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Dave Elzinga

Partner, Chicago

Supports leading companies to develop growth strategies, marketing organization and capabilities, brand positioning, and consumer insights


Dave is a partner in McKinsey’s Marketing & Sales Practice, with 30 years of experience in marketing, advertising, and brand-strategy development. His work with leading companies includes developing growth strategies, marketing organization and capabilities, brand positioning, and consumer insights.

As part of his work, Dave has developed the consumer decision journey (CDJ) knowledge initiative for McKinsey, in order to understand the fundamental shifts in decision making in a digital world and help marketers align with the changing CDJ. He has recently led the development of an online tool that enables clients to build a capability in CDJ by independently conducting analyses and driving them to tangible actions in about half the time and cost.

Dave is also responsible for creating the Customer Growth Indicator (CGI), a new metric that helps clients understand their growth prospects relative to competition in the next purchase cycle. This metric is based on data from more than 125,000 consumers in 30 categories on 350 brands, and has greater than 60 percent R-squared in explaining the variance in future growth.

His recent client work includes the following:

  • developing the consumer brand strategy—including defining the consumer target, industry positioning, and core consumer—for a green industry seeking to dramatically accelerate consumer adoption of environmentally friendly and energy-efficient technology
  • directing CDJ initiatives across industries and geographies to identify growth opportunities through new product and service innovations (smartphones, credit cards), new brand communications (travel, appliances), and budget reallocation to highest impact touchpoints (automotive insurance, beverages), leading to 5 to 10 percent performance improvement
  • leading global marketing excellence programs for multiple clients of more than $20 billion across industries—such as pharmaceuticals, consumer, and industrial goods—to upgrade capabilities across foundational marketing dimensions, such as customer insights, marketing planning, and brand positioning, resulting in a 3 to 10 percent business performance improvement
  • developing the global brand strategy for a $1.7 billion business facing new competition—including needs-based market segmentation and identifying drivers of choice in the category for five countries—which resulted in new brand positioning, go-to-market plans implemented worldwide, and the brand doubling in size during the subsequent 5 years

Prior to McKinsey, Dave held a variety of brand-management positions at the Quaker Oats Company, and he began his career in media planning at Grey Advertising in New York.

Published work

The elusiveness of customer loyalty: Winning the new battleground for marketing-led growth,” Marketing Tech, May 2018

Your Digital Consumer Is Cheating On You: How Brands Can Win In The Battle For Growth,”, September 2017

The new battleground for marketing led growth, McKinsey Quarterly, February 2017

The consumer decision journey, McKinsey Quarterly, June 2009

Better branding, McKinsey Quarterly, November 2003

Past experience

Quaker Oats Company
Director of marketing, beverages and snacks divisions


Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University

Northwestern University
BA, international economics and politics