McDonald’s European brand chief: “Strive to be a better marketer, not an MD”

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McDonald’s European brand chief article

Too many of today’s marketers want to be managing directors when really they should focus on being better marketers.

Marketing is losing its lustre as a career because too many marketers want to climb the career ladder.

I truly believe marketing is the best job on earth. Rather than always seeking to move into a different role, marketers should want to generate clear business benefits using their marketing skills.

When I was appointed in 2005, my role was chief brand and strategy officer and I was put in charge of all the things I consider have a strong and clear link with consumer experience, from business insight to design and sustainability.

Marketers need to feel they are valued, that their salary is competitive and that they can expand their role into different categories that have a direct link with consumers, such as consumer business insight, design and merchandise. The best marketers should have the capacity to do that because they understand consumers better than anyone else.

Offering such extensions to the marketing remit will also keep marketers in their roles for longer than the often quoted 18-month average. People believe in that time they can make their mark then move on. Our role, however, should be to help redefine this job. Too many CMOs try to change the brand DNA rather than, as I term it, ‘understand the past to better build the future’. I look at other companies and see their DNA changing regularly and the brand fails as a result.

More than ever, people want to understand what makes a brand unique and powerful. This DNA should remain at the heart of what you do. What needs to change at an amazing pace is what you need to do to keep that DNA strong. If you keep the DNA strong, the question becomes about execution: ‘What should I put in place to make sure my execution is relevant?’. For ‘everyday convenience’ that could mean kiosks, mobile ordering or ibeacons, while ‘fun’ could be delivered via in-store or off premises via digital or gaming.

Today, the key to success for any brand is to move from ‘brand design’ to ‘experience design’. You don’t build success on what you say. Most importantly, you build it on what you do.

What creates love, buzz and attractiveness is the experience. For McDonald’s, it’s critical that the in-store experience becomes perfect, which isn’t the case at the moment if I’m being honest but we’re working on it. For instance, we introduced books in children’s happy meals as an example of how the brand can help engage kids and the family. We launched the idea in Sweden and rolled it out to other European markets.

In France, the scheme has been taken to a new level. Since January this year, the brand has made a formal partnership with a leading literacy organisation. With every Happy Meal offered, there is a choice between a book and a toy and the store opens on some days to run reading sessions.

In the past, we would have mainly created a nice ad to say we have books, today we say we want to stand for literacy and will act accordingly. We will invest time and money to support it.

That said, many of the important aspects of marketing haven’t changed and the skills that make a great CMO will never change. I’m convinced the values and skills that make a great CMO will never change.

CMOs still need to have a great vision, be inspiring and create the right storytelling. They also need to surround themselves with the right talent and create a learning culture around them. A learning company keeps the company on the move; it is never arrogant. It always wants to be sure it grabs the right information. Marketers need to be surrounded with the right people to help us with the how.

Great marketers are passionate about consumer understanding and storytelling. In the digital age, the boundaries are limitless. Customers are the most important asset of any company. If the marketer is the one in the company who best understands the consumer, then they’re a prize asset and should be valued as such. If that’s the case, perhaps fewer would aspire to becoming MDs.

About Project Reconnect:

Marketing can be a dirty word. Too often marketing falls short of what people and society want and expect from companies. At WFA, Project Reconnect champions what’s good about marketing and showcases what an impact it can have on the lives of the people we serve. We hope to raise the bar just a little in terms of some people’s perceptions of our industry. Follow us @WFAReconnect and @WFAmarketers

Pierre Woreczek on Project Reconnect:

“I think there are other brands in other industries doing a better job at creating movements with which people want to engage. You can never copy because a car is something that is different to food or soap but as a pure marketing expert, I think there are many good examples from which we can learn to apply less logic and more magic.”

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