Corner Office Shifts: MEC appoints new CMO

Plus, Montreal jeweller Birks Group eliminates top marketing role, and TextNow looks south for chief growth officer.
Corner Office

MEC finds it next CMO

Two months after being named interim marketing leader, Charmaine Claasens has been appointed Mountain Equipment Co-op’s new CMO. She replaces Anne Donohoe, who exited the Vancouver-based outdoor goods retailer last October after nearly seven years in the role.

Classens has ownership of marketing strategy, brand experience and social impact, omnichannel visual display and merchandising, communications and PR, digital marketing, CRM and loyalty marketing, according to a statement sent to strategy. She arrived at MEC in 2018 to serve as director of marketing.

Classens hails from South Africa and was previously executive head of marketing for The Foschini Retail Group, a Cape Town-based retail conglomerate. Throughout her career, she has worked on strategic brand partnerships with brands including Nike, Adidas, New Balance, Converse and Reebok, which MEC said would be part of her priorities as CMO.

Lanita Layton departs Birks Group

The former VP and chief omnichannel sales and marketing officer departed the Montreal-based jewellery company last month – less than one year after having been appointed to the role.

In a statement provided to strategy, Birks said Layton’s departure is the result of “restructuring,” but did not elaborate, saying only that the position no longer exists. Instead, marketing is being led by Katie Reusch, director of omni-channel marketing and communications.

Layton arrived last November, taking on bigger duties under a new role that brought together marketing and sales. At the time, the company said this would allow for “cohesiveness in an omni-channel culture and a seamless experience for the customer, by looking at the business from all angles.”

During its 2020 fiscal year, which ended March 30 – ahead of the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic – Birks reported net sales of $169.4 million, or 12.2% more than in fiscal 2019. The company also completed major renovations at its flagship stores in Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver, but shortly afterwards had to temporarily close all of its stores due to lockdown measures.

Canada’s TextNow looks to U.S. for chief growth officer

TextNow, a mobile app founded in Canada that offers free cellular and WiFi-enabled phone service, has named Ken Willner as chief growth officer.

Willner, most recently CEO of mobile content marketing company Zumobi, will lead marketing with a focus on “accelerating customer acquisition and raising brand awareness, while continuing to drive monetization” of the app, according to a press release. He will be based in the U.S., though TextNow is headquartered in Waterloo, Ontario, and has a workforce that is roughly 75% Canadian, according to the company.

Before Zumobi, Willner was VP of advertising and media at AT&T Wireless.