Congratulations Antonio Lucio! You now have the most thankless job in marketing. Facebook announced yesterday that Lucio, who had been HP Inc’s chief marketing officer, would be the social-media conglomerate’s new CMO, taking over for Gary Briggs who left the social network in January.
Lucio has had a long career working for huge, complicated, global brands. He led marketing at HP Inc. for the last three years, steering that brand after Hewlett-Packard split into two companies in November 2015. (Hewlett-Packard Enterprise covered industrial-grade server computers, networking equipment, software and services, while the more consumer-facing PC and printing business was under HP Inc.) Before that, the Spanish-born, Puerto Rico-raised exec spent eight years at Visa, where he is credited with creating the company’s first-ever global positioning and brand identity system. His career also includes stints at PepsiCo, Kraft, and Proctor & Gamble–basically the Harvard, Stanford, and Yale of brand marketing.
In his time at HP, Lucio was known for pushing for more emotional advertising, whether it was finding a way to tie the brand to Star Wars, or using a holiday ad to comment on the divisiveness of our current political climate. He’s also been a vocal advocate for diversity, not only within HP’s own marketing department, but in its agency partners and the industry in general, as well.
Yet nothing Lucio has accomplished wholly prepares him for the challenge he will face when he shows up at Facebook on September 4.
In announcing Lucio’s appointment, Facebook’s chief product officer Chris Cox said, “Facebook’s story is at an inflection point. We have never faced bigger challenges, and we have never had more opportunities to have a positive impact on the world–in our families, our friendships, our communities, and our democracy–by improving our products at their core, and then by telling the story outside that we all know to be true inside.”
Facebook has seen a massive shift in public perception (and media coverage) since the Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election and the Cambridge Analytica scandal earlier this year, in which the U.K. firm gobbled up the personal data of more than 50 million people. The company’s handling of these scandals, including CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s reaction to being summoned to explain his company to American and European lawmakers and his subsequent testimony, have only further raised concerns about Facebook’s blatant disregard for personal privacy and the social network’s control, influence, and responsibility as a platform for information and news.
Its marketing efforts to stanch the brand erosion arguably only further exacerbated it. Last spring, Facebook launched its biggest ever marketing campaign, an aw-shucks, non-apology that barely addressed the issues, and came nowhere near taking any responsibility.
For Lucio now, the challenge is both massive and immediate. He has some formidable tools at his disposal, from external agency partners, to the company’s impressive in-house talent within the Creative Shop and The Factory. Cox is right that the company is at an inflection point, and Lucio must use its marketing to somehow acknowledge these very serious issues while convincing people that Facebook is still as fun, engaging, and entertaining as ever.
Note though that Cox also said Facebook needs to start “telling the story outside that we all know to be true inside.” This raises yet another significant question, not the least of which is whether Cox and other Facebook employees actually believe this. It’s a take entirely consistent with the brand’s sorry-not-sorry ad from April. Adding Lucio’s penchant for emotional advertising to a corporate self-image so different than the broader public perception (or actual reality) could well have the exact opposite effect Facebook is hoping for.
The best case scenario is that the company gives Lucio the freedom to really apply his ability, as Cox described it, to “build authentic global brands with integrity and from places of principle.” And the worst-case scenario? Well, I think we know exactly what that is.