Elen Lewis speaks to Silvia Lagnado, Global CMO of McDonald’s, about community spirit, how digital has changed the face of customer relationships – and what she learned from working at Dove.
How did your education in civil engineering help your marketing career?
My analytical background means I need to see a simple logical thread in everything. Whilst this may add time for fact-finding and analysis, it brings clarity to discussions and speed to decision-making; ultimately, I’m at my best when I use “informed intuition”. It also means that I am never scared of data, although the more technical discussions about “big data” can get a little overwhelming!
What advice would you offer a marketer looking to become a CMO?
This is a tough question because I feel that my career evolved without much planning ahead. In hindsight, I have some experience gaps that I should have filled in early on (e.g. working in Sales). I have always loved what I do, paid attention to the bigger picture, worked very hard, and – importantly – worked well with other functions, agencies and markets (I have held regional and global roles for over 20 years). It is also critical that the people working for you are able to thrive.
What does bold marketing leadership look like?
Leading by (a well thought-through) strategy. Once you are clear about what really matters, go for bold moves in those areas.
Digital is often described by marketers as the biggest opportunity and the biggest challenge… How has digital changed McDonald’s relationships with its customers?
Social media has had a profound effect on the McDonald’s brand. It has demonstrated how ingrained in popular culture we are, often in positive and fun ways; but it has also augmented the voice of our critics in powerful ways. The speed and frequency with which we connect with customers every day has been transformed beyond recognition.
The most tangible and meaningful relationship with our customers happens in the 34,000 McDonald’s restaurants around the world. That relationship is about delicious food and human connections, but speed and convenience are very important factors too. Digital technology is having a transformational impact in the restaurant experience and will continue to do so, with digital menu boards, self-ordering kiosks, wifi access, digital play, and much more to come!
Digital is also enabling us to move from mass marketing to mass personalisation, and the future in this space is hugely exciting.
I read a fascinating article about how McDonald’s in the US acts as a glue, a kind of physical social network. What could other brands learn from McDonald’s in terms of building a community?
That is a beautiful article… I remember getting goosebumps reading it when it was published. One of our brand values is “local integration”. This speaks to the very heart of our business model of franchised restaurants in the US and around the world. McDonald’s “owner operators (franchisees)” typically live in or close to the communities they serve, as do the people who work at each McDonald’s restaurant. They take great pride in working in sync with the needs of their community, and often make very generous and meaningful contributions. Another one of our values is “inclusiveness”; I believe we are one of the most inclusive and democratic brands in the world.
The lesson here is that our sense of community is rooted in our brand values; and I believe every brand should build its own communities in an authentic way, based on what that brand believes.
What did you learn from Dove that will help you at McDonald’s?
Know what you stand for and why. Articulate it clearly. Spread that vision relentlessly. Then some smart and passionate people will create some amazing things. And once you’ve started in that direction, there is no going back.
What advice would you offer your 17-year-old self?
I was a perfectly happy 17-year-old, growing up in Brazil, moving onto university and very excited about it all, especially as I had travelled and seen so little. I would encourage my 17-year-old self to look around more, pay more attention to the diversity of people around me, work a bit less and play a little more.
What book is on your bedside table?
Elena Ferrante’s second book in the Neapolitan series, as a relaxing indulgence. A small pile of business books I never find the energy or time to touch. Benjamin Franklin: An American Life by Walter Isaacson, a great read which gives valuable insight into the unique character of “being American” – highly relevant having recently moved to the US!
Tell us a secret
I am clinically unable to create, keep or follow a “to-do” list!
Silvia Lagnado is just one of the speakers at our Global Annual Conference on November 17th alongside Body Coach Joe Wicks, VP Facebook EMEA Nicola Mendelsohn and NASA astronaut, Ed Lu