- Joy Howard is stepping down as chief marketing officer of Lyft to join Dashlane in the same position, according to a press release around a fresh round of funding for the digital identity management startup. Howard, who joined Lyft in October ahead of the ride-hailing company's initial public offering, will complete her transition to Dashlane in August, the release said.
- With Howard departing, Lyft will divide up CMO duties between two newly formed roles, VP of marketing operations and VP of brand, that will report directly to Co-founder and President John Zimmer, The Drum reported. Sources told The Drum that Zimmer is taking a more hands-on approach to growing Lyft's brand as part of the shake-up.
- Lyft has filled both of the new appointments with digital marketers, per The Drum. Heather Freeland, a former Facebook global marketing executive, has been named VP of marketing operations; Jabari Hearn, previously of Google, will step up as VP of Brand.
Companies often tweak their management structures and operations in the transition to trading on the public markets. Lyft losing Howard just eight months into her chief marketing stint and so soon after its IPO signals potentially more significant growing pains impacting the ride-hailer. Howard, who built a reputation on her work with major brands like Patagonia and Sonos, was brought on to Lyft for her "mission-driven approach to scaling brands," COO John McNeill said around her hiring in October. She joined the then-startup after a significant round of funding, replacing Melissa Waters, who had been at the company for two years.
But Lyft's eventual IPO in early March has been viewed as rocky at best, casting a pallor over an IPO season that's since seen other hot companies, like Pinterest and chief rival Uber, make muted public debuts. As noted in The Drum, Lyft is grappling with a class action lawsuit that alleges it provided inaccurate and misleading information to investors to score their dollars in the lead-up to its IPO filing. Earlier this month, Lyft released its first earnings results as a publicly traded company, reporting more than $1 billion in losses for Q1 2019.
With broader existential headaches continuing to crop up, it's possible that Lyft's marketing structure needed a more comprehensive overhaul. The Drum's sources indicating that Zimmer will be more actively guiding the direction of the brand is an interesting development, suggesting that marketing could be a top priority from company leadership in their turnaround efforts.
Lyft has always had a smaller market footprint than Uber, but also considerably less corporate baggage and a generally cleaner image with consumers. That might not be enough of a differentiator now that Lyft is subject to greater financial pressure from the public markets and the demand to stay innovative as its business diversifies into other areas of mobility services.
Howard's departure is also another indication of the precarious place the CMO position finds itself in. The average tenure for CMOs frequently fluctuates, but in recent years has generally hovered in the range of 42 to 44 months — a length of time far shorter than other key appointments in the C-suite. Eight months still falls far short of those benchmarks, and Lyft dismantling the CMO spot to split duties between two new roles points to a fresh direction for the brand's marketing going forward. Other companies, including Coca-Cola and Hyatt have moved to sunset their CMO or equivalent roles in favor of executive titles centered around growth, digital technology and data.