Lowe's, Toys R Us Announce New Chief Marketing Officers

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Jocelyn Wong of Lowe's
Jocelyn Wong of Lowe's Credit: Lowe's

Ahead of the busy spring selling period, Lowe's is switching up its marketing department. The home-improvement chain, the second-largest retailer in the category, has promoted Jocelyn Wong to chief marketing officer from senior VP and general merchandising manager, seasonal business, the company announced Monday. Ms. Wong, who previously worked at Family Dollar, has been with Mooresville, N.C.-based Lowe's since 2015.

Marci Grebstein, who joined as CMO roughly 14 months ago, is no longer with the company.

"Jocelyn has demonstrated the leadership capabilities needed to drive a more integrated omni-channel marketing approach that builds loyalty for the Lowe's brand and positions the company for continued growth," said Michael McDermott, chief customer officer, in a statement.

Lowe's is not alone in its management shuffles. Also on Monday, Toys R Us said it has tapped Carla Hassan, a marketer from PepsiCo, as exec VP-global chief marketing officer, effective Feb. 20. The toy chain's former CMO moved to Macy's last year. Ms. Hassan spent 13 years at the beverage brand, most recently as senior VP-brand management in the global beverage group.

In addition, late last week, Target announced it has promoted marketer Rick Gomez to the CMO slot, replacing Jeff Jones, who spent four years with the Minneapolis-based retailer before moving on to Uber, the car-sharing company, in the fall.

"The advantage to promoting someone from within is of course that they obviously know the company and the customers," said Caren Fleit, senior client partner, leader of the Global Marketing Center of Expertise at executive search firm KornFerry. She noted that in contrast, Macy's and Gulfstream have recently appointed outsiders in their top marketing posts—the latter because it is going through robust changes. Similarly, Wayne, N.J.-based Toys R Us, which spent $56.3 million on measured media in the U.S. in 2015, according to Kantar Media, is expected to shake up its marketing strategy with Ms. Hassan's arrival. The retailer has been struggling to retain shoppers and compete with online offerings.

Ms. Fleit said that the CMO role today is more challenging than ever before. "The customer expects a level of customization and personalization, and understanding the level of customer centricity," she said. "Oftentimes it is the CMO who is tasked with becoming closer to the customer."

And more changes could be afoot as the tenure of CMOs is on the wane. A report released last year by executive recruiting firm Spencer Stuart found that CMOs at U.S. consumer brand companies are now spending 44 months on the job, on average, down from 48 months in 2014.

It is unclear if Lowe's agency partners will continue under the new regime. Ms. Fleit said the advantage of promoting from within is that the executives have existing agency relationships. Lowe's currently works with BBDO on the creative side.

The retailer, which spent $304.5 million on measured media in the U.S. last year, according to Kantar Media, has struggled in its competition with rival Home Depot, the No. 1 home-improvement chain in the country. In the third quarter, Lowe's missed analyst expectations when it reported earnings of $379 million and sales of $15.7 billion, a 10% rise over the year-earlier period. Same-store sales were up 2.7% for the quarter but were not as strong as predicted. Earlier this month, the chain said it was promoting Marshall Croom to chief financial officer after the retirement of his predecessor.

Late last year at an analyst and investor conference, Lowe's executives noted that they plan to use more personalized marketing messages to better connect with customers.

"We are leveraging a robust set of analytic tools to optimize our media allocation, leading to a reduction in print advertising in order to increase targeted digital advertising and expand our social media presence," said Mr. McDermott at the conference.

Since last fall, Lowe's has been searching for a new media agency. A company spokeswoman said Monday that the review has not yet concluded.

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