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Given the rapid changes we’re seeing with consumers, technology, and the state of the world, it’s very easy for marketing to become overcomplicated. Greg Lyons, CMO of PepsiCo Beverages North America (PBNA), and Morgan Flatley, Global CMO and Head of New Business Ventures at McDonald’s, came together on Visionaries to share their perspectives on the true driver of success: a simplicity mindset.

The two global leaders share how this mindset can have a tremendous internal and external impact. They unpack the importance of fostering a culture of collaboration among their marketing teams through a framework of authenticity, kindness, and bravery. 

Find the MTM Visionaries Podcast On Apple, Spotify, Amazon, and more! 

How to Have a Simplicity Mindset in Marketing 

Be Authentic

Greg Lyons: Growing up, my dad was a successful businessman and a great father, but I noticed that he was different at work than he was at home. While it worked well for him, I personally find it taxing to constantly flex how I should act and what I should say depending on the situation. Authenticity and building an environment where people can be themselves is crucial.

Personally, home will always be the most important.

People can quickly detect when a brand is not being authentic, so it’s important to know who you are and stay consistent with your message and brand values. As marketers, we should resist the urge to constantly change things up and instead focus on being authentic and consistent in our messaging. 

Greg Lyons, CMO, PepsiCo, shares the Power of a Simplicity Mindset in Marketing

“As marketers, we should resist the urge to constantly change things up and instead focus on being authentic and consistent in our messaging.”

— Greg Lyons, PepsiCo

Morgan Flatley: In the world of marketing, there is a delicate balance between staying consistent and exploring new ventures. While it’s important to recognize the strengths of our brand today, we also need to consider where we can expand in the long term to bring in new revenue streams and remain authentic to McDonald’s brand. This requires a deep understanding of our brand’s essence and where we can potentially grow beyond our current restaurant estate.    

Speaking personally, it was during my time at PepsiCo that I learned the value of staying true to myself in the workplace. I had the privilege of working for a boss who was the same person both in and out of the office. Her authenticity and commitment to her family spilled over into the office culture, and it was a game-changer for me. I realized that it’s possible to be a successful executive while remaining true to who you are at your core, which has made it much easier for me to balance work and family life.  

Be Kind 

Morgan Flatley: At the end of the day, everything in business comes down to people. For me, one of the keys to enjoying work and achieving success has always been surrounding myself with great people. As a leader, it’s important to be someone that people want to follow. This means being authentic, kind, and treating others with respect. It’s about creating an environment where everyone can work together towards common goals for the business and brand. 

Morgan Flatley, CMO, McDonald's, shares the Power of a Simplicity Mindset in Marketing

“I set high expectations for my team but also support them with unwavering devotion and kindness to help them achieve their goals.”

— Morgan Flatley, McDonald’sr

I attended a seminar where one of the professors spoke about the leadership qualities of having high expectations and deep devotion. This has become a mantra of mine. I set high expectations for my team but also support them with unwavering devotion and kindness to help them achieve their goals. This approach has created great teams, successful businesses, and strong, healthy brands. 

Greg Lyons: Building genuine relationships is important to achieving success in both your personal and professional life. It’s important to genuinely care about others and show kindness towards them, not just for the sake of working with them but because you value them as a human being. By investing in these relationships, you establish a level of trust that allows for open communication and fosters a more enjoyable work experience.  

Personally, when a friend gives me feedback, I know they have my best interest at heart. This is why I believe that compassion is such an important leadership quality, as it fosters positive relationships and creates a happier, more productive work environment. It’s about holding people accountable while treating them with respect and empathy.  

I recently attended a leadership session where we discussed the qualities that will be most important for leading Gen Z in the future, and the word that kept coming up was kindness. It’s a simple yet powerful trait that can make a huge impact on those around you.

Everyone knows how to be kind. It’s as simple as choosing in the morning that you’re going to show up that way. I promise you’ll be happier if you do it in all aspects of your life. 

Be Brave

Greg Lyons: Taking risks in your career is important, but it’s easier said than done. Earlier in my career, I moved my family to the other side of the world when my kids were very young. We knew no one and felt the weight of the risk, but that role taught me so much, expanded my perspective and ended up being one of my favorite jobs.  

