The 12 Rising Star CMOs to Watch in 2020

Sharon Steel · July 8, 2020
CMO
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The role of a Chief Marketing Officer is constantly shifting, but one valuable constant is knowing how to personalize and prioritize the customer experience. In our fragmented media landscape, pioneering new ways to cut through the noise with compelling content that informs and delights is essential to a marketer’s skill set. While not all head marketers hold the CMO title, we found a dozen innovators who are rising to the occasion at their respective brands. These 12 creative thinkers continue to prove that the marketing department is more important to the success of a business than ever before.

1. Alexandra Weiss

SVP of Marketing, Glossier

Glossier

Alexandra Weiss arrived in at Glossier 2015, a year after the beauty brand launched, and immediately instituted a bottom-up approach that quickly paid off. Her customer-centric playbook places revenue growth behind the company’s mission to connect with customers and craft the makeup and skincare of their dreams.

Weiss first identifies people who engage with the brand on social media (Glossier has 2.8 million followers on Instagram, where they frequently launch new products) and through the popular Glossier Reps program. She then uses the customers to evaluate her department’s methods. Weiss’s team believes that conversions between customers who recommend Glossier to one another are equally as important as conversions between customers and the brand itself. This all levels back up to Weiss’s core strategy: Inviting customers to co-create the brand as it scales.

2. Matt Breuer

VP of Marketing, Buffy

Buffy

Yale grad Matt Breuer joined Buffy in 2018 with the goal to reimagine how a brand selling duvets and comforters can talk about soft goods. Specifically, Buffy’s eco-conscious comforters, sheets, and pillowcases, which are all made from recycled plastic and eucalyptus.

“We have worked extremely hard to bring to life not just the functional performance of our products, but the emotional response they create,” says Breuer, who came to Buffy after two year stints at Ampush and Ollie. “That combination creates deep relationships with customers in a short time span, and gives us the opportunity to introduce people to new sustainable materials that they might not have considered for their home.”

3. Jason White

CMO, Curaleaf

Curaleaf

Jason White came to Curaleaf after spending two decades at cultural movers-and-shakers Nike and Apple, where he was the Global Head of Marketing for Beats by Dr. Dre. At Curaleaf, White saw a unique opportunity to shape the future of the emerging cannabis industry through the lens of social justice. He made the key choice to emphasize the brand’s “cannabis with confidence” value set as a medical and wellness provider.

Curaleaf brings access for people of color to enter the industry and educates consumers about the history of cannabis. Last year, White created “Possible Plan,” which empowers organizations at the forefront of reparatory justice and equitable access.

4. Julie Channing

VP of Marketing, Allbirds

allbirds

Julie Channing launched Allbirds in 2015 after leading marketing efforts at Nest and Levi’s. To build buzz around the company’s original, sustainable sneaker—made with super-fine merino wool - Channing focused on social media, PR and word of mouth. The shoe quickly went viral on Instagram and became a Silicon Valley favorite.

In April, Allbirds introduced its first performance shoe by hosting the Dasher 5k Challenge on Strava; for every 5km run by the community, Allbirds donated $1 to World Central Kitchen, up to $50k. “Our team executed a new idea that not only fostered community spirit in this era of social distancing, but also provided an opportunity for us to give back through the collective action of our fans,” Channing says. As Allbirds transitions into a global brand, Channing continues running purpose-driven campaigns that highlight Allbirds’ look and feel, while treating the environment as a stakeholder.

5. Jessie Becker

SVP of Marketing, Impossible Foods

Impossible Foods

Impossible Foods hired Jessie Becker in 2019 to lead the plant-based meat manufacturer’s insights and brand marketing teams. Becker, a Wharton and Stanford grad, came to Impossible from Google, Netflix, and Optimizely.

Becker’s tenure coincided with the food startup’s rapid expansion to grocery stores, where it’s a top performer in the packaged goods category. The brand made headlines when Burger King began selling the Impossible Whopper last August; Impossible Foods was later crowned one of the fastest growing brands of 2019. Last spring, demand surged immediately after the debut of the Impossible Sausage, which is currently available in more than 20,000 restaurants.

6. Dun Wang

Chief Product & Growth Officer, Calm

Calm

Dun Wang swiftly moved through the ranks at health and wellness brand Calm: She joined in 2016 as Director of Product, became VP of Product and Growth a year later, and was promoted to the Chief Product & Growth Officer, leading both the product and marketing teams, in 2018. In that time, Calm was named Apple’s 2017 App of the Year.

