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Chris Brandt, Chief Marketing Officer, Chipotle
Brandt went from helping Chipotle navigate its food-safety crisis to guiding it through the pandemic — contributing to its sales growing 7.1% year over year to $6 billion in 2020, with a 174.1% surge in digital sales.
After the pandemic hit, he shifted ad spending from TV and live sports to social and digital channels including live streaming, e-sports, TikTok, and bitcoin.
He also championed digital features including its loyalty app, delivery and online-order and drive-thru pickup, setting up more than 200 dedicated "Chipotlanes" for customers in cars and helping the company top more than 21 million rewards members.
This February, he oversaw its first Super Bowl spot that featured a boy asking "Can a Burrito Change the World?," that touted Chipotle's positive environmental impact.
Chris Capossela, EVP and Chief Marketing Officer, Microsoft
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has called marketing a top driver of its success — and Capossela is leading the charge.
The veteran exec is behind Microsoft's ads that have emphasized accessibility, empowerment, and diversity and showed how technology can drive change, helping it clinch the Cannes Lions 2021 creative marketer of the year award.
The Cannes award built on earlier work including its 2019 Super Bowl commercial promoting accessible technology, its 2020 spot celebrating openly gay football coach Katie Sowers, and the "Make What's Next" campaign that advocated for girls in STEM fields.
During the pandemic, he moved Microsoft's live events to virtual formats, with its annual developer conference Microsoft Build, attracting 200,000 attendees in 2020 versus 6,000 the previous year.
Rachel Ferdinando, SVP and Chief Marketing Officer, Frito-Lay North America
Ferdinando has used data to make Frito-Lay's marketing more personalized, helping brands like Cheetos hit double-digit sales.
She's built a database of millions of consumers and their likes, down to the ZIP code level — intel that's used to develop marketing and products like regional and limited-edition flavor offerings.
She's also harnessed gaming and streaming platforms like
and Roku to promote Frito-Lay's brands, orchestrated product placement deals on
, and tied up with NBA's 2K20 video game to tout Ruffles.
In the pandemic, she was behind the company's "It's About People" ad highlighting its coronavirus relief efforts, and also helped build its first direct-to-consumer platform.
Julia Goldin, EVP, Chief Product and Marketing Officer, Lego
Goldin has helped the 60-plus year-old Danish toy maker maintain its cool cachet among kids and adults alike — helping its popularity soar during the pandemic.
The former Revlon and Coca-Cola exec has promoted Legos as a way for children to develop problem-solving and critical thinking skills, and kept the brand relevant through co-branded collaborations with Nintendo, Disney, Ikea and Adidas.
She also injected diversity and inclusivity to Legos products, most recently with its Pride-themed set called "Everyone is Awesome" inspired by the LGBTQ+ rainbow flag.
These efforts, coupled with its e-commerce growth, led to Legos sales rising 13% in 2020 year-over-year.
Carla Hassan, Chief Marketing Officer, Citi
Since she was promoted to CMO in September, Hassan has used its advertising to spotlight social justice issues like transgender representation, the gender pay gap, and racial equity while pushing for more diversity at Citi's ad agencies.
She teamed up with Citi client &Pizza in the pandemic to deliver free pizzas to frontline workers and gave free year-long Citi Bike memberships to first responders, healthcare workers, and transit employees.
She's also launched digital initiatives like the Gen Z-aimed Citi Plex Account that uses Google Pay to make tailored recommendations to users.
And Citi's new TrueName cards, which let transgender and non-binary individuals use their preferred names on their cards, have led to more than 10,000 people updating their names.
Tariq Hassan, Chief Marketing Officer, Petco
When Petco went public this year, riding a pandemic-related boom, Hassan made sure the pet retailer was ready to capitalize, with a new brand identity and e-commerce efforts.
He made over Petco as a health and wellness destination for pets, turning stores into places that sold pet food while offering grooming, vet, and training services.
He more than doubled online sales in the pandemic by pushing into e-commerce with features like curbside pickup and buy online, pick-up in store.
Hassan also launched a loyalty program and credit card and boosted ad testing and first-party data initiatives, helping double its return on ad spend.
Brad Hiranaga, North America Chief Brand Officer, General Mills
When the pandemic hit, Hiranaga overhauled General Mills' marketing with a focus on ecommerce.
With air fryers and grills use up, Pillsbury dialed up content showing people how to use them to make its products like crescent rolls and pizza. Betty Crocker, meanwhile, posted recipes that catered to different cooking experience levels.
