Business Insider has published its ranking of the most innovative CMOs of 2017.
Here we focus on The Storytellers: the marketing executives who have best figured out how to tell stories across multiple media platforms in an era when connecting with consumers is tougher than ever.
Scroll down to see which Storyteller CMOs made the cut.
Julia Goldin, CMO at Lego
2016 was a big year for the Danish toy-maker, whose revenues rose by 6% and hit the highest level in its 85 year-long history. 2017, in comparison, has been a bit of slump with the “Lego Ninjago” movie opening to a lukewarm response. However, the brand still makes it to the list for pioneering change and pushing for inclusivity. This month, Lego released its new “Women of NASA” toy set modelled after four famous women from the U.S. space agency who are scientists, engineers, astronauts, and entrepreneurs. It took just a few days for the product to rise to the top of Amazon’s list of best-selling toys.
Mike Linton, CMO at Farmer’s Insurance
Farmers Insurance has always had a knack for producing quirky ads that highlight all the bizarre situations that people file insurance claims based on. But this year, the company took things a step further under Linton, finding out-of-the-box ways to insert itself into culturally relevant conversations of its consumers. This includes the brand’s first ever 360-degree virtual experience with the the Halloween-themed “Stranger Claims” campaign as well as a broader effort to incorporate middle America in its creative and strategy.
Leslie Berland, CMO at Twitter
The former American Express executive has a tough assignment. Making Twitter accessible to consumers who still don’t quite speak in 280 characters or understand insider lingo like “@ mentions.” Despite that ongoing challenge, Twitter has never been more influential. Under Berland’s leadership, Twitter has focused on a simple message: it’s what’s happening in the world.
Rand Harbert, Chief Agency, Sales & Marketing Officer at State Farm
Harbert knows his job better than most, considering that he started as a State Farm agent back in 1992. After leading the company through a rebrand last year, he helped drive that message home with the ad campaign “Backstory” this year. The messaging effort built on the company’s new tagline “Here to help life go right,” highlighting how possessions aren’t merely things, but can often represent something a lot bigger.
Laura Henderson, SVP of Marketing at BuzzFeed
BuzzFeed will soon have a TV show on the Oxygen network, a growing stable of born-on-Facebook brands like Tasty and Nifty, and of course its core social content machine. There’s a lot there to foster, and the former Mondelez marketing executive Henderson has skillfully made BuzzFeed stand out in a vast sea of drive-by digital publishers. She’s even pushed the company’s top web series talent, like the travel/eating show “Worth It,” to host real world events and engage with their fans -helping BuzzFeed move beyond its listicle roots.
Lee Applbaum, CMO at Patron
Patron isn’t nearly six times bigger than the next best-selling super premium tequila for no reason. The brand gets digital, and continued on its streak of double digit sales growth over the past 12 months. Under Applbaum, Patron continued to lead marketing innovation on the heels of its voice-powered cocktail recommendation system on Amazon Alexa, launching an AR tool built on Apple ARKit to support launch of Extra Añejo Tequila and a Foursquare-powered cocktail recommendation engine. It pushed the boundaries on the product design front as well, collaborating with famed director Guillermo del Toro and the French crystal house, Lalique.
Raja Rajamannar, Chief Marketing and Communications Officer at Mastercard
It’s been a big year for Mastercard, as the company underwent a complete brand overhaul for the first time in two decades, overseen by Rajamannar. That work included the introduction of Masterpass, the credit card company’s digital wallet offering. Plus the company’s Priceless Cities perks program is now in 80 countries.
Ted Ward, CMO, Geico
Geico continues to be one of the most aggressive advertisers on TV, fuelled by its ubiquitous Gecko. In an era in which people are harder to reach than ever, the insurance brand under Ward’s leadership has been able to maintain old-school TV-commercial characters and stories that people love. Not to mention its innovative use of preroll video ads you can’t skip and ads that are “condensed.”
Chris Spadaccini, Head of Marketing at HBO
HBO consistently raises the bar for creativity. Witness the “Westworld” virtual reality experience at Comic-Con last summer, via which fans could visit the show’s android-filled saloon. Not only did it promote the series, but it helped advanced the fledgling VR medium, which is something not many brands can claim. And of course, there’s that little show called “Game of Thrones.”People watched melting ice on the web earlier this yearjust to find out when the show would premiere, and the show has employed a custom Snapchat face filter – all of which made the hype for the dragon-dominated show inescapable.
Marie Gulin-Merle, CMO at L’Oreal USA
L’Oreal USA has garnered a reputation for being a digital powerhouse. It has been ahead of the curve in experimenting with innumerable new platforms and formats, from a Snapchat campaign for the Maybelline brand during New York Fashion Week to creating a virtual reality hairstylist education program with Matrix. Under Gulin-Merle, the marketer continued to flex its digital muscles, launching a virtual customer representative bot for Kiehl’s on Facebook Messenger, creating a custom “Makeup Lens” on Snapchat using AR and establishing a new content studio located at Terminal Stores – a revitalized West Chelsea warehouse for its 30 plus brands to use to create and produce original content.
