Two CMOs taking on the top spots

Two former CMOs this week ascend to the chief executive’s office, one at a technology company and the other at a restaurant chain, lending credence to the notion that stewardship of the customer is becoming more important to companies’ bottom lines.

Twelve-year Darden marketing veteran James “JJ” Buettgen, who just last year was named CMO of the company that operates Red Lobster and Olive Garden, takes over as CEO at Ruby Tuesday, following the retirement of founder Sandy Beall. Meanwhile Carine Clark, who for the past five years had been Symantec’s CMO and SVP of marketing, assumes the helm at Allegiance, a provider of customer service and experience solutions.

Previously, Clark had helped quadruple revenues as the lead marketer at Altiris until the company was acquired by Symantec, known for its Norton antivirus software. At that point, Clark figured her tenure was over. She was partly right. She got a call from the Symantec CEO asking her to take command of marketing for the entire company.

“My CFO adored me because I’m a quant jockey,” Clark says. “When I was in college, I was originally going to graduate in statistics and become an actuary. I am known for being serially 1% under budget.”

Clark believes that more CMOs will have a chance at the top job if they overcome their aversion to finance. “I do think CMOs have a hard time with it,” she says. “They have to understand how expensive MDF [market development fund] money is. Senior management wants a higher return on those funds. I had 12 VPs under me at Symantec and they were compensated on how they managed the money. If one of them came to me at the end of the year with $1 million left, I hated that money. Not using it properly was a failure.”

Allegiance founder Adam Edmunds, who is handing the CEO reigns to Clark and will head the board of directors, said no search was undertaken for his replacement. Clark is a resident of Salt Lake City, where Allegiance is located, and Edmunds said he was interested in working with her from the day he met her two years ago.

“I wanted her to come on board any way I could get her,” Edmunds says. “It is an opportunistic choice to take us to the next level.”

On the restaurant front, Buettgen was Darden’s first CMO, a role that the company created in 2011, according to news accounts at the time, to establish greater integration between the company’s restaurant chains. While at Darden, Buttgen managed a media budget of close to $200 million.

In a prepared statement, Ruby Tuesday’s lead director Matt Drapkin remarked that Buettgen’s “proven track record at Darden makes him the right leader for Ruby Tuesday. We have tremendous opportunity ahead of us and JJ’s strategic thinking and brand marketing experience in the restaurant industry will be very valuable.”

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