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The Opening Salvo

For several years, Joan Kiddon and I worked with McDonald’s on a brand strategy project. We advised on the development and articulation of a global brand promise led by Charlie Bell. I gave many presentations to groups of McDonald’s employees around the world. We got to know the McDonald’s brand and the McDonald’s culture very well.

When Charlie Bell offered me the global CMO opportunity, he explained that McDonald’s had never had a global CMO. Charlie pointed out that Paul Schrage, who retired in 1997, was really just a chief advertising officer. He was excellent at advertising judgment. But, according to Charlie, this new global CMO responsibility was greater than just advertising. It required a global redefinition of the brand’s approach to marketing. Marketing would be about more than just advertising and tactical promotions. He said that McDonald’s had decided to look outside for a leader with the right marketing perspective for the job. But, an outsider would need about a year to become familiar with the brand and cultural issues. He believed that with my McDonald’s experience, I would be able to start immediately. And, he knew that I believed in the brand.

Mats Lederhausen, senior executive responsible for strategic planning, strongly reinforced Charlie’s view that McDonald’s needed a global CMO with a global marketing perspective. Both Mats and Charlie also convinced me that McDonald’s would have to go outside to find such a person. My concern was whether the McDonald’s culture would accept an outsider.

On August 31, 2002, I flew to Knoxville, Tennessee, to meet with then-CEO Jack Greenberg. Jack was under pressure to make McDonald’s healthy again. He told me, “Eighty percent of our problems are in marketing. Marketing is broken. Marketing is not working.” He said, “Your role is bigger than your title. You will be like a senior partner in a law firm. You will be a member of the executive leadership team.”

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