Jeff Jones, after four years as Target Corp.’s top marketer, just got the notification of his career.
With a web post headlined “Jeff, your Uber is arriving now,” Uber Technologies Inc. announced Tuesday that it hired Jones for a newly created position as its president.
Uber founder and chief executive Travis Kalanick said the pioneering ride-sharing company needs to focus more heavily on marketing. It is coping with ultrafast growth — expected to climb to $2 billion in revenue this year from $500 million last year — greater scrutiny from regulators, challenges to its reputation and intensifying competition. On Tuesday, Alphabet Inc.’s Google unit announced it was starting a ride-sharing service in San Francisco, Uber’s hometown.
Jones will be responsible for Uber’s ride-sharing operations, marketing and customer support. Kalanick said in a statement that he and Ryan Graves, who has led Uber’s operations since its start in 2009, have realized in recent months that Uber’s marketing needs to be more deeply integrated with its operations in various cities. “It was clear we needed a real infusion of talent on that front,” Kalanick said. “So we went big.”
As Target’s chief marketing officer since 2012, Jones has been one of the most visible and best-known members of the company’s leadership team. He notably became the chief booster of company spirits after a data breach and other difficulties led to the ouster of Target’s chief executive in May 2014.
Several days after the shake-up, Jones candidly responded on the networking site LinkedIn to criticism of Target’s corporate culture and executive team. “In the coming days and weeks we will embrace the critiques of Target, whether it’s from outsiders or our own team, like an athletic team puts the negative press on the wall in the locker room,” Jones wrote.
Jones will work at Target through next Friday, the Minneapolis-based retailer said. He was not available for comment.
Brian Cornell, who became chief executive of Target in August 2014, issued a statement that strongly praised Jones. He cited the live music commercials during the last two Grammy Awards shows and last year’s holiday campaign, which unfolded like a serial and featured three children and Target’s mascot, Bullseye the dog, in a storybook land.
“These campaigns not only drove the business, but created a deep, emotional connection with our guests,” Cornell said. He added, “He’s been an important partner during my time at Target, and I, along with the entire team, wish him well in his future endeavors.”
Cornell said the company is already positioned with its plans for the year-end holiday season, the busiest shopping time of the year, and will look inside and outside for a new chief marketing officer.
Before Target, Jones, 48, was a partner at McKinney, a North Carolina-based advertising agency, and a senior marketing executive at Gap Inc.
Jones met Kalanick at the TED 2016 conference in Vancouver, where the pair started talking about how Uber could improve its reputation, Kalanick said in his statement.
“Since then we’ve discussed everything from profitability to brand love and how to differentiate our driver experience most effectively,” Kalanick said. “It’s super clear to me that Jeff understands scale, operational excellence, innovation and storytelling — and that he’s up for learning and testing his limits.”