After a blip as president of J.C. Penney, Michael Francis, the marketing guru who helped transform Target into a major retail force, is taking his talents to Hollywood.
DreamWorks Animation, the studio that gave movie audiences "Kung Fu Panda" and "Shrek," announced Monday that Francis is its newly created chief global brand officer.
"Michael is among the world's top brand strategists whose distinguished career in successfully growing brands around the world is unparalleled," said DreamWorks CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg and Chief Operating Officer Ann Daly in a joint statement Monday.
In his new position, Francis, 50, will be responsible for developing DreamWorks' worldwide reach both with its animation productions and family entertainment properties, including theme parks.
"DreamWorks has been working to diversify its business, from DreamWorks in China to TV content to consumer products, and I'll help build the connective tissue to raise their profile further and contribute to the business," Francis said in an interview. "I worked with DreamWorks when I was at Target."
The DreamWorks assignment comes after a bit of a bumpy career ride for Francis, who left Target as chief marketing officer in October 2011 to become president of J.C. Penney as it undertook a dramatic new business strategy to eliminate sales bonanzas in favor of low everyday prices. But Francis left after eight months as consumers were lukewarm to the new approach and sales lagged.
"It was short. I have no regrets. It didn't work out the way I hoped," said Francis, who joined Marshall Field's as an executive trainee in 1985 and joined Target in 1999. "But I learned there what I wanted to do next. This is a brand new industry."
Those who've worked with Francis have confidence that he can deliver for DreamWorks.
"Michael's a good pick to do any kind of branding," said Tom Nowak, president of the advertising agency Peterson Milla Hooks, which was one of Target's leading creative agency's while Francis was at the Minneapolis-based retailer. "He's a great marketer but a very creative brand thinker."
At Target, relationships were forged with brand names such as Missoni, Liberty of London and William Rast.
"He wrote the book on partnerships," Nowack said.
Most recently Francis, who still lives in the Twin Cities with his family, has been working as a consultant for Gap, the San Francisco-based retailer, and has some matters there to tidy up. In the meantime, he will work part time at DreamWorks and join the company full time in February.
Besides "Shrek" and "Kung Fu Panda," DreamWorks' movies list includes "Puss in Boots," "Madagascar" and "How to Train Your Dragon." DreamWorks also holds the titles of "Casper the Friendly Ghost," "Lassie," "George of the Jungle" and the Christmas classics "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer," "Frosty the Snowman" and "Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town."
David Phelps • 612-673-7269