Surekha Ragavan
Sep 28, 2021

Eugene Lee promoted to Asia CMO at McDonald’s

The seasoned marketer goes from strength to strength at the fast-food company.

Eugene Lee, McDonald's
Eugene Lee, McDonald's

Eugene Lee has been appointed Asia CMO at McDonald’s, a step up from his previous role of regional director of marketing for Asia. Lee, an entrant in Campaign Asia-Pacific’s Power List, has been working with the fast-food giant for over 12 years, 11 of which he spent at the Malaysia business.

Lee, who is based in Kuala Lumpur, told Campaign Asia-Pacific that his new role “won’t be too different” compared to his previous responsibilities. He will continue working closely with the MDs and CMOs from each of the 12 markets he oversees, and will aid with refining their local marketing strategies, plans, and execution.

“As with any company, sometimes the need to drive immediate sales sometimes overtakes the focus on longer term brand-building,” said Lee. “Currently, our marketing budgets are skewed towards sales activation. The biggest change I want to make is to evolve this towards a more balanced 50:50 split between short-term sales activation vs long-term brand building initiatives.”

One of the biggest challenges Lee faces in a region as diverse as Asia is understanding the differences in local culture.

“During my 11 years on the Malaysian business, I have to admit that I had a very narrow view of the region and said to myself ‘How different could it be?’ in other markets,” said Lee. “Having been in the regional role for almost two years now, it’s a been an eye-opening experience to see how vastly different things are market-to-market. [I also learnt] how we should never deploy a one-size-fits-all approach even to a brand as ‘standardised’ as McDonald’s.”

Moving forward, Lee biggest goal is to focus on the quality of output and to elevate the level of the brand’s creative effectiveness in the region.

“We produce upwards of 20 campaigns per market per year, and sometimes this leads to a quantity or quality approach to our marketing. My biggest goal is to flip that mindset around,” he said. “The BTS Meal has definitely given us the confidence that a region-wide marketing campaign can indeed be successful. Local CMOs are now much more open to cross-market collaboration, so we are definitely planning for more to come in the future, and it will be my job to be the catalyst and coordinator for this.”

The aforementioned BTS campaign—which was launched in over 50 markets worldwide— generated so much chatter on social media that it caused the company’s social listening tools to slow. 

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