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Mayor Lightfoot Announces Michael Fassnacht to Serve as Chicago Chief Marketing Officer

Advertising and marketing veteran steps up as CMO to lead coordinated marketing, branding and business development strategy to elevate perceptions and stimulate local economy

CHICAGO—Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot and World Business Chicago (WBC) Vice Chair Mellody Hobson today announced that WBC will name Michael Fassnacht as the Chicago Chief Marketing Officer (CMO). Working alongside City agencies and its public and private partners, the CMO will create a unified, citywide marketing, branding and business development strategy to elevate perceptions of Chicago as an attractive and viable place to travel to, live, and do business.

Fassnacht has already worked alongside the Mayor’s Office to provide assistance on some essential marketing and digital programs to ensure relevant communication for residents during the COVID-19 crisis. Among these projects, Fassnacht was the mastermind of the campaign “Stay Home. Save Lives” and the new “We Are Not Playing” initiative, featuring a unique partnership with professional sports teams in Chicago.

“To truly compete for the resources and investments our communities need to grow and thrive, Chicago needs a coherent brand that reflects the narrative of our city and represents the diverse perspectives of residents from all our 77 community areas,” said Mayor Lightfoot. “That is why I am proud that Michael Fassnacht will be appointed as our first-ever CMO. He is an industry veteran who has proven his commitment time and again to helping advocate for Chicago’s success. As the City faces unprecedented challenges due to the COVID-19 crisis, we are fortunate to have Michael’s leadership as we seek to engage our communities as we write our next chapter in our recovery efforts.”

The CMO function will ensure that all marketing, branding, and business development activities for the city are aligned with Mayor Lightfoot’s economic growth plan focused on inclusive growth across Chicago’s communities. One of Fassnacht’s key responsibilities will be to develop a narrative for its recovery COVID-19—which will call for major efforts to repair economic losses, unemployment setbacks, and stagnant growth. The CMO will create a marketing and business development strategy that addresses these challenges, while fulfilling the administration’s focus on elevating the city’s narrative as an attractive place to live, work, raise a family, visit, and start or expand a company.

“I am honored to be appointed by the Mayor to take on this role with World Business Chicago and such a critical time for our city,” said Fassnacht. “For more than14 years, Chicago has been a great place to live, work, and raise a family as I built my career in marketing and building brands.  While we are currently in a very challenging situation, I can think of no better place than Chicago to be tasked with building up the city’s brand in a way that reflects the diversity and vibrancy of every Chicago community. The current crises has shown that a successful outreach to all residents in our 77 neighborhoods is essential. We will get through this, together.”

Fassnacht has been a recurring figure in Chicago’s civic community and he has worked to support inclusive growth across all parts of the city. He has led critical pro-bono work for the rebranding of the Chicago Public Library and its foundation, the city’s Amazon HQ2 pitch, and most recently for the city’s Census 2020 activites. Additionally, he has been involved as a board member with: Marwen, World Business Chicago, and the Civic Consulting Alliance; while providing counsel to P33, the Joyce Foundation and the Chicago Prize by the Pritzker/Traubert Foundation.

“The new position of Chief Marketing Officer creates an array of exciting possibilities for telling Chicago’s story across industries, regions, and communities,” said Mellody Hobson, Vice Chair of World Business Chicago. “I could not be more enthusiastic that Michael Fassnacht will be taking on this role. He brings a wealth of experience and accomplishment that is tailor-made for our city as we work to expand inclusive growth, elevate our economy, and drive our city to ever greater heights.”

The CMO will work alongside city departments as well as partner organizations, including World Business Chicago and Choose Chicago, to coordinate marketing, branding, and business development at every level of the city’s operations and industries. The CMO will develop a strategic approach for all key constituents for the city’s brand narrative: Chicago residents, Tourism, Corporations, and Talent.  These efforts will include highlighting Chicago’s unparalleled transportation connectivity, to its world-class technology and innovation institutions, its infrastructure and amenities, and academic programs offered in every community.

“I am thrilled that the City is bringing on a new CMO to help the business community and everyone in Chicago to tell the city’s amazing story in an even more integrated and comprehensive way,” said David Casper, U.S. Chief Executive Officer, BMO Financial Group. “Michael and I have worked together on the board of one of the greatest Chicago’s institution, the Chicago Public Library and its foundation. That’s why I am confident that Michael is the right leader for this challenge, especially in this time of crises that challenges all of us as leaders and citizens of Chicago.”

Prior to his role as CMO, Fassnacht served more than 10 years as CEO at one of the city’s oldest and most successful advertising agencies, Foote Cone & Belding (FCB). He led his agency to unprecedented international creative recognition and strong above industry topline growth over his tenure.  Before then, he was a successful start-up entrepreneur in Silicon Valley, and over his long career he has been recognized as a global expert in building and marketing brands.

“Chicago is a world class restaurant city,” said Sam Toia, President and CEO of the Illinois Restaurant Association. “This exciting addition of talent and leadership will expand opportunities to share with the world the unmatched cuisine at our restaurants across all 77 neighborhoods. This storytelling piece will be critical as restaurants re-open in the weeks ahead.”

The CMO announcement builds on Mayor Lightfoot’s economic development commitment to drive inclusive, transformative growth by leveraging the inherent qualities and strength of Chicago’s neighborhoods, including and beyond downtown. Fassnacht will assume duties of the CMO position this month pending WBC board approval, after contributing previously on multiple marketing initiatives since early March.  Fassnacht will earn a salary of $1 for the first year of his tenure.

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