CMO Interview: How McDonald's is putting customer centricity back on the menu

CMO of McDonald's in A/NZ, Mark Lollback, talks through the business transformation undertaken by the fast food chain to put customers back at the centre and how it plans to personalise experiences through technology

Mark Lollback, CMO, McDonald's Australia and New Zealand
Mark Lollback, CMO, McDonald's Australia and New Zealand

Making experience personal

The next priority for Lollback is to create more personalised customer experiences by utilising technology. These include building a CRM platform and launching a ‘My Maccas’ club and app. The group is also testing kiosks with lifesize iPads that will be connected back to the CRM.

“This is so we can recognise customers in the future when they walk in – they will be able to scan in with their phones, have pre-built buyer profiles, have their name appear on-screen and we’ll treat them as an individual,” Lollback says.

Mobile ordering, kiosks, better Wi-Fi in restaurants and delivery via phone or Web are also on the cards. “Even with gaming activities like Monopoly, we’re trying to be mobile first in our approach and try and find ways to recognise and communicate with customers in a way that’s relevant to them,” he says.

“Today, we transact with our customers, but in the future we want to recognise and engage with them.”

Given all this technology enablement, it’s not surprising the perception of IT’s role at McDonald's has also undergone a significant shift. Instead of being an IT-led organisation, Lollback says the fast food group has become a customer-led and digitally led organisation.

“IT today is more of an enabler, rather than historically leading these projects,” he says. “They know that and understand their responsibility is to deliver on our digital and customer vision as fast as possible: To become the most connected brand in Australia with our customer base.”

While the people best placed to determine and decide what is needed to engage customers is the marketing department, Lollback says it’s vital to have a strong, robust and confident IT team to deliver that.

“All our projects have joint teams working more closely together because we recognise we have to work together to deliver those technology platforms,” he says.

McDonald's has also set up a discrete digital marketing team over the last 18 months to ensure it has both the front-end and back-end skills needed to deliver on its customer experience vision.

“While I’m clear on what we need to do to transform this business, clear on the strategy and platforms we need, I don’t always have an idea about the technology or the how to do that, but I will hire people who do,” Lollback says.

“In the next two years, we have clear targets in terms of number of customers connected, people we want to be engaged with, and what the ROI looks like. It’s very structured and mapped out as a program.”

Background check

Tackling disruptive change is something Lollback has built his career on.

Keen to be on the front-end of business strategy from a very early age, he gained work experience at Live in Kitchen in category marketing while still at school. This led to a bachelor degree in marketing.

“I knew I’d found the right arena for me as it was that combination of creativity and business,” he says.

Aiming to build up bluechip marketing experience, Lollback joined Unilever with the expectation of staying on for four years, but ended up remaining for 18. He initially built the icecream adult impulse category under Streets and launched Magnum in Australia, before relocating to the UK to become GM of marketing for Unilever’s icecream category.

Lollback then moved to China as marketing and innovation director for the icecream category. “It was one of the most challenge opportunities I had pre-McDonald's,” he recalls. “The business had been going backwards at a rate of US$50 million a year and the more we sold, the more we lost. Our CEO came out after I’d been there six months and asked why we didn’t just shut down. We said we’d turn it around in 2-3 years, and we did.”

Lollback returned to Australia as the first VP of marketing for the food business for A/NZ before being offered his first true CMO role in Unilever’s joint global venture with Pepsi for Lipton ice teas based in New York.

“In four-and-a-half years we went from 10 countries to 45 countries and from losing money to a billion-dollar business,” he says.

It was then he came back to Australia and took six months off to be with his kids. A short 15-month stint as CMO at ANZ Bank was then followed by the CMO role at McDonald's three years ago.

“Being a CMO is a huge privilege, but it’s also hugely challenging,” he says. “My span of control goes from brand marketing to digital marketing, consumer business and analytics and innovation and menu and across Australia and New Zealand, so the scale of business and impact, it’s huge.

“I joke that I have 300 bosses – we are a franchise business and what we do has a direct impact on hundreds of families and businesses across the country. So how do you keep the business growing, the teams happy, keep things being developed and upskilled and keeping momentum going? It’s a huge responsibility.”

As a result, Lollback puts mental fitness as one of his top attributes for modern marketing leaders, and says it’s something he works hard on. Resilience is also critical as a CMO, he says.

“Staying calm in a storm, genuinely showing leadership and focusing on what truly is going to make a difference is key,” he says.

Lollback’s third top skill is spotting big ideas at a very big picture level and translating that into a simple, motivating message. “At the same time it’s about supporting teams to be brave,” he says.

“It’s about talent but also resilience as a character – you will get hugely challenged by everybody as a CMO these days.”

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