Alegra O’Hare, VP of Global Brand Communications, Adidas Originals and Style
Over the past few years, Adidas has steadily risen up the ranks in the U.S., to take the spot of the second-most popular sneaker brand just after Nike. Boosting this ascent is Adidas Originals, which itself grew more than 80% in the U.S. in 2016 as compared to 2015. O’Hare has driven much of this meteoric rise, doing everything from a partnership with designer Alexander Wang to remixing an old Frank Sinatra tune into a branded anthem song. It’s no wonder then, that this year, the brand snapped up a Grand Prix in the music category of the Entertainment Lions at Cannes.
Karin Timpone, CMO at Marriott
Over the past four years, Marriott’s global marketing team under Timpone has integrated new brands into its portfolio and grown its loyalty member base to over 100 million people worldwide. The hotel giant has also pioneered an industry-first in-house content studio as well as global social media command centres, produced short films and expanded new marketing partnerships in sports and music, among other fields. All these concerted efforts led M Live, the brand’s social media listening hubs, to win two Cannes Lions this summer.
Sue Kroll, President of Worldwide Marketing at Warner Bros.
2017 has been a bumper year for Warner Bros., with an impressive lineup of blockbusters such as “Wonder Woman,” “Dunkirk,” “It” and “Blade Runner 2049.” As the studio’s marketing chief, Kroll has spearheaded the strategy and implementation of ad campaigns for these releases, taking them far beyond the silver screen. Whether it was the guerilla marketing effort that put up red balloons to promote “It,” or the 3D World Lens for “Blade Runner 2049” on Snapchat, Warner Bros. and Kroll left no stone unturned to make their films roaring successes.
Marc Mathieu, CMO at Samsung
Looking to learn how to pull a successful comeback? Look no further than Samsung. The tech giant battled and recovered from one of the worst branding crises in recent history, after its exploding phones fiasco in 2016. Mathieu not only helped guide Samsung through the challenge, but also flipped the brand’s existing marketing playbook on its head while doing so. He used the disaster as an opportunity to change how the electronics giant communicated with consumers, with a new focus on building love and trust.
This came about with initiatives like the loyalist program, as well as the global campaign “Do What You Can’t,” in which it enlisted real people to share real stories of how Samsung devices allow users to create, experience and share content. Mathieu also established the “Marketing Center of Excellence,” a cross-functional space in the bottom three floors of its New York office to spark creativity and openness within the organisation.
Kelly Bennett, CMO at Netflix
Whether it was plastering cocaine hotspots from the ’90s with punny one-liners to promote Narcos, or partnering with Spotify, Snapchat and Lyft to build excitement around “Stranger Things 2,” 2017 was the year that Netflix truly made entertainment transcend our screens. Overseeing all these initiatives was Bennett, who managed to successfully extend some of the streaming giant’s most successful franchises into thrilling experiences across the digital, mobile and out-of-home mediums. Bennett, an entertainment marketing veteran who spent nearly a decade at Warner Bros. Pictures, leads global marketing and social media for Netflix across more than 150 countries.
Fernando Machado, CMO at Burger King
No other brand has consistently delivered on creative, innovative and downright bold ad campaigns in the recent past quite the way that Burger King has. It’s no surprise then, that the fast food giant took away the top awards at the Cannes Lions, advertising’s biggest annual gathering this summer.
Following in the footsteps of iconic campaigns like the McWhopper Proposal and Subservient Chicken, Burger King outdid itself this year under Machado, with a string of ingenious campaigns including Google Home of the Whopper, Burger King Anti-Bullying PSA and Halloween Clown.
Cliff Hopkins, Global Head of Marketing at Instagram
Few companies have had a better 2017 than Instagram. In April the company said it had 700 million monthly active users. By September that number had hit 800 million while Instagram Stories, its Snapchat Stories clone, shot to 250 million daily users in just a year. Sure, a great product and powerful network helps. But amazingly Instagram has been able to keep its cool factor even as part of the Facebook empire.
Linda Boff, CMO at GE
It’s been a year of wrenching leadership change at GE, but this 14-year GE veteran continues to charge forward. Boff has helped revive the 125 year-old company, spearheading its new vision through a marketing strategy that relies heavily on experimentation and a willingness to be first on emerging media platforms. Boff encourages her marketers to use technology to drive as far down the conversion funnel as possible, so that any leads they hand over to the rest of the team are real business opportunities. While sales and strategy have always been important to marketing leaders, Boff believes that real change has come with developments in technology, data and the speed to market being demanded by consumers.
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