McDonald’s on Tuesday named Tariq Hassan as its next chief marketing and digital customer experience officer for McDonald’s U.S., bringing in an outsider with brand and agency experience to drive the restaurant giant’s increasingly more personalized marketing strategy.
“I think people who know me won’t be surprised by this decision,” says Hassan, who leaves the role as CMO of Petco for the opportunity at McDonald’s.
Hassan says the first word that comes to him when thinking of McDonald’s is “smile.”
Hassan, who will work out of the company’s Chicago headquarters, is the third outsider since 2014 to take on the role of leading U.S. marketing at the world’s largest restaurant company. His predecessor, Morgan Flatley, is being promoted to McDonald’s global CMO role.
Flatley leaves behind a trail of successes within the U.S. marketing organization.
“I think Morgan and the team have done such a tremendous job,” says Hassan, who knows Flatley from her PepsiCo days as a client of his at Chicago-based agency Element79. “The authenticity and the voice are incredibly differentiated.”
Now, it’s Hassan’s turn to lead a team that has had hits with efforts such as its Famous Orders marketing campaigns and is seeing early strength with the MyMcdonald’s Rewards loyalty plan.
“The brand is about community, it’s about connection,” says Hassan.
Hassan says he is eager to continue deepening the connections McDonald’s has established with customers in the U.S. more “directly and more personally,” and doesn’t think the brand’s massive scale precludes McDonald’s from forging such relationships. McDonald’s is starting to do more with the data and customer insights it has, he says.
“I think what you’ve already seen the team do is start to establish a much more relevant voice for McDonald’s,” says Hassan.
He also says that the company’s diversity, equity and inclusion efforts were something he explored when making his decision, saying he aligns with the company’s values and leadership’s plans and sees a “great opportunity” to continue to do the work that he has done earlier in his career.
In May, McDonald’s pledged to more than double its U.S. investment in diverse-owned media companies, production shops and content creators by 2024. At the same time, it made that bold proclamation, the company was sued by media mogul Byron Allen’s company over racial discrimination.
In a list of five facts about Hassan shared by McDonald’s, the first is: “He believes that diversity is not a strategy but a value that starts with bringing one’s authentic self to work.” McDonald’s also noted that Hassan was an executive sponsor for Petco’s Diversity, Equity, Inclusion & Belonging (DEI&B) advisory council and of the LGBTQ employee resource group, along with external work including being on the board of the ANA CMO Growth council.
McDonald's again looks outside for marketing leadership
While Hassan thinks those who know him won’t be surprised to see him in the role, some industry watchers might be surprised that Chicago-based McDonald’s once again didn’t find a U.S. CMO within its ranks.
Flatley joined McDonald’s as its U.S. CMO in 2017 when Deborah Wahl, who had come to McDonald’s in 2014, was one of three executives replaced at the company.
After the progress made during her tenure, Flatley says “we now need someone to come in who has the breadth that Tariq has,” citing his experience on both the agency and client sides of the business, touching creative, digital, CRM, data and media.
While CMOs hope to build a succession plan internally, “we’re just not there yet,” says Flatley. She says she wants McDonald’s to do more to build up its talent pipeline to “become an academy of marketing talent.”
She looks at consumer packaged goods companies such as PepsiCo, where she and others moved up in marketing ranks before leaving for roles such as CMO at other brands.
“There are a number of big CPG companies that have started to export talent across companies,” says Flatley. “We have so much outstanding marketing talent here.”
In a message to McDonald’s USA viewed by Ad Age, Joe Erlinger, president, McDonald’s USA, praised Flatley’s work.
“Morgan’s curiosity for consumer insights combined with her passion for creative has resulted in stronger, more inclusive, and longer-lasting connections with our U.S. customers,” Erlinger said.
He also pointed to Hassan’s success in roles at companies including Petco, Bank of America, Omnicom and HP.
“Tariq also has a proven track record of growing and developing talent at all levels within a marketing function, and we look forward to him building on the tremendous progress that Morgan made in the last several years,” Erlinger said.