Q&A: Can Chobani’s CMO Slash CPG Marketing Stereotypes?

CPG marketing is on the precipice of change as technology bears down on the category, with retail media networks revealing more about consumer buying habits. Chobani’s global CMO Thomas Ranese is new to the category and technology-savvy, having previously led marketing at Uber and Google.

His plans include unexpected collaborations, retail media partnerships and data collection—modern marketing tactics that disrupt CPG advertising stereotypes. Some advertisers consider the category relatively outdated, given retailers’ sheer size and their historical reliance on in-store shopping, which can obfuscate advertising’s impact on sales.

When he resigned from the global CMO role at Uber last February, Ranese told Adweek he hoped to find a new opportunity better aligned with his interests. Within two weeks of joining Chobani this August, he was considering how Chobani, the challenger brand that disrupted the yogurt market in 2005 and eventually became its leader, could disrupt more categories.

Adweek spoke with Ranese about his new role and what’s next for the brand. “We’re actually so much more than a yogurt company, and people don’t know that,” the marketer said.

This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

How has your career changed over time? 

I’m a theater kid-turned-policy wonk-turned-consultant, and then had a career in marketing. I bring a lot of those skills to how I think about myself as a marketer. The storytelling from the theater, the community building and customer advocacy from policy, and the business strategy and problem solving from consulting.

I’ve been in tech for the last nearly 15 years. I joined Google as it was building out the central global marketing team under Lorraine Twohill back in 2010. I had an incredible decade there helping to fuel growth for the brand, founded the Google Brand Studio, and then led our entry into the hardware category. 

Most recently I was the global CMO at Uber, where I helped turn around the reputation and trust of the brand during Covid, did some really important social impact work and drove growth for Uber Eats. 

You’ve worked in several industries. It’s interesting, because there’s a lot of convergence in advertising. How do you see that convergence playing out at Chobani, especially given your career’s emphasis on technology?

One of the things that surprised me the most was how much Chobani actually feels more like a tech company than a CPG company. It’s got a truly visionary founder with a product-led story, where innovation and design are at the core. It’s very growth-oriented, it’s disruptive to the category, and it’s looking to be agile and move fast. These are all characteristics you associate much more with tech than you do CPG. … The really mission-driven ethos that’s here is very much at places like Google and Uber.

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