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2021 West Coast CMO Summit

Former Facebook CMO Antonio Lucio shares his thoughts on being a purpose-driven marketer
June 2021

Antonio Lucio, former chief marketing officer at Facebook, calls himself a “late bloomer” to defining the purpose behind his professional career. In fact, he said in a townhall interview at Spencer Stuart’s eighth West Coast CMO Summit, Lucio was 44 years old and by all accounts very successful in his career when he realized he wasn’t living the life he wanted to live.

“I had to go through a lifestyle change … and I took the opportunity to actually find my purpose,” he said. “That takes time, several months if you're working at it the right way ... After all I went through, the headline was that I was driven by transformation, personally, in my family, in work, in the community. The statement was, ‘My role is to create environments where people working together can achieve extraordinary things while finding meaning and wellbeing.’”

It’s a message that Lucio carried with him as he continued his career as one of the most influential marketers in business. And after C-level positions at Pepsico, Visa, HP and, most recently, Facebook, Lucio once again took several months to recalibrate and find his purpose, and is now embarking on a career consulting with corporations on diversity and inclusion.

In a live, virtual interview with Spencer Stuart’s Tom Seclow and an ensuing Q&A with the live audience on Zoom, Lucio reflected on his four-decade career and how brands and marketers can connect their work to their sense of purpose. Below we look at five key takeaways from our conversation.

Between work obligations and simple day-to-day life, it can be easy to forget to slow down and ponder where you are and what you’re hoping to achieve. Lucio said that rather than putting personal purpose on the back burner, it’s imperative for marketers to put it front of mind.


“Purpose is the driving force of our life,” Lucio said. “It is the force that should guide the work that will define your legacy. It's what you want to be remembered by — not by the industry or the world, but actually by the people that care a lot about you. It's the impact you have in everything that you touch, and because it's about touching, it's about actions more than words or statements. And it is a guide, a lighthouse in the way that you make decisions.”

Of course, marketers are commonly leaders when it comes to defining brand purpose and corporate purpose for their organizations. Questions like What do we want to be? What are the things that we do well? What could we do better? are the kinds that marketers are uniquely trained to answer. However, Lucio said that from his personal experience and those of people he has worked with, it’s not as common for marketers to devote the time and effort and look inward for their purpose.

"What is the individual that I want to be relative to the one that I am today? What is it that I want to accomplish across the multiple dimensions of my life relative to where I am today?” Lucio said. “And then, going through that exercise, [the next step is] integrating it so that you have one purpose statement that actually is leveraged across the multiple dimensions of your life.”


When speaking with younger marketers, Lucio said he tries to impress upon them the importance of honing their skills, putting in the work to become really good at what they do.

The work you put in early in your career to improve at what you do will pay off with more career options down the line.

“Becoming a best-in-class marketer should be your priority, and purpose will unfold to you afterwards, because you will have choices,” Lucio said. “You really want to have choices. I am no fool. The reason that I have been able to do all this … is because I was able to build a very strong career, and it is easier that way. My point is, be aware that that is work that you need to do.”

Every company faces many questions about its values during its lifetime — whether that company is a century old like Pepsico or less than 20 years old like Facebook.

The question is, Lucio said, is your company living according to your values?

“Trust matters, whether you're talking about the Edelman Trust Index, or the link of trust to growth if you are in a competing category, “Lucio said. “Trust is nothing more than delivering your promise, whatever your promise is or corporate promise is. Are you living according to your values?"

Have a transformation mindset

In the audience Q&A portion of the townhall, several attendees asked about how to balance your personal sense of purpose with the purpose of the organization you work for.

As Lucio put it, “If you're a fireman, you run to the fire. You don't run away from the fire.” If your goal is to transform, he said, then you’re going to go somewhere where you believe you can make a transformational impact.

“The moment that you decide that you are no longer able to do what you need to do,” he said, “then that's the moment that you need to have a different type of conversation.”

When Lucio left Facebook in 2020, he did something he hadn’t done since he began his career some 40 years earlier: He took a break.

“When you’ve been working for 40 years and you’re a member of my generation, I would take it as a badge honor that I had never taken a break,” Lucio said. “Frankly, as I became more engaged with Millennials and Gen Z, both in my family and then at Facebook more broadly, I came to terms with the fact that I was wrong. I should have taken a couple of breaks to refresh myself.”


In early 2021, he emerged from his sabbatical with a renewed sense of what it meant to him to work on marketing transformation, and in particular on the importance of having diversity on your teams — diversity of backgrounds, opinions and expertise.

“If you believe in progress, if you believe in transformation, if you believe in the power of innovation, then you need a diversity of voices,” Lucio said. “That needs to be an integral part of your values. At one point in time, of course, a decision will need to be made. But what I tell people is that you need an environment where we have heavy and intense debate, which is what that diversity actually brings.”