December 1, 2020

Burberry Global CIO Mark McClennon: Leveraging Technology and Data to Create Luxurious Digital Experiences

Burberry Global CIO Mark McClennon: Leveraging Technology and Data to Create Luxurious Digital Experiences

The Brilliant and Beautiful: Creating Luxury Digital Experiences with Burberry Global CIO Mark McClennon explores the three-decade career path that led Mark to his current position, the importance of being passionate about the people you work with and your customers, how data and technology are transforming luxury brands, and more.

In this week’s episode of the Inspired Execution podcast, DataStax Chairman and CEO Chet Kapoor sits down with Mark McClennon, Global CIO of Burberry.

Join Chet and Mark as they discuss:

  • The journey Mark took to get to Burberry, which included a 29-year stint at Unilever
  • How Mark started working in canned fish at Unilever and ended up in luxury retail, and how the variety of his experience impacts his thinking as CIO
  • Why leaders need to be passionate about working with people
  • How it’s much easier to go through hurdles when you have a team of good people around you vs. are going about it on your own
  • How the digital age is transforming the shopping experience and the role data plays in the process
  • How Burberry is evolving in the COVID-19 era

After nearly three decades across many units at Unilever, Mark became the Global CIO of Burberry. It seems like that’s a pretty straightforward, planned out career trajectory. But Mark actually ended up where he is today simply by following his passion.

 “I think one of the mistakes people make sometimes is to try and make it sound like it's a very structured, planned out career—that 30 years ago I decided on this path and this role. To be honest, nothing could be further from the truth. For me, it was much more about just following my passion and always wanting to do a little bit more, pushing myself to try new things.”

For Mark, succeeding in the C-suite starts with having an eclectic perspective that enables you to see things from many different points of view.

“I do find lots of CIOs have a similar kind of slightly random looking career path where you've done lots of different business roles, different countries, different cultures, and I think it gives you a real value to impart to a business. Because you can walk around a problem. You don't just see it from one perspective of technology. You can see it from a customer consumer point of view, you can see it from a commercial point of view, et cetera.”

Mark believes that in order for organizations to win in today’s landscape, they need to be customer-obsessed.

“To actually sit in a hut in rural India, talking to consumers about how they wash the dishes, or clean teeth, or where do they get a sense of pride from, what things are special to them, those things are life changing for me, Chet. It just gives you an insight into people, and what makes people tick, that you can take back to craft better products, better experiences, to orient a team better.”

Mark also shares insights into his business philosophy and reiterates the importance of being passionate about people.

“In my eyes, business is a contact sport. One of the things that's always been clear to me is to get things done in business, you've got to have a passion for people.” 

As technology continues to evolve, luxury brands are facing an entirely new kind of customer journey.

“It's no longer about those separate experiences I spoke about before. It's about bringing all of those together, not as one-offs, but as something that's constant. It's something that's more of a journey and it's something that's sort of a deeper relationship.”

Listen to this episode of Inspired Execution to learn more about what Burberry is doing to blend virtual and physical experiences together, how Burberry is working on creating virtual showrooms, the power of having strong relationships with partners, why Mark advises you to stop worrying about your career, and more.

The story behind “Inspired Execution”

Interested in learning more about the genesis of the Inspired Execution podcast?

Remember to listen to previous episodes of Inspired Execution with:

Also, check out Episode 0 to hear DataStax Chairman and CEO Chet Kapoor speak to what inspired the series and what listeners can expect from his interviews with CIOs and tech leaders from the world’s top enterprises.

The podcast series is available on, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, and Spotify.


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