Chicago Sun-Times
Lewis Lazare follows Chicago media and marketing news

McDonald's marketing chief Mary Dillon moves on


McDonald's has lost its global chief marketing officer Mary Dillon, who is decamping June 1 to take the CEO job at U.S. Cellular. We don't know what kind of job she'll do at U.S. Cellular, but we weren't impressed with Dillon's five years at the helm of the burger behemoth's global marketing effort.

Granted our first direct interaction with Dillon couldn't have been worse. She was handed a prepared speech to read to us over the phone, and we sat speechless, with phone receiver to ear, while she recited it verbatim. If ever there were a more robotic performance from a top marketing executive, we've yet to experience it. Dillon obviously was good at being a team player at McDonald's. She kept the ads coming for the past five years. But do we remember any of them? Not really. That leads us to believe she was probably a decent manager -- but hardly a visionary.

And that is really what McDonald's needs in the job Dillon is leaving if it wants to regain its preeminence as a marketing force. Just as Dillon was preparing to walk out the door at McDonald's, the fast food giant unveiled a handful of TV spots that seemed to indicate it was ready to get back in touch with its roots as a great advertiser. We're not entirely sure where the impetus for this surprising display originated, but it obviously won't be Dillon's task to ensure that it leads to a full restoration of McDonald's advertising glory.

In the end, Dillon was just like so many CMO's out there today who fill a seat and do pretty much only what they have to do to get the job done. And all the while -- which usually isn't very long these days -- looking for the next thing to move on to. Real commitment? Vision? Legacy? Nope. Not for Dillon or for most of her peers in the marketing world. That's just not what this marketing game is about anymore.


McDonald's competive edge against Starbucks might
have slackened with Ms. Dillon's departure. U.S.
Cellular could use more direction since it can't
compete with the big boys yet. McDonald's should
try to be inventive instead of derivetive, wash off its outdoor menuboards for summer--get the
Beachboys to sell them a song for summer--and hope for the best, ala Frappacino!

Ronald McDonald is shedding a tear with Mary's departure. Her manic focus on putting the customer first will be missed; but not forgotten. McDonald's is better because of Mary. She created tension. It made the brand stronger. She challenge conventional wisdom. It made people think. Today, more people are lovin' McDonald's than ever before. Just a coincidence? You decide.

Mary inherited good global marketing performance and was instrumental in pushing it to great during her tenure. Now 60 million customers per day and 7 straight years of same-store sales growth, it's clear McDonald's global marketing function and its agencies never fell into complacency under Mary's watch. She ensured the brand was served by world class marketing and creative talent. She built consensus around the right marketing priorities and she clearly helped move creativity further to the center of McDonald's marketing culture. Always consumer focused, Mary was a compelling and articulate ambassador for the brand. McDonald's made a great call in bringing her on board. Her impact was positive and will prove enduring.

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Lewis Lazare has written the Media Mix column for the Chicago Sun-Times for the past seven and a half years.

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This page contains a single entry by Lewis Lazare published on May 10, 2010 1:41 PM.

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