When the American Marketing Association New York announced its 2022 Marketing Hall of Fame Inductees this spring, it was clear that two of this year’s winners looked different from those who received the honor during previous years, said Karen McFarlane, DEI chair and immediate past president of AMA New York.
Two women of color, Bozoma Saint John, former Netflix chief marketing officer, and Ann Mukherjee, chairman & CEO of Pernod Ricard North America, were inducted along with two others, Marc Pritchard, the chief brand officer of Procter & Gamble, and Antonio Lucio, former chief marketing officer of Facebook, Visa and Hewlett Packard.
At the top of their field, the four marketing professionals were honored on May 3 during the AMA New York Marketing Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony held at the Chocolate Factory in New York City.
Those inducted into the Marketing Hall of Fame are marketers who get results; raise the profile of the profession; move marketing forward with breakthrough approaches; promote sustainability; and spearhead diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), according to an article published by AMA.org.
Saint John was one of Fortune Magazine’s 40-Under-40 in 2016, with her most recent role as Netflix’s CMO. Her leadership record speaks for itself. Holding executive and global marketing roles, she led popular brands such as Pepsico, Beats, iTunes, Apple, and Uber into notable success throughout her career.
Mukherjee joined Pernod Ricard North America as chairman & CEO in December 2019. She became both the first outsider and woman of color to assume the position. Throughout her 30-plus year career, she has been recognized for her leadership. She earned an ADCOLOR Legend Award, made the Forbes’ Top 50 list of Most Influential CMOs, and was named Marketer of the Year by Brandweek.
McFarlane said that this year’s selections are an indication of the strides AMA has made in DEI during the past two years.
Although deserving people of color have always made contributions in the marketing industry, she said, people might not have felt comfortable nominating them in the past.
“I think being intentional and forthright about promoting inclusion made a difference,” McFarlane said. “It is nominations that put (Saint John’s) name in the pool. When people feel welcome to submit those names, they do, but more work needs to be done.”
McFarlane, who also serves as the co-chair of the DEI committee for the AMA’s professional chapters council, said that the organization experienced a shift during the early months of the Covid 19 pandemic.
“Although the national organization wasn’t poised to make a statement at that time, the DEI task force pushed the agenda,” she said.
She added that the murder of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter movement, as well as galvanizing events, such as Breonna Taylor and Amaud Aubrey’s killings, did more than start the conversation.
“That enabled me to kick the door in,” McFarlane said. “DEI was not a topic of conversation pre-Covid. Now, it’s a regular part of it.”
McFarlane recalled a remote AMA meeting with the national organization that started the domino effect.
“I was president when George Floyd was killed,” she said. “My son had just started driving, and I didn’t know what that looked like for me. It was difficult being president at a time when all I wanted to do was to be in my feelings. Despite the sadness, I felt a great responsibility and urge to act, especially as a Black woman leading a chapter with so much influence – and I wanted that action to go beyond the New York chapter.”
McFarlane said her sadness turned into anger when the national organization decided to take a benign approach.
“Many chapter leaders were on that call, and I started to get a little fiery about their lackluster response,” she said. “Other people on the call were also fired up and remained firm in their position for change and action.”
As a result of the call, McFarlane said that a DEI task force of seven volunteers worked together to create a pledge.
“We crafted it in 30 days and did a rollout amongst all chapters,” she said, adding that 66 percent of the more than 65 chapters across North America adopted the pledge in its first year.
“Marketers create narratives. We do things because marketers tell us to. They tell us what toothpaste to use, what sneakers to buy,” McFarlane said. “I spearheaded this initiative, along with six other leaders, to harness that power, help define a clear path towards action, and show our community that no matter their role, tenure, or industry, together, we have the power to move the world.”
The organization’s professional chapters council activated a DEI committee, led by Vanessa Torres, a past president and current board member of the AMA San Antonio board of directors.
The wheels continued turning, and the AMA promoted Christopher Cole, formerly the AMA’s senior manager of community experience, to the director of DEI and community engagement.
Cole said that although the AMA inherently integrated DEI in various areas of the organization, it only scratched the surface.
“Now, we’re taking a deeper look at this. It has become more imperative that we understand the role and responsibility that marketing plays,” Cole said. “Where is marketing at those tables when a brand decides to do an ad that doesn’t go well?”
Cole highlighted several ways the AMA is currently upping the ante in DEI.
“Who is not in the room?” Cole said that question caused the organization to focus on bringing diverse marketing professionals to speak at collegiate events.
“We wanted to make sure that we had a diverse representation of our chapters and that the speakers we are bringing in have diverse perspectives. These folks share some of their best practice insights,” he said.
As for the AMA New York’s Marketing Hall of Fame, Cole said many senior-level marketers with diverse backgrounds make a difference.
“I think that recognition piece allows us to tell that story more broadly, especially Bozoma’s and other senior-level marketers doing this work,” Cole said.
He added that the Black Executive CMO Alliance, BECA, elevates the stories of senior-level executives in the industry.
“That diverse insight is super valuable.”
Cole said that the most significant thing he’s learned as the AMA’s director is that DEI is a lifelong journey.
Systemic inequity and injustice are not “something we will solve within the next couple of years,” Cole said.
“There isn’t a level that we get to,” he said. “We are constantly working toward this… DEI is a lifelong commitment. Sometimes, it can feel like we’re boiling an ocean. It can be so overwhelming. Building infrastructure is important. We can’t skip that internal work.”
Nicole Major is the publisher and CEO of Pink Butterfly Press LLC. She has written professionally for more than two decades for various publications, including The Fairfield Daily Ledger, The Jacksonville Business Journal, and The Rock Hill Herald. She has written internationally for PC World Egypt, The Middle East Times, and Am Cham Egypt's Business Monthly Magazine.