When it comes to marketing, it’s important to take calculated risks. When I was leading the Mountain Dew brand, we were brave enough to execute a really out-of-the-box creative Super Bowl ad called “Puppy Monkey, Baby,” and everyone above me showed some hesitation. I believed it was the right thing to do for the brand. I’m grateful for the trust from my leadership, and it paid off.  

Super Bowl 50 - Mountain Dew: "Puppy Monkey Baby" (2016)

As a leader, it’s important to encourage and cultivate risk-taking, but with data and good boundaries. And should something fail, it is a learning moment. Punishing failures creates an environment where you can’t take risks, and that’s not good for anyone. So, take some risks, learn from them, and don’t be afraid of failure. That’s how you grow as a person and as a leader. 

Morgan Flatley:  I’m naturally not a risk taker, but when I have taken big risks from a career perspective, like coming to McDonald’s from PepsiCo, or our McDonald’s “Famous Orders” campaign, those risks were the best decisions I have made.  I grew, the brand grew, and the business grew, and there has been a great impact.  The trick is finding people who can support you as you take risks when everyone else tells you you’re crazy.  Some risks don’t work out, but it’s a total game-changer when they do.  Always find mentors and people you can turn to that will help you navigate those times when everyone else is saying no. 


Meet the Visionaries 

Greg Lyons, CMO of PepsiCo Beverages North America (PBNA): Greg Lyons is the Chief Marketing Officer of PepsiCo Beverages North America (PBNA), where he leads the strategic, communications and innovation agenda across PepsiCo’s $21 billion beverage portfolio in the U.S. (2021). The portfolio includes iconic brands like Pepsi, MTN DEW, Gatorade, Starbucks ready-to-drink coffee, LIFEWTR, Lipton, Pure Leaf, and Rockstar Energy.  A 23-year PepsiCo veteran, Greg previously led the MTN DEW and Energy portfolio, served as the CMO of PepsiCo’s Canadian Beverage business, and was the lead of the Marketing department for the Walkers business in the UK and Ireland.

Greg serves on the Board of Directors for the North American Coffee Partnership (JV with Starbucks and PepsiCo), the Board of Directors for the Association of National Advertisers (ANA), the Adweek Steering Committee, and the Time @100 Advisory Board. Greg is also active in his community serving on the Board of Directors for the Ridgefield Boys & Girls Club. Greg keeps a full house in Ridgefield, CT with his wife Beth, his two children Molly and Jack, his stepchildren Crawford and Max, two Bernese Mountain Dogs, Luke and Ellie, and a pandemic kitten, Moo. 

Morgan Flatley, Global CMO and Head of New Business Ventures at McDonald’s: As Executive Vice President, Global Chief Marketing Officer and New Business Ventures, Morgan Flatley oversees our award-winning marketing efforts, as well as new business ventures that extend the reach of the McDonald’s brand.  Since joining McDonald’s in 2017, Morgan has been the driving force behind some of the Brand’s most inspired marketing campaigns. She is known for initiatives such as the “Fan Truths” strategy and the record-breaking “Famous Orders” collaborations, resulting in dozens of creative excellence awards. 

Morgan was named to the Forbes World’s Most Influential CMOs list for three consecutive years, rising to #5 worldwide in 2022. She has also been recognized with Adweek’s most prestigious honor, Brand Genius, and she was named Advertising Woman of the Year by the Chicago Advertising Federation. Following three years at Saatchi & Saatchi, she joined PepsiCo and led marketing and innovation for Gatorade. Morgan earned her MBA from Harvard Business School and her bachelor’s degree from Dartmouth College. She is a Henry Crown Fellow of the Aspen Institute. She lives in Chicago with her husband and three children. 

Visionaries, hosted by Nadine Dietz, airs every week and is brought to you in partnership with The Wall Street Journal. Each week, two new visionaries share their game plan and how that impacts today’s teams, talent, and hybrid work environment.   

Marketers That Matter® is a community of top marketing executives coming together to pioneer the future of marketing, sharing real-time experiences, and solving current challenges. 

Our parent company, 24 Seven, specializes in helping you find exceptional marketing and creative talent for your teams.