He helped Cheerios grow sales for the first time in a decade, with new flavors like blueberry, chocolate, and cinnamon; and put a sustainability spin on Nature Valley with a new recyclable wrapper.
Hiranaga keeps General Mills dialed into popular culture by using new platforms like TikTok and channels like e-sports as well as shoppable ads on Instagram and Pinterest.
Recently, General Mills also committed to spend at least 2% of its ad dollars to Black-owned media companies.
Aimee Johnson, Chief Marketing Officer, Zillow
"Zillow surfing," or browsing the real estate search portal as a pastime, took off last year, spawning an Instagram fan account and even a Saturday Night Live parody about the brand.
Johnson capitalized on the trend, pushing into marketing as other rivals pulled back when the pandemic crushed the housing market.
She launched Zillow's first brand campaign "Real Value of Home" followed by "The Impossible Street," showing people finding their next home wasn't impossible, and "To Move is To Grow," which addressed fears people face while moving.
Johnson also helped position Zillow from a search company to a real estate company, offering everything from closing to licensed brokerage services.
Her efforts have contributed to Zillow's stock price tripling, revenue growing 22% in 2020, and site visits growing 19% year on year to a record 9.6 billion users. The brand's social mentions also grew more than 55% in 2021.
Greg Lyons, Chief Marketing Officer, PepsiCo Beverages North America
Lyons has helped put the soda giant back on the upswing, even as people ditch sugary sodas.
He's led the flagship brand, Pepsi, through eight consecutive quarters of growth and helped Mountain Dew attain its first quarter of growth in a decade. He's also added new functional drinks like Driftwell and mini cocktail mixers like Neon Zebra to the company's portfolio.
Lyons also led the charge on new tools and analytics like ConsumerDNA (cDNA), a first-party tool that personalizes ads; and ROI Engine, which uses machine learning to measure measure ads' performance.
E-commerce has been a big focus under Lyons, who launched direct-to-consumer sites like PantryShop.com and GameFuel.com in 2020 while using e-sports, streaming channels and digital shows like "Match Me If You Can" with MTV for content marketing.
These efforts have helped improve the company's marketing returns 67% in the past five years.
Kory Marchisotto, Chief Marketing Officer, E.l.f. Beauty
Marchisotto has made beauty brand E.l.f. a first-mover on e-commerce and new platforms like TikTok and Triller, where it's run a viral #eyeslipsface challenge, launched a reality show, and dropped a holiday music album.
Gaming and beauty may not seem like obvious matches, but Marchisotto showed it can work with
channel "e.l.f. You" that champions female empowerment — with people watching over 37,000 hours of content on it so far.
Most recently, she oversaw the launch of Keys Soulcare, a new lifestyle brand in E.l.f.'s portfolio with singer Alicia Keys, surrounded by editorial content and an email newsletter.
Her efforts have paid off, with the company posting revenue of $92.7 million in its latest quarterly earnings, up 24% year over year, its ninth consecutive quarter of growth. It's also grown "Beauty Squad," its loyalty program to 2.4 million members, up 40% year over year.
Marcel Marcondes, US Chief Marketing Officer, Anheuser-Busch InBev
Marcondes has helped Anheuser-Busch hold steady even as beer's popularity has dwindled, thanks to direct-to-consumer commerce and new products like hard seltzers.
He's launched product innovation programs to help Anheuser-Busch identify and test new ideas, leading to new products like Bud Light Seltzer Lemonade and the Cacti Agave Spiked Seltzer co-created with rapper Travis Scott.
Marcondes also created "MyCooler," a new loyalty program that's helped grow the company's first-party data and personalize its marketing.
During the pandemic, he helped AB's brands shift to live-streamed events such as "Michelob ULTRA Courtside," where consumers could win tickets to virtually watch NBA games. He also oversaw its first corporate Super Bowl spot that didn't tout individual brands.
He also pioneered the adoption of a new media-buying metric with A&E Networks called "Attention Guarantees," which measures the number of people in a room seeing ads when they air versus traditional impressions.
Kinjil Mathur, Chief Marketing Officer, Squarespace
Mathur is helping drive the website-building platform's growth and social purpose as a newly public company while fending off competitors like Wix and Shopify.
She's spearheaded ad campaigns such as "Launch It," reinforcing how Squarespace could help people's businesses get off the ground as the world reopens.
She also led the company through its seventh Super Bowl campaign in February with an ad that flipped Dolly Parton's classic song "9 to 5" to "5 to 9" — a nod to the hours people spend working on side hustles.