The heart of Wang’s strategy revolves around getting people to rethink the idea of meditation, which coincided with a new wave of interest around mental health. One of Calm’s offerings includes the relaxing Sleep Stories series, which are told by familiar voices including Matthew McConaughey. Wang nurtures organic partnerships with celebrities who are true fans (and often investors as well), ensuring that the cost of exclusive content remains low, and customer retention continues to grow.

7. Fabian Seelbach

CMO, Curology

Curology

Before he ran marketing at skincare startup Curology, Harvard Business School grad Fabian Seelbach led teams at Lumosity, Booz & Company, and Booz Digital.

At Curology, Seelbach’s two-pronged approach highlights accessible, affordable prescription skincare, and why a virtual Curology consultation is just as effective as an in-person visit. After launching in 2015, the brand worked the Instagram influencer circuit to great success. In April 2019, Seelbach ran a 12-week campaign on the free photo site Unsplash, which increased brand awareness and subscription intent. Curology continues to capitalize on the convenience of its services for customers without insurance, or those seeking prescription-strength products without ever leaving home.

8. Jess Anselmi

VP of Marketing, The Sill

The Sill

Jess Anselmi began her career in public relations before getting her MBA at Boston College, and her unique background combines extensive PR, marketing, and agency experience. She arrived at houseplant startup The Sill in last January, armed with a customer-centric ethos built at Dunkin’ and Panera Bread.

The Sill positions plant care as self-care, and seeks to connect people to plants through community. As such, Instagram is key to Anselmi’s marketing efforts: The Sill currently boasts 769k followers, which means it’s a plant influencer in its own right. Anselmi and her team frame the company as a wellness brand where plants are the vehicle for finding calm, beauty, and relief from anxiety. This biased for action approach results in a winning combination of strong brand awareness and meaningful sales.

9. Monica Belsito

CMO, LOLA

Lola

Monica Belsito joined LOLA in 2016 as a Brand & Strategy Product lead and was promoted to CMO last April. LOLA started in 2015 as a subscription service for tampons made with 100% organic cotton, but has since evolved into a lifestyle brand for a women’s body.

LOLA creates products that offer both transparency and continued education, and a testing methodology is key to Belsito’s marketing efforts. In 2018, the company launched a suite of sexual wellness products in tandem with “Let’s Talk About it,” a campaign that encouraged dialogue around sex and corresponding topics. Once the conversation began, Belsito tapped back into the traditional DTC model: Keep customers connected, make transparent products, and introduce a constant feedback loop through surveys and social media—where early celebrity investors like Karlie Kloss chime in to spread the word.

10. Federico Troiani

VP of Growth and Marketing, Bulletproof 360

Bulletproof

After almost ten years at General Mills and nearly six at Pharmavite, Federico Troiani joined Bulletproof 360 in 2019 as the head of marketing and product development. While the pitch for the multi-hyphenate brand is simple—sell products that help people reach a state of high performance—Troiani is responsible for promoting a rapidly expanding omnichannel wellness empire.

Troiani markets for multiple verticals, including Bulletproof Labs, Bulletproof Cafés, and the podcast Bulletproof Radio. Retail distribution expanded to more than 20,000 stores around the country last year. As Bulletproof 360 continues to scale, Troiani strategy hinges on a philosophy that’s hard to argue with: Remind customers that there is no better investment than the one they make in themselves.

11. Grace Cha

Head of Brand Marketing, Cuyana

Cuyana

Grace Cha took over Cuyana’s marketing department in 2019. Her extensive experience working for luxury brands including Christian Dior, Valentino, and Diane von Furstenberg makes her an ideal fit for Cuyana, which sells highly curated, premium essentials at attainable prices.

Cha pulls data from the feedback loops Cuyana established through its social media, physical stores, and emails since launching in 2011. The omnichannel retailer favors advertising that skims across the brand’s sustainable ethos; Cha in turn embraces the values of simplicity, taste, and minimalist style in her communications. The company’s “Fewer, better things” tagline is embodied in all of Cha’s marketing efforts, which show rather than tell why Cuyana pieces are worth the investment.

12. Laura Gordon

Head of Brand Marketing, Interior Define

Interior Define

Laura Gordon spent three years marketing at GrubHub before she arrived at made-to-order furniture startup Interior Define in 2019.

Gordon follows a digitally-native script that constantly refers back to the data. Still, despite an internet-first strategy, the brand’s primary marketing tool are its Guideshop locations—showrooms where people can directly interact with products, enjoy one-on-one consultations with expert team members, then return to the web site to finalize purchases. Collaborations with established designers, including Jason Wu and The Everygirl, continue to amplify Interior Define’s value prop and the high-touch, personal, multichannel approach the company is now known for.

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