'Be one badass jockey': McDonald's Lizette Williams shares inspiration behind brand growth

The marketing maverick offered words of advice for those coming up in the industry as she slides into new role from her multicultural post.

McDonald’s Lizette Williams gave a heartfelt thank you to her supporters as the multicultural marketing powerhouse announced she is transitioning from the role to helm a different post at the brand.

Williams, who has driven the chain’s cultural engagement team for the past two years, urged those in adland to "become one badass jockey" as she shared her secret to brand growth during the ANA Multicultural Diversity & Marketing Conference in San Diego on Thursday.

"Many of you know that I started at Kimberly-Clark in 2012," she said. "I came on as the first multicultural marketer ever hired. I had no idea what I was doing, but thank god for good teams and good leadership.

"My boss at the time told me, ‘you know, Lizette, I don’t know much about this multicultural marketing, but I do know one thing – I bet on the jockey, not the horse.’ What he meant was that he really trusted me to build his vision and take it forward even though he didn’t know all of the details about how I was going to get there.

"So my advice to you in this room, as we’re building careers in the space, is to become one badass jockey. You’re in control of your own horse. Own it. Find your voice. Articulate it. And have a well-deserved seat at the table."

Details of her new role are not disclosed.

Williams has made a serious dent in the brand’s mission to expand its reach to multicultural markets with authentic and highly creative execution.

She is the driving force behind movements like "Black & Positively Golden." The largest campaign in more than 15 years targets African American consumers by celebrating black excellence through stories of truth, power and pride.  


Then came "Beat Of My City." The campaign was unlike anything McDonald’s had done before. G.O.O.D Music's Teyana Taylor and Chicago rap star Juice WRLD teamed up with the brand to give back to their hometowns in a major way. 

The philanthropic initiative was McDonald’s stepping outside traditional advertising with a focus on expanding how content is delivered. 

"This was widely successful," Wiliams shared. "There wasn’t a single piece of linear content at hand, it was all digital, experiential and social cause related. It was highly engaging to consumers in a non-traditional way. 

"This is what making an iconic brand relevant again looks like. It looks very different from the world we had been operating in decades ago. This is how our consumers are engaging with content."

Quoting DJ Khaled, Williams' major keys for brand growth have been a combination of hardcore consumer focus, data-driven insights, creative excellence, experiementing beyond linear and -- of course -- being one badass jockey. 

She added: "Today, I am transitioning off my multicultural role and it has been an amazing journey, and I want to say thank you. Thank you to all the people in this room who embraced me. Thank you to my team, to my leaders, mentors and mentees who trusted me. These relationships were instrumental for me to come back and fight another day."

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