Lowdown: CMO Turnover Is Accelerating in 2016

Retail Industry Has Been Particularly Tumultuous, Russell Reynolds Finds in New Report

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The Lowdown is Ad Age's weekly look at news nuggets from across the world of marketing, including trends, campaign tidbits, executive comings and goings and more.

Gap Store
Gap Store Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Frequent CMO turnover has been a reality for quite some time now. But 2016 has been particularly tumultuous, according to a new report. Recruiting firm Russell Reynolds -- which routinely analyzes marketing executive moves -- found that marketing leader appointments and turnover reached its highest level in the first six months of 2016 in the four years the firm has been tracking moves. Russell Reynolds tracked 175 marketing leader appointments in the first half of 2016, compared with 147 in the prior six months and 134 in the same period last year, according to the report. The retail industry has experienced particularly high volatility. Among the top 30 U.S-based retailers by revenue, 48% have turned over their marketing leader in the past 12 months, according to the report. Retail accounted for 17% of CMO hires in the first half of 2016.

The volatility in retail is "undoubtedly the result of ongoing industry turmoil, as legacy brick-and-mortar retailers continue to adapt to the reality of multichannel commerce and the rapidly changing consumer landscape," the report stated. Retailers recently swapping CMOs include Gap, which put Craig Brommers at the helm; American Eagle Outfitters, whose new marketing leader is Kyle Andrew, formerly of Kate Spade. CMO exits occurred at Macy's, where Martine Reardon left; and Neiman Marcus, where Wanda Gierhart departed, according to Russell Reynolds' round-up.

Candidates' food choices on the campaign trail often make the news. This week, it was Donald Trump's turn and he took a chicken chain along for the ride. The Republican presidential nominee spiked interest in KFC beginning on Aug. 1. That's when he tweeted a photo of himself from his plane as he was getting ready to eat the chain's chicken -- known as being finger lickin' good -- with a knife and fork.

Clearly, it irked some people. Just how much did this tweet, and ensuing commentary, get noticed? Marketing technology company Amobee said that on Aug. 2 there were 42,000 tweets mentioning KFC. Amobee said digital content engagement around KFC increased by 80% when looking at Aug. 1-2 compared to July 30-31. In the same period, digital content engagement around "KFC Chicken" increased by 663%.

In case you didn't study Mr. Trump's photo, The Lowdown will leave the details to Chris Cillizza, who did a thorough job for "The Fix," a Washington Post blog on politics. And if the knife and fork didn't seem odd to you, here's a quick "Seinfeld" refresher:

With the Olympics opening ceremony coming on Friday, Lucky Charms is running what could be considered a sly reference to Rio's upcoming track and field events. The cereal brand does so without crossing the lines of a non-sponsor. In one of its newest spots, from Saatchi & Saatchi New York, Lucky Charms shows a pole vaulter in a gold-colored top. A leprechaun character who appears from a gym bag recites lines including "eat for you, eat for them, eat for America." Parent company General Mills is not a Team USA sponsor; rival Kellogg's is.

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Bud Light is coming back with its NFL team themed cans. The limited-edition packaging will be part of Bud Light's "Beer With Your Team On It" campaign, which "will celebrate NFL fandom and passion for Bud Light throughout the season," according to Anheuser-Busch InBev. Check out all the cans here.

Credit: Anheuser-Busch
Natural Light can design
Natural Light can design Credit: Anheuser-Busch

AB InBev is also giving Natural Light a makeover. The brew has a low marketing profile -- but is among the largest beer brands in the U.S. It ranked seventh by shipments in 2015, ahead of Modelo Especial, Michelob Ultra and Busch, according to Beer Marketer's Insights. Natural Light's redesign marks the first packaging change since 2010 and only the sixth time the brewer has changed its look since the brand launched in 1977. Changes include increasing the size of the Anheuser-Busch logo and adding "Brewed in America." The agency on the redesign was LPK.

In other beer news, MillerCoors this week began selling Henry's Hard Cherry Cola, as it continues to grow its hard soda lineup that already includes Henry's Hard Ginger Ale and Henry's Hard Orange Soda.

Now onto something a lot less appetizing.

Head lice are the scourge of many children and parents, peaking at back-to-school time, according to a Johns Hopkins study. But up to now there's been no formal tracking. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention doesn't track them like colds and flu, because they're an infestation, not a disease, said Albert Hwang, VP-marketing for Prestige Brands, marketer of Nix. So the brand is launching the first crowdsourced lice tracker, based on reports from parents and school nurses, supplemented with Nix sales data from IRI and Google Trends. Houston, San Diego and Orlando are among early hotspots, but the tracker shows the parasites are pretty widespread, including at least medium-size outbreaks all over Mississippi, New Mexico and South Carolina. Nix will be stepping up digital advertising around the tracker for its formal mid-August launch, Mr. Hwang said.

Just think: If it weren't for marketing, not only would there be no online lice tracker, but the shower singing phenomenon would never be quantified, either. Delta Faucet has filled the latter void with a survey that shows 58% of Americans sing in the shower. And lest you think the habit is dying, Delta finds 79% of millennials do so. Top shower genres are pop (27%), rock (24%), R&B (21%), country (20%) and show tunes (7%). A whopping 24% of shower singers feel they sound like Adele, followed by Taylor Swift (17%) and Michael Jackson (16%). The study dovetails with Delta Faucet launching in-shower karaoke stations at Warrior Dash races this summer, which involve runners trudging through muddy obstacle courses.

Contributing: E.J. Schultz, Jack Neff, Jessica Wohl

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