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Manos Spanos

Manos Spanos

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TRENDSETTERS: Danone’s Manos Spanos Discusses Brand Storytelling in the Age of AI

The Internationalist Trendsetters is written by Deborah Malone, founder of The Internationalist.

Manos Spanos, SVP and CMO of Brand Marketing for the Yogurt Business Unit at Danone North America, has been motivated throughout his career by the intersection of marketing, innovation, and technology.  He has been an early adopter of Artificial Intelligence (AI), algorithms and other technology tools that not only generate efficiencies and sustainable results, but also power content creation and execution.  


In his role at Danone, he has demonstrated that storytelling can thrive in today"s tech-first world.  He describes this as "an art-meets-science tango."  Manos Spanos also believes that storytelling is "where brands meet humans."  And he reminds us that "content is NOT about the STUFF that you MAKE, but the STORIES you TELL."

To put the importance of brand storytelling into context, he notes a few sobering statistics on content:

  • Globally, there are 640,000,000 posts per day through social networks, the media, and blogs.
  • 87% of branded content has no significant engagement, which means less than 100 interactions per post, based on a sample of 355 consumer packaged goods (CPG) brands in 127 countries through 730,429 branded posts.

Additionally, he stresses that audiences are becoming increasingly "chronically distracted" -- to the point that 92% of online ads are simply not noticed, and 64% of people find ads today either annoying or intrusive.  In fact, over the past five years, 90 of the top 100 brands have lost market share, while 62% have declining revenues.

So, what"s the solution?  Manos Spanos believes it is human intelligence working hand in hand with artificial intelligence.  But he emphasizes what really matters are two simple things: "Show up where your audience is and stand out in a way that will get you noticed."

He says, "Content creation is purposeful storytelling.  Because stories are what stay with our tribe long after we"re gone.  We work to build stories that shock and awe, tug at the heart and have a POV on today.  We do it all with a powerful brand lens to ensure that we"re stewarding our strategy and showing up as one voice everywhere we go."

He believes that content never takes a nap.  "It"s wide-awake, living, breathing, and ever-evolving.  There is no beginning and end to storytelling today… we"re always moving—creating, producing, deploying, testing, optimizing over and over again."  

To hear more from Manos Spanos, tune in to our Trendsetters podcast as he discusses the role of good, old storytelling in driving business results.   CLICK HERE.

In our conversation, we discuss the following:

  • What the intersection of marketing, innovation, and technology means to the role of marketers and brands.
  • What must marketers do to overcome the fact that a majority of people find ads today either annoying or intrusive?
  • How storytelling in a tech-first world is an "art means science tango."  
  • Danone"s clear set of beliefs on content strategy—illustrated through specific campaign examples.
  • How a company ethos that"s tied to purpose factors into working with brands.

Prior to Danone, Manos Spanos worked at PepsiCo where his last role was marketing VP of flavors and energy drinks. While as Pepsi, he developed game-changing marketing campaigns, and was named an Internationalist of the Year in 2015 for driving global equity growth for the Mountain Dew brand through a ground-breaking global content strategy that created a new style of flexible template for multinational brands in a 24/7 social media world. 

Born in Athens, Manos is an alumnus of Hartwick College of New York, with a bachelor"s degree in Management and an MBA in Marketing from the University of Miami.

The Internationalist was founded to help better understand the "reinvention of marketing" by connecting the people and ideas in international advertising and marketing.  Our Trendsetters eNewsletter lives at the heart of this Internationalist mission as it spotlights a person and an idea in international marketing.  Over the last decade, we have amassed hundreds of profiles of extraordinary individuals and their groundbreaking work on our website. 

We've learned that there's interest in hearing the voices of these marketers directly, which gave life or our TRENDSETTERS podcast, now part of the Success Made to Last Network on Blog Talk Radio. Started by an Executive Producer with a past marketing/branding career at Procter & Gamble, PepsiCo and General Mills, the network boasts nearly 1 million listens in the US.  

If you'd like to learn more about The Internationalist's Trendsetters podcast series, here's an introduction to the show.