Virtually every turnaround starts with a deep dive into what the
brand is about and by talking extensively with consumers, Mr.
Stengel said. The insights needed often come from extensive data
and analytics in what are often financially driven turnarounds,
said Carlos Cata, managing partner with recruiting firm CT
Partners, so turnaround CMOs have to be able to "manage complexity"
and lean heavily on data, even as they draw on strong people skills
to attract and develop talent.
"I've always believed the data will set you free, because it
really empowers an organization to see where its strengths and
opportunities are," said Jeannine Haas. Ms. Haas became CMO of Avis
Budget Group in 2011 as it was struggling to come out of a
recession that had led to bankruptcy speculation for the company.
Relying on data also helps "take the emotion out" of what can be
some difficult conversations, she said.
After she brought in brand consultancy Interbrand and new agency Leo Burnett Business, Avis focused on
positioning its lead brand as a premium offering for business
travelers and Budget as more of a "smart shopper" choice for
While Avis is still No. 3 (a notch below the No. 2 of "We Try
Harder" days) among the big car rental holding companies, sales and
shares have both been improving steadily, with revenue up 13% last
year to $5.2 billion according to Auto Rental News, boosted in part
by acquisitions of Zipcar and deep discounter Payless. The stock
has nearly quadrupled the past two years. And the Avis brand is an
Effie finalist for this year, Ms. Haas said.
Recruiter David Wiser, who has sat in on meetings with Ms. Haas
and her team as she worked to tailor her organization and build her
team, sees her as an empathetic leader who focuses on what people
need to do without beating them up. "She's widely respected across
functions, and people love working for her," he said.
Some turnaround specialists may have a tough image, but Mr.
Wiser said, "I don't think the table pounder and the f-bomb dropper
is the one who's necessarily going to be the most successful at
So, besides the risk and reward, what makes marketers want to
take on turnarounds? Like others, Wendy's CMO Craig Bahner mentions
the opportunity to "work on an amazing, iconic brand."
Realistically, iconic ones often need turning around.
Wendy's was still growing when he arrived in 2012, if slowly and
behind the market. And CEO Emil Brolick already had established its
"a cut above" positioning at prices comparable to other fast
feeders. Still, the brand hadn't had a consistent, recognizable ad
campaign since founder Dave Thomas died in 2002.