Mathur also designed the "Make It Awards," a $30,000 grant in the Tri-State area with Madison Square Garden and the New York Knicks that gives entrepreneurs benefits like mentorship and free Squarespace subscriptions.
Lisa McKnight, SVP, Global Head of Barbie and Dolls, Mattel
2020 was a big comeback year for Barbie, which saw its highest sales and year-over-year percentage growth in two decades, leading to parent company Mattel's shares gaining over 32% over the past year.
Much of that is due to McKnight, who heads brand strategy, product development, and marketing globally for the iconic doll, and has helped remake it as a inclusive and positive role model for girls.
During the pandemic, McKnight dialed up Barbie's digital presence as children and their parents were confined to their homes. The brand published a vlog called "Making Sense of a New Routine," for example, to help kids make sense of their new reality, as well as "Barbie and Nikki Discuss Racism" to encourage kids to stand up against racism.
Recently, she led the launch of "A Doll Can Help Change The World," Barbie's biggest ad campaign in five years that showed how playing with dolls can help children develop positive social traits like empathy and generosity; and new dolls that are 90% produced from recycled plastic.
Patrick McLean, SVP, Chief Marketing Officer, Walgreens
Like its competitors, Walgreens has also emphasized health and wellness, a strategy McLean has brought to life through data-based and personalized marketing.
He launched "MyWalgreens," a loyalty program with features like a digital wallet and health content that doubled digital user volume and now has 100 million active members.
The program has also been used to power its retail media division, Walgreens Advertising Group, that lets CPG and pharma companies buy ads to reach Walgreens' audience.
McLean also built up Walgreen's tech, including its CRM platform, to serve more targeted ads to people, helping deliver an incremental $1 billion in revenue.
McLean also led Walgreen's brand strategy during the pandemic and vaccine rollout, overseeing the "This Is Our Shot" campaign with singer John Legend encouraging Americans to get jabbed.
Kenny Mitchell, Chief Marketing Officer, Snap
Mitchell has led Snap as it's enjoyed a renaissance, with its highest year-over-year revenue and daily active user growth in three years.
After leading Snap's first global advertising campaign in 2019, the former Gatorade marketer rolled out "Meet the Snapchat Generation" in 2020, Snapchat's first global B2B marketing campaign that touted its unique, young audience of over 500 million monthly active users.
Snap's 2020 voter registration campaign that he oversaw registered more than 1.2 million users to vote in the Presidential election — 56% of whom were first-time voters.
His team also handles marketing for Snap's investors, client, and developer events including 2021's Investor Day and the NewFronts, and has built new education and certification platforms like Snap Focus and Snap Connect that teach marketers how to use the platform.
Raja Rajamannar, Chief Marketing and Communications Officer, Mastercard
One of the longest-serving CMOs in the industry, Mastercard's Rajamannar has kept the payments company relevant even as new fintech and crypto startups encroach on its turf.
To do that, he's embraced new technologies like sonic branding, and adapted campaigns like Priceless to digital in the pandemic.
In the aftermath of George Floyd's death, he audited Mastercard's payments network for biases toward Black communities, reviewed its branding for inclusivity, and increased spending with minority businesses.
In February, it rolled out the Strivers Initiative, a platform to support Black female business owners with efforts like grants with Fearless Fund, a VC fund by and for women of color.
Mastercard also recently extended its TrueName offering, which lets transgender and non-binary individuals use their preferred names on their cards, across Europe and North America.
Bozoma Saint John, Chief Marketing Officer, Netflix
Saint John is well known for her personal brand — which she's leveraged to help Netflix as it faces increased competition from new entrants like Disney+,
, and Peacock, and slowing subscriber growth.
She halped launch Netflix's first global campaign "One Story Away" in September 2020 to highlight its original programming on top of campaigns to push individual shows like "Bridgerton" and French hit French "Lupin."
She was behind a lip-syncing challenge on TikTok for "Selena: The Series" that broke a Guinness World Record, and a capsule clothing collection inspired by the film "Rebecca."
Most recently, Netflix just opened an e-commerce shop to sell show-related merch as it looks for new avenues for growth.
Diego Scotti, Chief Marketing Officer, Verizon
Scotti has been pushing for more representation in advertising well before others in corporate America.
In April, he rolled out AdDisruptors, a mentorship program for mid-level employees at Verizon's ad agencies, building on his AdFellows diversity fellowship program for new talent.
