Target CMO Jeff Jones leaves to join Uber

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Jones is joining Uber as president, ridesharing.

SAN FRANCISCO: Target CMO Jeff Jones is joining Uber as president, ridesharing - he will be responsible for operations, marketing, and customer support globally.

Jones replaces Ryan Graves in the position. Graves will continue to be integrally involved with Uber as its "resident entrepreneur and builder," explained Uber CEO and cofounder Travis Kalanick via a post on his company’s website. Graves will lead Uber’s people operations with Jason Droege and work with Kalanick on strategic projects.

Kalanick explained in his post that, over the past six months, he and Graves realized Uber’s growing marketing efforts need to be "far more" integrated with the company’s city operations.

"Marketing is about storytelling, about attracting, engaging, and retaining customers," Kalanick wrote. "Of course, a majority of our city operations are focused on exactly that, but those efforts have been isolated from many of our marketing functions. Our vision is simple: to redefine how a large operations effort can be tightly integrated with a customer-obsessed marketing strategy."

Kalanick explained that his two-pronged strategy to change that involves organization and leadership. In terms of organization, he wants to "rewire city efforts" so they tightly integrate with branding, marketing initiatives, and strategy.

This will help "everyone obsess about the customer," he wrote.

The strategy also includes finding a world-class leader that could bring deep experience in marketing and brand building.

"As we move into the next phase at Uber, one in which we will build a global brand infused in every customer interaction, I cannot think of a better person to lead us on this journey than [Jones]," wrote Kalanick. "He has a long track record of working with the best: he’s held leadership roles at the best creative agencies (Leo Burnett), consumer products companies (Coca-Cola) and retailers (Target and Gap)."

The two met for the first time in February at TED, and debated how Uber could improve its reputation.

Jones has been with Target since 2012, when he joined as EVP and CMO. He is departing Target on September 9.

Target is undergoing an extensive internal and external search for its next CMO, the retailer’s chairman and CEO Brian Cornell said in a statement on Tuesday.

He noted that Jones has "modernized Target’s marketing and helped drive Target’s strategy, creating momentum for the company and positioning Target for the future." Jones evolved the retailer’s marketing capabilities to center digital, added Cornell.

While at Target, Jones’ team introduced the #MoreMusic campaign during the Grammy Awards, and he led the company’s 2015 holiday campaign, which "exceeded all previous brand measures," according to Cornell.

In 2013, when Jones had been at Target for less than a year, he told PRWeek that modern CMOs are disappearing quickly because they are usually brought in charged with fixing a troubled business by "relaunching the brand with new advertising." He added that "nothing about that is the case for Target," noting that he anticipated a longer tenure at Target than what has become the norm.

But Target has had its fair share of issues since then. And, while there, Jones has taken crises at the retailer into his own hands. Roughly a year after Jones joined Target, then-president and CEO Gregg Steinhafel resigned to later be replaced by Cornell.

In May 2014, when an anonymous mid-level employee at Target's headquarters in Minneapolis sent a letter to Gawker complaining about the company’s culture, Jones publicly posted an open, honest message on LinkedIn in response. Its bottom line: "The truth hurts, but it can also set you free," in reference to the mega-hack that left tens of millions of the company’s customers exposed and Target’s reputation on the line around that time. His bold message received a positive reaction from the public.

"I want to thank [Jones] for his work on behalf of our brand, our business and the Target team," Cornell said in a statement. "He’s been an important partner during my time at Target, and I, along with the entire team, wish him well in his future endeavors."

Before joining Target, Jones was partner and president at McKinney; EVP, global marketing at Gap; and a global account director for Coca-Cola.

This article first appeared on prweek.com.

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