Facebook’s Global CMO was on stage at Advertising Week APAC to talk about his wide ranging role, the future direction of the business and his storied career. Richie Kenzie was there to hear the wisdom of this veteran marketer.
Antonio Lucio is among the most influential marketers on the planet. When he speaks, the industry listens. The obvious question is how do you come to be such a respected voice?
“Marketers, if you want to become one of the most influential CMOs, just stay in your job for a long period of time,” he tells the crowd at Advertising Week APAC with a smile.
Lucio has not been in his current job as Facebook’s CMO for a long time - just 11 months at the time of his interview. But all the indications he gives while talking to a packed house suggest he has a long term plan that he is eager to see through.
As for how he landed one of the most sought after - and undoubtedly most challenging posts in marketing - Lucio described a period of being wooed by no less than Facebook’s COO Sheryl Sandberg.
“When Sheryl Sandberg asked if I would consider being the CMO of Facebook, my honest answer was ‘no’, because I didn’t know what the CMO of Facebook did,” he explains.
“She said,‘we need to fundamentally change the way we operate and be more proactive in how we tell our stories. By remaining silent, by being late, by sometimes not even reacting, we’ve allowed the world to interpret not just what we do, but who we are, and sometimes even the intentions behind the people making decisions, and that will need to change’.”
After some deliberation, Lucio decided there were three reasons he was up for the task: “One, as a marketer, professionally and personally I enjoy the platforms. I intuitively believed in the platforms.
“Secondly, on the visual side of it, I fundamentally believe, in this historical moment, liberal democracies are being questioned. That more people having a voice can make the world better, I think, is a good thing and worth defending.
“Lastly, I did see a fundamental commitment to change. Mark (Zuckerberg) wants to make sure all these platforms that have been built work for advertisers and for people in meaningful ways.
“I have seen proof that the intent, resources and the money to make a shift are there. I wanted to be part of the solution.”
Lucio’s role with direct to consumer marketing for Facebook presents as one of the larger tasks on his plate.
“We understand we need to make changes and become a privacy first platform. We need to solve some fundamental issues that impact society more broadly, like election interference, fake news, privacy and data management, and we cannot do this alone,” he says. “We need to work with opinion leaders, academics and policy formulators from around the world.”
In terms of rolling up his sleeves and getting down to business, Lucio has identified the key achievements he needs to accomplish early.
He says: “From a marketing standpoint the things we are working on initially are, firstly, creating one persona for the Facebook corporate entity. It’s a challenge because we are talking about Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and Messenger. We need to create a persona that owns the responsibility part of the narrative.
“The only way we can manage this is to create a corporate entity with a unique look, tone, feel and voice. And then we need to ensure there’s attribution - that everybody knows that the experience at all the apps in the Facebook family is coming from the same mother brand, which is the Facebook corporation. We’re just starting. It will take years.”
On the issue of trust, Lucio speaks purposefully, saying that trust cannot be built by words alone. “Trust has to be rebuilt by meaningful action. The role my team and I will play is to ensure those actions are communicated to the right audiences.
“We are mapping out the right issues and messages for each of those audiences. They need to be consistently presented from a corporate standpoint or brand app standpoint, depending on the issue we are dealing with.”
Across his career there are many proud achievements Lucio can point to. Fostering a diverse working environment, and challenging his agencies to do the same, ranks highly among them.
“The whole notion of diversity has been one of the drivers of my career. It’s a belief that is anchored in science and research: when it comes to complicated tasks, diverse teams perform significantly better than homogenous teams. The sort of stuff we do is complicated. So having a diverse team is a business imperative,” he explains.
“We have products that are consumed by everybody around the world, so we should have teams that are mirrors of the communities we serve. I have always believed that.
“I’m proud that I’m leading the most diverse team I have led anywhere at Facebook, in terms of women and under-represented groups.”
But, he also has some words of encouragement for anyone who finds working with people different from them difficult.
He explains: “Managing diverse teams is a pain in the neck, because you have to embrace conflict. The diverse team’s complicated task will always outperform the homogenous team, but the homogenous team has a great time throughout. The diverse team is having a nightmare of conflicts and issues, they only know they won at the end.”
Lucio is also resolute when questioned about the intricacies of his craft. And while the zeitgeist appears to favour science over art, he comes across as a Renaissance man.
“AI, predictive technologies and martech are all very important and we should all understand when they work and when they don’t work.
“But what is often overlooked when you’re trying to build a strong connection with your user base are some fundamental things - we’re talking hopes, fears and expectations.
“You need to resonate emotionally in an environment where there’s 360 degree noise - you need to transcend and to have superior storytelling.
“The brands that have been built to stand the test of time are anchored in purpose. They play a meaningful role in people’s lives. They have a very deep connection with their users that goes beyond the utility of the product. They behave with integrity, and are constantly renovating themselves to deliver on their vision.”
And nearly a year in, Lucio says he has seen a “radical change” at Facebook, describing a “significant cultural shift” driven by CEO Mark Zuckerberg through the leadership team.
He adds: “There are four main elements to it: progress in social impact, creating meaningful experiences that significantly enhance people’s lives, and focusing on building our business by building other businesses. The fourth is around how we proactively tell the story of the progress of the first three elements.
“The challenges we face are the same and will be the same for the next five years - rebuilding trust and rebuilding value for each of the apps. In order to do that we need to be purposeful and consistent in all the things we need to fix and the stories we need to tell.”