In fashion, style is something you either have or you don’t. In marketing, we trade style for design–and great consistent design is something you have to have. Khosla Ventures Design Partner Irene Au says it best, “Good design is like a refrigerator—when it works, no one notices, but when it doesn’t, it sure stinks.”
The key to success for any organization is a deep understanding and respect for design. Great design is more than just your design tools, language, and style. The brands we all know and love usually have a Chief Marketing Officer who lives and breathes design.
For example, Apple is often listed as one of those organizations where design is at the core of everything they do. It’s present in everything they create–from their award-winning television spots to the formatting of the receipt for the new AirPods you just purchased (and the AirPods themselves). They don’t just create pretty ads, design streams through every facet of their organization.
Behind every great brand is a great marketing leader. One who champions design throughout their organization. One who makes sure design has a seat at the table. Here’s our list of the top 13 CMOs who really, truly get design.
What they do: Chief Marketing Officer at Sephora
Why they get design: Sephora builds itself around the brand idea “Let’s Beauty Together”. Driving design into beauty is the job of Deborah Yeh, who was promoted to CMO in 2019. Yeh gets that design needs to include the customer. During her time at Sephora, Yeh has worked to create conversation opportunities with their customers through social and live events. Engaging the customer and respecting their voice helps Sephora drive their design in marketing and more.
“Everything we do in social is reflective of the brand, mission and purpose.”
Learn more about Yeh's role at Sephora and the team's mission to create amazing experiences for their customers!
What they do: Chief Marketing Officer at Mailchimp
Why they get design: Even if you don’t do email marketing, you will know what MailChimp is. What Squarespace does for websites, Mailchimp does for email marketing. They both happen to be frequent sponsors of some of your favorite podcasts. Recognized in 2017 as Adweek’s 50 Most Indispensable Executives in Marketing, Media, and Tech, Mailchimp CEO Tom Klein focuses on creative storytelling and being open as doorways to building deep relationships with their customers.
“It’s a differentiation message around, ‘Hey, the way that you connect with people is, you kind of open up.’ You’re vulnerable. You’re different, and part of being yourself is the way that you connect with other people. Ultimately, if you’re building a brand, that’s how you connect with your customer.”
Watch the video below to find out what Klein and his team at Mailchimp are doing to make their brand more human.
What they do: Chief Marketing Officer at Squarespace
Why they get design: Great design is at the core of every successful business–and Kinjil Mathur brought her keen sense of design to firms including Saks Fifth Avenue and smartphone location service pioneer Foursquare (we still miss vying to be mayors of our local coffee shop). Mathur joined Squarespace in 2017 as CMO. If you’re a creator building a website today, you’re most likely building it with Squarespace - and Mathur’s background and love of fashion and style can be seen in their marketing campaigns.
“Whether it’s collaborating with the design team to align on the creative vision for a marketing campaign, meeting with the product team to find out what’s next for Squarespace, or whiteboarding go-to-market strategies for new countries with my marketing team – each day is different, intense and thought-provoking.”
What they do: Chief Marketing, Digital & Strategy Officer at Target
Why they get design: Whether you pronounce it Target or Targé, you know the design of Target - from their eye-catching, foot-bumping television spots to their partnerships with designers that line their shelves. Everything is built to get you to say “I got it at Target!” and that’s just what CEMO Rick Gomez wants. Gomez’s dedication to design can be seen beyond their marketing assets - especially in their newly launched loyalty program.
Gomez talks all about his work at Target below, along with how the traditional CMO role is changing from primarily marketing and communications focused, to a more multidisciplinary position.
What they do: Chief Marketing Officer at Google
Why they get design: Twohill is a long-time Googler who drives deep respect for design when it comes to creating campaigns for Google hardware and software products. The Dublin, Ireland-born Twohill was Google’s first outside the US marketing hire in 2003 and quickly rose through the ranks to lead their global marketing in 2009. In 2018, Twohill became only the second woman to win the Creative Marketer of the Year award in the 25 year history of the Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity.
What they do: VP Brand and ECD at Purple
Why they get design: Innovating a legacy product category is no easy mountain to climb. Especially when it’s a purchase most people dread–a new mattress. Direct to consumer mattress leader Purple has been breaking down the old ways of shopping for mattresses and VP of Brand Burke Morley has found industry-shaking ways of creating connections with new customers. Purple was one of the first online mattress companies to use infotainment spots on social media to make customers feel comfortable with skipping the local mattress store and firing up their browsers to buy a good night’s sleep. Morley brings twenty years of experience to Purple, including time with Abercrombie & Fitch and Nike.