Verizon has also pledged to spend 30% of its production dollars on minority-owned production companies and built a tool to vet its ads for bias.
He's also promoted Verizon's 5G network through partnerships with Apple, the NFL, Snap, and The New York Times and stunts like a 5G SuperStadium experience, which let fans experience the Super Bowl when they couldn't be there in person.
During the pandemic, Verizon committed more than $55 million to COVID-19 relief efforts, created distance learning program Verizon Innovative Learning, and launched "Pay It Forward Live," a livestream entertainment series to support small businesses.
Doug Sweeny, Chief Marketing Officer, One Medical
With primary care doctor visits down 60% in the pandemic and health-related distrust and misinformation at its peak last year, the direct-to-consumer primary care company had its work cut out for it.
Sweeny tackled the challenge with "Vote No on Flu," a campaign that positioned the shot as a civic duty.
The company also tried to educate the public on the COVID-19 and common flu vaccine, ramping up no-cost coronavirus testing and COVID-19 screenings with cities including San Francisco and New York.
This year, he oversaw One Medical's first TV commercial timed with President Biden's inauguration, an inspirational spot featuring a Bay Area open water swimmer who took up the hobby during the pandemic.
Sweeny's efforts have helped the fee-based subscription company grow its membership base 31% year-over-year and acquire 598,000 members by the first quarter.
Marisa Thalberg, EVP, Chief Brand and Marketing Officer, Lowe's
While some people sharpened their culinary skills in the pandemic, others took on home improvement projects.
Thalberg got to work, shifting Lowe's focus from product promotions and styling it as a lifestyle brand that engages with people regularly through content and experiences.
With #BuildThanks, the retailer encouraged people to use their DIY skills to thank frontline heroes; while "Making it with Lowe's" helped small business owners from underrepresented communities get mentoring from Lowe's executives and ABC's "Shark Tank's" Daymond John.
She also got Lowe's to team up with designers to get products showcased at New York Fashion Week and leaned in on experiences like trick-or-treating at its stores for Halloween and gardening kit giveaways.
Lowe's net sales were up 24% year-over-year to $24.4 billion in the first quarter while shares have gained around 18% since the start of the year.
Dara Treseder, SVP, Head of Global Marketing and Communications, Peloton
With gyms shut due to pandemic lockdowns, Peloton has soared in popularity over the past year despite stumbles like its treadmill recall.
Treseder kept the fitness company in the spotlight by helping it expand into streaming workouts and tapping into the cult following of its instructors and other influencers.
She launched its first brand campaign called "We All Have Our Reasons," which featured actual Peloton members; and helped Peloton develop themed workouts with artists including Beyoncé.
Less visible efforts include efforts like using tags on its app to gather first-party data and target people with tailored messages.
It's working — the company's fiscal third quarter revenue of $1.26 billion was up 141% from the same year ago period, and connected fitness and paid digital subscriptions grew 135% and 404%, respectively. Its membership base also advanced to 5.4 million.
Deborah Yeh, Chief Marketing Officer, Sephora
Prestige beauty sales fell 19% in 2020 as more people stayed home, and Sephora parent company LVMH wasn't spared, with revenue falling 17% in 2020.
But Sephora has plowed through with a focus on ecommerce, initiatives like Click & Collect and Live Shopping, a deal that brought its brands to Kohl's.
Yeh turned Sephora's social media messaging from glam going-out to self-care, brought more than 80 of its brands to Instagram Shopping that lets people shop directly on the app; launched same-day delivery through Instacart; and added new perks to its loyalty program — moves that helped Sephora's online sales grew by 75%.
She also led the launch of three new brands exclusive to Sephora including "Rare," by Selena Gomez, "One/Size" by Patrick Starr, and "Makeup by Mario," and oversaw a year-long study on racial bias in retail in the US.
William White, Chief Marketing Officer, Walmart
With its revenue approaching half a trillion dollars and e-commerce sales up 79% last year, Walmart has been a big winner of the pandemic as a seller of essential goods.
When online shopping took off, White helped the company be ready with services like buy online, pickup in-store, and curbside pickup.
White launched its new membership program Walmart+ and promoted the retailer as a time-saver and a part of the community by hosting outdoor cinemas and trick-or-treating in its parking lots.
With livestream commerce taking off in the US, White teamed up with TikTok to run its first shoppable livestream in December 2020, letting people discover and shop for fashion items directly on the platform.
White is also over Walmart's advertising sales effort called Walmart Connect, which has ambitions to grow tenfold over the next five years.
Most Innovative CMOs
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