Peter McGuinness, Chief Marketing & Commercial Officer at Chobani, is one of three 2019 selections for the Path to Purchase Institute Hall of Fame. We interviewed him in March at Chobani's offices in New York.
Title: Chief Marketing & Commercial Officer
Years in industry: 27
Years with current company: 5
Career path: McCann Worldgroup, EVP, Worldwide Account Director (1992–2005); Momentum Worldwide, Regional President for Europe, Middle East & Africa (2005–2008); Gotham Inc., Chairman & CEO (2008–2011); DDB Chicago, President & CEO (2011–2013); Chobani, Chief Marketing and Commercial Officer (2013–present)
Education: Roger Williams University, bachelor’s in marketing and economics
Community/industry activity: Ad Council, AAAA, Advertising Education Foundation (AEF), the Mobile Marketing Association (MMA), and the CMO Council
of North America. He is a member of the Advertising Hall of Achievement.
As CPG companies face a market in which more and more control is slipping into the hands of their consumers, they’d be well advised to heed the advice of management guru Peter Drucker: “The best way to predict the future is to create it.” One company, Chobani, is already doing just that, embarking on a sweeping, enterprise-wide reorganization centered on developing demand-responsive capabilities.
Chobani’s revolutionary, almost inside-out approach to management is being implemented by Peter McGuinness, chief marketing & commercial officer. Over the past two years, he’s broken down interdepartmental walls and budgets while restructuring key parts of the company into a unified “Demand Department” that oversees all global demand creation, including marketing, sales, insights, product innovation, creative and commercial finance.
The goal is relatively simple, he says: “Put our dollars where we are going to get the most demand.” McGuinness’s willingness to “create a future” for Chobani is one of many reasons he was selected this year to be inducted into the Path to Purchase Institute’s Hall of Fame. On May 16, McGuinness – along with Jody Kalmbach, vice president, digital experience, The Kroger Co.; and April Carlisle, VP, shopper marketing, Coca-Cola Co. – will be honored at the 26th Hall of Fame induction ceremony, held in conjunction with the Shopper Marketing Effie Celebration in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Both events are part of the Path to Purchase Summit.
In March, Bill Schober and Peter Breen interviewed McGuinness at Chobani’s offices in New York City.
Where do you hail from?
McGuinness: I grew up in a small coastal town in central New Jersey called Monmouth Beach. On one side was a bay and on the other was the ocean. Every hurricane it would be enveloped by water.
My mom was a stay-at-home mother who owned several small businesses and was quite entrepreneurial in her own way. My dad worked for Burlington Industries, the big textile company that made Levi’s denim and fabric for couches and carpets. My dad came up through marketing and market research, and he spearheaded the “Crafted with Pride in the USA” program. He was ahead of his time, advocating for transparency in terms of country of [origin for] where things are made.
Did you get your start in business during school?
McGuinness: I went to a Christian Brothers Academy for high school, and then attended Roger Williams University in Rhode Island. I thought marketing was interesting, although I wasn’t sure what it really meant. Like many college kids, I didn’t really know what I wanted. Every summer since high school I’d been a lifeguard, but in my junior year, a light went on, and I ended up interning at McCann Erickson in their accounting department. It was an utterly thankless job, inputting media invoices into accounts payables on what was called “The Donovan System.” You might input 1,000 spots off an invoice from NBC or ABC – and these were for massive clients like Sony and Coca-Cola – and if just one item was discrepant, the whole invoice was discredited. It was two summers of torture.
Did you learn the fundamentals of the business doing that?
McGuinness: Yes. I learned that I did not want to be in the accounting department. But it was a foot in the door, and upon graduation I thought I was a shoo-in at McCann. So, I showed up, explained that I wanted to be in account management, but their head of HR said, “Nope. At McCann you need an MBA for that.” They instead sent me to the local media buying department (which was as low as accounting) and made me an assistant media buyer in local broadcast, which was a real eye opener.
But you went on to become the youngest VP, SVP and EVP in the agency’s history, correct?
McGuinness: I was able to get into the McCann training program. There was a team competition, and I’d been made the media person on a cross-functional team, developing campaigns and presenting to the global executive team. When our team won, the CEO pointed at me and said, “Let’s get this kid into account management.” And off I went.
I was put into account management, and even though HR’s guidelines said I was supposed to be an assistant for two years, in six months I was promoted to account executive. It went on like that: I was 25 when I made VP and was lucky enough to go on from there. Never judge a book by its cover, give people the benefit of the doubt and take chances on them, and you’ll be surprised by what they can achieve.