Listen to Morley chat about the advertising strategy at Purple, and how they're approaching things differently.
What they do: Chief Marketing Officer at Netflix
Why they get design: If you’ve attended a conference in the last few years, you probably had the pleasure of hearing the one, the only Bozoma St. John on stage. “Badass Boz” is an outspoken advocate of inclusion and diversity–and shares her story and passions with audiences across the globe. She has created breakthrough marketing campaigns and has the awards to back them up. Bozoma got her start with Pepsi, but you would know her design through her efforts at Apple with Beats and Apple Music, Uber as their CMO and now on a screen near you as CMO at Netflix.
What they do: Chief Marketing Officer at Liberty Mutual Insurance
Why they get design: Great design isn’t always the first thing that comes to mind when someone mentions insurance. But great design is something Liberty Mutual Insurance CMO Jenne Lebel works to build into the core of their buyer’s journey. With a recent refresh on their “Truth Teller” ad campaign and a new set of TV spots featuring an Emu and LiMu Emu and Doug, Liberty Mutual is building new audiences for their brand. Watch the full ad below!
What they do: Chief Marketing Officer at Activision Blizzard Esports
Why they get design: Building a niche–but beloved–sport into a global phenomenon takes a leader with an impressive amount of experience and know-how. As Esports continues its move into the mainstream (and even on ESPN), Daniel Cherry III is leading Activision Blizzard's marketing to drive awareness of Esports athletes and leagues. Prior to joining Activision Blizzard, Cherry was CMO of the New York Cosmos soccer franchise and CMO and Chief Innovation Officer with the NHL’s New Jersey Devils. Cherry’s deep history with sports and design make him the perfect CMO for the sport of the future.
What they do: Chief Marketing Officer at Intuit
Why they get design: For Intuit CMO Lara Hood Balazs, marketing is a mix of science and art. In a recent Brand Innovators’ interview, Balazs noted the role data plays in understanding how design impacts customers. “...you're appreciating the qualitative brand building side of connecting with consumers emotionally, but additionally you've got data that can help support you in making those decisions.”
What they do: EVP and Chief Marketing Officer at Adobe
Why they get design: Construction workers have Stanley. Designers have Adobe. Behind the company that makes the tools of the creative trade is CMO Ann Lewnes. “We push boundaries of creativity in everything we do,” said Lewnes to Ad Age back in 2015. To celebrate the 25th anniversary of Adobe Photoshop, Lewnes led the team in the creation of an ad showing how art, photography, and film have been digitally transformed through software.
What they do: Chief Marketing & Communications Officer and President, Healthcare Business, Mastercard
Why they get design: Building upon 25 years of experience in healthcare including Humana and Anthem, Rajamannar joined Mastercard in 2013 as CMO and head of their healthcare business. At Mastercard, Rajamannar moved their Priceless campaign from a traditional campaign to an experiential one to address consumer needs during the COVID-19 pandemic.
What they do: Chief Marketing Officer at Pinterest
Why they get design: What site is your go-to when you’re looking for design inspiration? For most of us, it’s the boards upon boards of ideas on Pinterest. Leading the global marketing efforts for Pinterest is Andréa Mallard. Mallard brings years of experience including stints with global design leader IDEO and as CMO of fitness fashion brand Athleta. (Come to think of it, we should make this list into a Pinterest board).
"Design is not a department, it's a discpline."
Watch Mallard's interview below where she chats all about the role of design, storytelling, and the importance of listening to your customers.
Not all CMOs are made equal, and neither are all businesses. Depending on the maturity of the organization and overall goals set for the marketing team, the role of a CMO changes. Are they most focused on brand? How about growth? Realistically, every marketing leader will have a handful of lofty goals set-out for them—and design is one of the ways they can make their content, product, ads, website etc, really stand out.
At Superside we like to believe that behind every successful brand and CMO, there is an amazing design team. So if you're looking to up your game and add a little magic to your creative process or scale your design output, look no further. Superside can help your company by providing you with the trifecta that you can't find at a traditional agency or a freelancer marketplace: reliability, speed & quality. 20x faster than hiring and much quicker than your internal teams on certain tasks, Superside is your one-stop-shop for all things design.
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Step 3: We build your custom, fully-managed and dedicated team for you and begin onboarding!
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There are 3 main types of design team structures: centralized, cross-functional and flexible. Keep reading to find out what team structure works best!
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