CMO One-to-One: Chobani’s Culture—Creative and Agile

An interview with Peter McGuinness, CMO at Chobani

Author: Maria Minsker

March 22, 2017

The digital transformation has forced veteran brands across industries to not only make technological and strategic changes, but also implement massive organizational changes. Peter McGuinness, CMO at Greek yogurt brand Chobani, spoke with eMarketer’s Maria Minsker about how the company’s agile product and marketing teams give it a competitive advantage.

eMarketer: How has the digital transformation had an impact on your brand?

Peter McGuinness: We’re a 9-year-young company, and we launched in a digitally native way, so we haven’t had to do anything special to thrive in a digital environment. We just do what’s right for our business, our consumer and our brand. We naturally overindex on millennials and on digital, so we live, thrive and grow through social and digital. We don’t need to have a bunch of work streams connecting analog to digital or traditional to digital because we just grew up digital.

eMarketer: How does innovation drive Chobani as a brand, especially when it comes to marketing?

McGuinness: We foster a culture of creativity because we’re makers at heart. When people are surrounded by that culture, innovation flourishes. The days of a “creative department” are gone. When creativity is part of the culture, brands are able to bring ideas and products to market faster than other companies.

“To this day, our founder and CEO, Hamdi Ulukaya, still personally tastes all the food. Innovation is a team sport at Chobani.”

To this day, our founder and CEO, Hamdi Ulukaya, still personally tastes all the food. Innovation is a team sport at Chobani, and everybody in this company contributes a certain level of creativity.

eMarketer: How does that level of innovation and agility help you deal with some of your biggest marketing challenges?

McGuinness: We are not bureaucratic and not very layered, which gives us a strategic competitive advantage. Our innovation and idea cycles are shorter in general, and marketing is no exception.

eMarketer: How does this organizational structure impact the consumer experience?

McGuinness: Consumers reward us. They love that we try a lot of different things. They love that we experiment, and that we surprise and delight them. They’ve come to really expect that from us. I can’t say it enough—consumers don’t want slow, bureaucratic companies.

“On the marketing side, we are developing and churning out a lot more creative content for consumers to engage with and enjoy.”

eMarketer: How do you empower your marketing team to keep up with digital innovations as they happen?

McGuinness: Regardless of what happens, I don’t see us having to re-engineer things in order to keep up with the times, because we’re a very current company. The food industry is playing catch-up from both a food formulation perspective and a marketing perspective. But at Chobani, I don’t give our employees training sessions on how to be creative. I don’t sit here and try to future-proof the marketing department, because it’s ingrained and embedded in our people.

eMarketer: As you look ahead to the rest of 2017, what’s top of mind for you?

McGuinness: On the marketing side, we are developing and churning out a lot more creative content for consumers to engage with and enjoy. In 2017, I want to keep doing that. I want to do more of it—do it better, more frequently and on more channels. We’re a high-interest brand: If we continue to feed the appetite of our consumers with wonderful pieces of creative content, we’ll get rewarded. More importantly, we follow an old saying with our social and digital channels—publish or perish.

Photo Credit: Chobani