Walgreens Boots Alliance’s Vineet Mehra on Developing Marketing Unicorns

And why it's critical for the future of marketing

Headshot of Nadine Dietz

What does it take to be a successful marketer in today’s environment? Vineet Mehra, Global Chief Marketing and Chief Customer Officer for Walgreens Boots Alliance, has a few things in mind. On the live 150th episode of CMO Moves, Vineet dove deep into two key enablers for success: unicorns and BFF CIOs. 

In the last [CMO Moves] episode that you were on last year, you shared a really important framework called The Five Mantras of the Modern CMO. Do you want to just talk about it real quick and then dive into unicorns and CIOs? 

I think the modern CMO role has evolved so much over the last couple of years. We talked about the five mantras: unifying the C-suite behind the customer, being that voice of the customer and the C-suite, becoming your company’s growth hacker, and really turning your function into a growth function, and connecting purpose with commerce (really important those two things come together), making everything personal with your customers which is all about data analytics and technology. Then the last one is all about cultivating the sort of well-rounded modern unicorn talent.  

You recently expanded your title. So you are first of all, Global CMO across the entire Walgreens Boots Alliance organization, but now you’re also Chief Customer Officer. What does that mean? 

In many ways, it’s a recognition of the role of marketing (kind of traditionally called marketing) being elevated in the company. It now includes things like going from sort of legacy marketing functions, like advertising communications, into full-stack customer experience delivery. I’ve now got responsibility for e-commerce for all of our data architecture, our customer science function, a lot of our product management, and our apps.  

A lot of these things come together and then metrics start to change. I now talk about things like NPS scores and engagement scores, rather than just brand affinity scores. It’s almost like a tech job in a way. It’s kind of morphing into experiences. And I think that’s really where marketing’s headed. It’s hard to differentiate brands and communications. You’ve got to differentiate brands and experiences now.  

If you have a brand and you’re in marketing, everything needs to perform. It’s how you reallocate your spend these days with things changing. And to do that, you have to kind of be a little bit of a unicorn. So what is a unicorn and how do we develop unicorns? 

Unicorn talent are those folks in an organization that can take the entire customer journey, whether it’s very bottom of the funnel, direct response, or even lower into site conversion, all the way to the top and tell brilliant editorial stories about your brand. It’s those few people in an organization that are dangerous enough across the entire modern marketing stack…can put the customer in the center, connect all those specialist functions and put that together. And the truth is, there’s not many people like that.  

Think of what a modern marketing organization looks like today. I’ve got six or seven groups that I organize around: customer scientists who are experts in personalization at a one-to-one level, brand editorial and design experts, content creators that think like magazine editors, direct response and site conversion people. We’ve got marketing automation and tech people, customer engagement lifecycle customer experience managers, which are almost like product managers. If you have an app as part of your experience ecosystem, that app needs to be managed very much. That’s almost a product manager like job inside marketing. If you think of the diversity of those skill sets and how I just pointed out a modern marketing organizational design setup, think about how many people who can float across all of those areas and truly integrate the experience for the customer. We ran an assessment across all of our organization and we found that only 3% of our marketers are sort of spiky enough across all of these areas to be able to truly integrate the customer experience across all of this.  

nadine.dietz@adweek.com Nadine Dietz is chief community officer at Adweek and host of the CMO Moves podcast.
{"taxonomy":"","sortby":"","label":"","shouldShow":""}