The CGT CMO of the Year Award is historically bestowed upon an executive who has made the greatest demonstrable impact on their organization through the implementation and successful use of new marketing strategies, technologies, and/or processes. As we continue to prioritize the relevance of CGT to its audience and the industry at large, we felt it was more important than ever to double-down on this core segment of our marketing audience. As such, it feels quite fitting to give this year’s award to a marketer who is both leaning into purpose and technology through her work and her personal mission.
As senior VP and chief brand and advanced analytics officer at Kellogg Company, Charisse Hughes’ evolving role is emblematic of the shift occurring in marketing today, and we’re honoring her for the cross-functional initiatives she’s executing in partnership with the Kellogg’s IT team to define a new future for analytics across the global company. While she may not have CMO as her title, Hughes’ marketing leadership is defined by a fierce commitment to the communities Kellogg seeks to serve, while her dedication to leveraging data as a competitive advantage is equally inspiring.
Hughes is a chief marketer who’s looking to the future and using technology as
a key enabler to bring communities and Kellogg teams on stronger journeys, and
we’re thrilled to recognize her for these achievements.
In the evolution of this award, we can’t
help but borrow from Hughes’ own words:
“Marketers are uniquely equipped as the digital transformation has sat squarely in our space. How we talk to consumers — and how we engage them through technology and data — all sit in the marketing spaces.”
A self-described lifelong learner — her mother is an educator — Hughes has long viewed
continuous growth and development as one of her core values, and she’s sought out roles
to serve this need. Her career began in the beauty business where she progressed to lead
global brands of scale at The Estee Lauder Companies and Avon; a later position at Pandora
grew her knowledge of digital and e-commerce while pulling her closer into the business
and providing P&L experience.
Hughes says she found herself at a pivotal moment in 2020, both personally and professionally,
as a convergence of factors that included COVID, the murder of George Floyd, and a milestone birthday drove her to re-examine her contributions to her community and the fundamental needs they have. When an opportunity at Kellogg came knocking, she was drawn to the company’s long legacy of being anchored around purpose, people, and planet, as well as the opportunity to propel the CPG category forward in its digital transformation. The role promised to bring her brand and performance experience together in an almost magical way, she says.
Hughes’ initial title when joining Kellogg Company in September 2020 was senior VP and global CMO, and the decision to evolve the title and role in March 2022 took into account several factors, including Kellogg shifting its strategy of looking at data historically to one that thinks much more predictably. Her team serves as the catalyst for top-tier performance and leads several functions, including global brands, global licensing and culture, capability-building marketing excellence, portfolio strategy, commercial domains, and advanced analytics.
Throw in marketers’ keen ability to break down silos and mix in a spirit of experimentation, and a new way of defining and understanding effective marketing was born along with the new title.
Reinvesting In Purpose
Hughes stresses often that the role of technology is a key enabler for Kellogg, and she notes that when technology has worked most effectively, it’s started in the business-backed and business-focused way. As part of this, the company’s functional leaders are bringing technology solutions to the forefront, while simultaneously partnering very closely with their IT teams to define a much more structured and coordinated way of executing technology solutions.
And so when discussing accomplishments, it’s telling that Hughes talks almost exclusively in terms of “we,” frequently invoking the efforts and collaboration among her team and elsewhere in the company. She points to the work they’ve done to move from being a portfolio of brands that provide consumer value into one that’s doubled-down on brand purpose. Whether through Pringles’ partnership with Movember to raise awareness of young men’s mental health, or Special K’s work with Black Girls Run to drive wellness into communities of color, bringing more focus to the role the Kellogg brands play in consumers’ lives has been exciting, she says.
Internally, her excitement centers around the initiative Hughes is executing in partnership with the IT team to drive transformation. Beginning as three cross-functional cohorts, they now have 50-plus leaders from across the globe who are collectively defining the roadmap and the ambition for advanced analytics across seven key commercial domains. This agile, designed-to-value approach has a roadmap prioritizing high-value use cases, and it also has the alignment and support of the Kellogg executive team.
As part of this, they also recently initiated executive education, which will bring the Kellogg C-suite
leaders much deeper into what it means to be a data powerhouse.
