Marketing Path to the Presidency. Three former CMO’s, now Presidents, discuss their rise and what this signifies for a future trend.

CMO_Outlook_three_presidents_logoThree previous Chief Marketing Officers featured on CMO Outlook have now ascended to the presidency of their respective brands. Congratulations to Heather Neary, President, Auntie Anne’s (CMOO Dec. 2014), Susan Lintonsmith, President and CEO, Quiznos (CMOO March 2015), and Stacy Anderson, President, Anytime Fitness (CMOO Nov 2016). As part of our Women’s Marketing Leadership Forum series, we wanted to revisit these three outstanding executives and see what’s changed, what drove them to the next level and what is their new outlook for the brands they now lead. We were able to get all three of them together for a conference call which was a remarkable enough feat in itself.


CMOO: Why do you think more brand and company Presidents are coming from executive marketing roles?

SL: I think marketers typically make better communicators and to be a truly effective leader good communication is one of the top qualities required. I also believe there is a creative and innovative mindset to solving problems that comes from marketing.”

HN: “In a retail brand that is so customer centric, marketing is the last mile of delivering that experience to the  customer, so who better to lead a brand than someone who’s really in touch with the customer base.”

SA: “I agree and will add that more and more operations teams are reporting into marketing for just that reason.”

CMOO: What leadership traits do you rely on most?

SA: “I rely on a truly authentic sense of transparency. I often share a level of information usually reserved for upper executives…detailed information other than business metrics. That way, direct reports can make better decisions if the depth of the information they have is more substantial with more context.”

HN: “I would add to that integrity, transparency, and honesty. I have to deliver ALL the news…the good, the bad and the ugly so there can’t be any conjecture. And that kind of news I deliver myself because too often people can jump from “A” right to “Z” if there is the slightest misinterpretation…then I have to deal with another issue that didn’t need to happen.”

SL: “The traits I’ve relied on throughout my career have been resilience, a positive attitude, positive energy and outlook. I also gained strong general management experience that has helped me to not only successfully lead cross-functional teams, but also prepared me to step into the CEO role.”


CMOO: How did your past marketing executive roles prepare you for the presidency?

HN: “Operations reported into marketing at Auntie Anne’s and think that my ability to understand relationships is a huge bonus. I made it my priority to understand operations and I don’t believe marketing can operate effectively without understanding operations.”

SL: “What prepared me was experience leading consumer insights and strategic planning, as well as understanding the restaurant operations.  As CMO at Quiznos, operations reported into me at one point as well, which put me more in touch with what happens inside our restaurants.”

SA: At Anytime Fitness we have a hub and spoke model so marketing touches everything as well. We developed cross functional groups so operations isn’t in a silo. As a matrix organization with multiple brands that utilize shared services efficiency with resources was critical.”


CMOO: What are your plans for growth for the foreseeable future?

SL: “At Quiznos, we want to reinforce the brand positioning. We are also developing a much more energy efficient operation which is going to be a long road, but a worthwhile challenge.”

SA: “With 3200 clubs, I want to focus on delivering lifetime value so getting as close to the field as I can is the only way to really understand what’s going on. There is super high growth in the health and wellness category, but that brings alot of competition. Right now our international expansion is outpacing domestic.”

HN: “We need to go back to a founder mentality. Somehow the business got way too complicated. We need to simplify the operation and concentrate on delivering a WOW experience with our service and products.”


CMOO: What last thought or advice would would want to share?

HN: “Leadership to me is about understanding and listening. The best leaders are the best listeners.”

SL: “Agreed and I hope people who read this understand that marketing is probably the more natural path to the presidency. I believe marketing executives are given more serious consideration because that role touches everything from finance to the customer experience. Add to that strong core values and you have a winning leadership combination.”

SA: “Yes, the shift has accelerated, but today’s best marketers are now more data analyst, strategist, and executionally minded, with P&L responsibility…so the scope of marketer’s responsibility has broadened considerably with key business driving initiatives.”



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