacing Raj Nair in the North America driver’s seat when the latter left the company. He had just harnessed considerable star power on social media, putting Lincoln brand spokesman Matthew McConaughey behind the wheel in December for a typically aloof appeal that saw the Oscar winner align with the universe when he stops at a railway crossing. Last month, Serena Williams told her followers stories about her first huge purchase as a tennis star: a Navigator dubbed Ginger, and discussed her personal and professional journey to build a lasting legacy.
Slaven’s not afraid to go off-road, as it were, veering into unconventional territory to position Mercedes as a leader in the connected car revolution, setting trends and establishing industry best practices along the way. Through responsive website design, he’s helped seamlessly link the digital and in-dealer shopping experience across devices and platforms. “Last Fan Standing” challenged fans to follow a Mercedes-AMG C43 coupe around their smartphone screens during the Super Bowl for a chance to win the sports car. Ultimately converted into a random drawing, the stunt generated massive publicity—sans an actual big-game ad buy.
What good is having tens of thousands of pieces of content across marketing and sales if those materials aren’t readily accessible to your customers? In her seven months as digital marketing chief at enterprise software giant SAP, Yamamoto tackled that challenge. She took promotional and media assets scattered across hundreds of platforms and consolidated them in a single database with an efficient set of management, search and access tools. She also eliminated a dual publishing model to simplify and spur content dissemination. All told, these efforts have helped deliver more than 1 million downloads of information to SAP customers and prospects so far.