In terms of what’s next, Kellogg announced earlier this year it would spin off its North American cereal and plant-based foods businesses to result in three independent public companies. For her part, Hughes says she’s focused on building tighter connections across the consumer shopper journey, including digging into talents, skills, and experiences.
“We are a largely commercial organization that can think more customer than consumer. We have to tighten those screws. We have to use data as an asset across our enterprise.”
This includes defining a single source of truth that the organization can align to. “We're all about making the company future-ready, and that means we have to build marketing expertise and the functional expertise around the role that data plays to help us solve business problems.”
Define the strategic proposition and what you want your competitive advantage to be.
Define clear roles and responsibilities. This is especially important when it comes to data and analytics transformations. “We began hosting internal data summits to educate our team members on what data existed and how we can turn those insights into actions. One of the key points that we assessed as we were leading those three summits — as well as what some of our external peers had shared — was that companies stall when there aren't clear roles and responsibilities. So we wanted to make sure that there's clarity on who does what within the organization.”
Clarify the capabilities, processes, and skills that you need to be successful, and that includes talent. “The hunt for talent in this space is probably like no other, and so [we’re] looking at it through the lens of, ‘Where are we really strong, and where do we need to lean in?’ And, for us, we’re much stronger in terms of developing our brands and our go-to-market model. We have
not always thought through the lens of
data and what value data can provide to
our company. And so that is a cultural
shift that we really invest in change management to drive.”
Be clear on your technology assets and the constraints associated with them.
Have a relentless focus on ROI and measurement, whatever ROI means for you. “It’s critically important to always ask three questions: What's the business objective or problem we're trying to solve? How will we measure the results? How will we then communicate that back to the broader organization in a way they can grasp — and is building their knowledge based on the contribution that marketing and advanced analytics can make to the broader business objectives?”
FOR GETTING CORPORATE BUY-IN
“We’ve identified what the investment strategy should be, and then have started to lean into standing up the team, the resources, and thinking about how we build a culture — and operationalizing our first key use cases with some of our business units,” she says. “So that, frankly, is incredibly energizing and motivating.”
“Because marketing data and technology are so core to lending the consumer and shopper message, we wanted to make sure that we were signaling to our company that, No. 1, data is an asset — that we will evolve from taking a sporadic approach to having much more of a coordinated team at the center to help us define our operating model.”
Tech to the Forefront
“I wish they knew — and they probably do — that our access and understanding of the connected consumer journey is just incredibly difficult. The layer and the complexity that goes into our spend dimension — whether it be A&P to trade spend to retail media, those different tranches of spend are significant, but the level of control that we have of the data across those is also fragmented, super siloed, uncoordinated. That adds a layer of complexity and a lack of clarity that I'd love to have them help us think about how we tear down.”
FOR EMERGING MARKETERS
Purpose matters, but it needs to be purpose that's anchored in who you are as an organization and who you are as a brand, especially among the Gen Z and Gen Alpha audiences.
Business objectives and being business-backed are the guiding principles that must always be at the forefront of everything you do.
Experimentation and establishing a culture of experimentation are key, as is learning from your failures as well as your successes. In line with this thinking, Kellogg is experimenting in the metaverse with a new metaverse incubator that’s been deployed across all of the company’s regions, with a winner to receive funding for their 2023-2024 activation.
Build a communication strategy with the right stakeholders on board, including the CFO. Having the CEO and CFO understand what you're trying to do and how we'll get from today to tomorrow is crucial.
Lean into your professional networks
and communities as sounding boards,
resources, and partnerships.
Prince, 1984 Purple Rain Tour
Favorite place in the world:
Florence, Italy, for two reasons:
“Two of my favorite people in the world took me there. My mother took me there for the first time in 1986, and then I went back with my husband in 2015. It’s an amazing city — food, culture, people, wine, all of it. What else could you want?”
Book, magazine, or digital subscription?
All of them. “I’m a daily industry newsletter kind of person and a big podcaster, and I love to read novels. I’m currently reading The Godfather — I’ve seen the movie about 100 times, but I’d never read the book.”
Something my colleagues might not know about me:
“I really enjoy karaoke because I really like to sing. That would be my alternate career if I could do it.”
CGT ASKS: What do you wish solution providers knew about working with CPGs?