Woolworths confirms CMO's exit after just one year

Tony Phillips leaves the supermarket giant after being appointed its first chief marketing officer last March

Tony Phillips
Tony Phillips

Woolworth has confirmed the immediate departure of its first CMO, Tony Phillips, after just one year in the role.

According to a statement from the supermarket giant, his sudden exit comes in the midst of a strategic review of its marketing functions and brand direction aimed at improving its customer engagement and services.

Current head of marketing for Woolworths Liquor Group, Andrew Hicks, will take over as interim CMO while a permanent replacement is found.

On 22 May, just days after Phillips' exit was announced, Woolworths also confimed its director of customer experience, Jess Gill, would depart after three years with the supermarket group and one year in the customer chief's role.

Woolworths has now stated that end-to-end brand control will all be placed in the hands of the next CMO, suggesting Gill will not be directly replaced.

Woolworths released details of a three-year turnaround plan last week aimed at helping reposition the business as a customer-led organisation. The strategy is based around three pillars: Improving the core offer, innovating products and services to better meet customer needs, and initiating new efficiencies.

These new efficiencies have already seen the departure of hundreds of staff and will result in a further 400 full-time positions go.

Related: CMO Interview: Tony Phillips talks cheap cheap, brand strategy and marketing

The news also comes weeks after Woolworths suffered a social media backlash for its Anzac Day campaign, which was subsequently withdrawn.

“We are proud of the work Tony has done in the past 12 months, including the reintroduction of the iconic fresh food people brand and the introduction of ‘Cheap cheap’, which has improved our price perception in the market,” the company said in a statement confirming his departure.

“We are undertaking a strategic review of our marketing functions and our brand direction as we refocus on getting our customers to put Woolworths first every time they shop.”

Phillips was Woolworths’ first-ever CMO, joining the organisation from its rival, Coles, where he held various marketing roles.

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