What's this?
This content is created by an Ad Age Publishing Partner. Find out more about this program.

Subway's Tripodi: The Ever-Evolving Chief Marketing Officer

For more than 30 years, Taylor has collaborated with some of the most innovative and influential CMOs representing the world's leading consumer brands. During this period, I have come across two distinct types of chief marketers. One collection of CMOs seems to concentrate a majority of their efforts on the brand, 24/7. This type has a tendency to rely almost exclusively on traditional ad agencies to accomplish their marketing goals, and together, they may garner numerous accolades in the form of gold and platinum objects. We all know there is indeed a correlation between "brand-building" and gains in market share, but unscientific approaches to M&E suggest, at times, that the line drawn towards sales and profitable revenue growth is not always as direct or hard-wired as some might think.

Fortunately, many more CMOs are cut from very different cloth. I'm proud to say that Taylor has often engaged with chief marketers who not only understand the importance of brand-building, but also recognize the critical need of laddering up to a much higher place. They expect, demand and take great care to ensure brand strategy aligns directly with the CEO's pillars of growth for their organization. This CMO possesses the ability to process information equally via the left and right hemispheres of the brain, and they are confident leaders willing to embrace ideas and direction that's not necessarily in their wheelhouse or comfort zone.

You see, before an evolved thought-leader like this ever turns to agency partners for direction, they'd engage the likes of McKinsey or Bain to truly understand the global marketplace, the competitive landscape, their customers' needs (five years out) and the most relevant distribution channels; to zero in on opportunities for high-margin growth on a much broader scale than most ad agencies could ever provide. And during this key phase of discovery, this highly-trained and capable CMO would work most effectively alongside fellow C-Suite members (CEO, CIO, CSO, CFO, CCO) to ensure total alignment is achieved within those areas.

Finally, the visionary CMO empowers their internal marketing and communications teams, pulls in their respective agency partners, and together they outline clear objectives. This CMO, the one I so admire, lays a foundation for the development of a well-informed, integrated marketing strategy and creative platform that's built and designed to achieve a result that is business-building.

A moment of reflection. . .

I'll never forget one of the first global marketing sessions I attended on behalf of Mastercard. It took place in 1989 in Rome at the tail end of my first year at Taylor. I recall a smoke-filled room with marketers from across Europe and South America, knocking down espresso like it was water. But it wasn't the black mud that provided a jolt to my system that morning. It was an American chief marketer who communicated —in a most influential manner —the business rationale for sponsoring the FIFA World Cup. He made it clear that this was not a hospitality play, nor was the investment intended to simply generate brand awareness in their respective markets. He concluded his presentation with clearly defined metrics for success that spoke specifically to business impact. Nothing more, and most certainly nothing less.

That visionary leader was Joseph V. Tripodi, and he was the first, but thankfully not the last, to demonstrate to me what can be achieved through an innovative and strategic approach to a powerful and always evolving discipline.

Fast-forward 28 years. . .

For the August 2017 issue of Harvard Business Review, senior editor Daniel McGinn conducted an engaging interview with Tripodi, who was named chief marketing officer of Subway in January 2016. In the article, titled, "Reflections of a Six-Time CMO," Tripodi addressed the need to bridge the gap between brand-building and business growth, and the personality traits a CMO must possess in today's business environment.

Recently, Tripodi visited Taylor at its New York City headquarters to elaborate on several critical points outlined in the HBR piece. For our first interview in a recurring series – Taylor's "CMO Spotlight"– Tripodi sat down with us for the above video to discuss five strategies for success in a role is that is ever-evolving and complex, especially for global marketers.

Most Popular


Taylor is a full-service marketing communications agency with PR and social expertise at its core, partnering with many of the world’s leading consumer brands. Named “Consumer Agency of the Decade” by The Holmes Group, Taylor has partnered with the most influential corporate marketers, utilizing lifestyle, sports, entertainment and digital platforms to drive consumer engagement. Founded in 1984, Taylor has more than 100 employees with headquarters in New York and offices in Los Angeles, Chicago, Charlotte and Atlanta. Taylor’s portfolio of client partners includes Activision, Allstate, AMB Group, Comcast, Diageo, Capital One, Circle K, Fox Sports, Mercedes-Benz, Panini America and P&G. Learn how “We’re Built Differently” at www.taylorstrategy.com.
In this article: