Fernando Machado, Global CMO of Burger King
Fernando Machado
Global CMO

Inside the Mind of Grand Brand Genius Fernando Machado

Two-time Brand Genius Honoree and last year's Grand Brand Genius, Fernando Machado is synonymous with bold campaigns. From his work on Dove’s “Real Beauty Sketches” (as Global Brand VP at Unilever) to the 15-second “OK, Google, what is the Whopper burger?” spot, the Burger King CMO continues to push the brand's boundaries to ensure they are not just embracing the current cultural tone, but setting new standards for it. So what has Fernando been up to since his win? Well, since then you've likely seen a continued string of daring BK ads – but here, Fernando shares BK's latest focus on tech and cleaning things up, advice for brand marketers and where you can find him when he's not working on genius campaigns.

What have you been up to since receiving your award?

Believe it or not, I was lucky enough to win twice (2013 and 2018). The first time I won was a celebration of the work Steve Miles and I did for the Dove brand at Unilever. Just after that, I decided to take the challenge of moving to Burger King and lead global marketing for the brand. And it was amazing to receive the recognition for the second time as a result of the great stuff we have been doing for BK.

"So the challenge is how to keep doing new things and not simply falling into a formula."

Right now our marketing teams are very focused on keep raising the bar when it comes to creativity, improving the quality of our food, and bringing new technology to our system so as to better serve guests. We believe that creativity is one of our competitive advantages. So the challenge is how to keep doing new things and not simply falling into a formula. I am super proud of the work we are doing around products. We are working to clean up the portfolio from artificial things, to improve our environmental footprint and to improve the nutritional aspect of the food. And when it comes to technology, we are doing some really cool things with our mobile app, home delivery, smart digital menu boards, among others. It’s an exciting time for the Burger King brand and I feel lucky to have such a great team of people working together to take BK to new heights.

What was most eye-opening or memorable about the experience?

In both the cases for Dove and Burger King, what was truly unique and made the work reach unprecedented proportions was the fact that we were truly pushing the boundaries of creativity. We embraced uncertainty and felt excited with the fact that we didn’t really know if some of the ideas would work the way we planned for. And, in reality, most of them ended up being better than our most optimistic dream. So the most eye-opening or memorable for me was how excited we got every time we were presented with an idea which felt so fresh and new that we didn’t know how to do it or if it would work. When you feel comfortable with something that probably means that you have done something like that before.

Looking back, would you have done anything differently?

"I wish I would have prioritized more. But, guess what? We are all humans."

Difficult to answer because the collection of wins and losses as you trail your path are probably the things that shape you. I know… That sounded rather philosophical. LOL. Let me think. Hmmm… I think I would have tried to be less stressed about things. Maybe I would have less grey hair had I managed to do that. I wish I would have prioritized more. But, guess what? We are all humans. And I believe that it’s all about the journey, trying to do the right thing and getting better and better.

What tips or tricks did you learn along the way?

I think I was lucky enough to work with people who always dedicated time to mentor and coach me. And, over time, I learned a hell of a lot from them. I think the best tips I received were around “working hard and being good to people” and “finding the right balance between magic and logic”. When I am at my best, I am exercising those things. When the focus shifts, things tend to not work well.

The best work I had the opportunity to be involved with was born out of strong collaboration, trust, transparency, and respect. And when those ingredients are not present, the work tends to not be as good, especially when it comes to quality consistency over time.

What was the hardest thing about your move from Unilever to Burger King?

I spent 18 years in Unilever. That was my first job. And I decided to leave during the strongest year I had during my whole time there. It was not easy. But I had to do something different. Moving to Burger King was definitely “something different”. Different industry, different culture, franchisees, among so many other differences. It took me some time to adapt. It took some time to rebuild my credibility (no one knew me and most people were not marketers). And I ended up learning a lot about leadership, influencing others, a bias for action, accountability, and so many other things.

What one piece of career advice would you offer brand marketers today?

"Life is too short to not be obsessed about what you do."

Be obsessed about what you do. If you are not obsessed about marketing, creativity, advertising, design and business in general, go find something you are obsessed with. Life is too short to not be obsessed about what you do.

Burger King Global CMO Fernando Machado with wife, Anneke Machado.
Burger King Global CMO Fernando Machado with wife, Anneke Machado.

When you’re not creating genius campaigns, where can we find you?

When I'm not at work, you can probably find me playing football (soccer), praying for my football team back in Brazil (Flamengo), drawing (I love to draw), doing something cool in Miami with my wife Anneke or building Lego blocks with my kid Leo who's 4 years old.

What is your favorite quote? 

As a hopeless optimistic, my favorite quote is: “Everything will be fine at the end. If it is not fine now, it’s not the end”.


Be sure to catch Fernando speaking at Brandweek taking place Nov. 3-6 in Palm Springs, CA and hear him on the CMO Moves podcast with Nadine Dietz.