Coca-Cola’s global boss of sparkling brands on marketing culture, digital and justifying spending

At the global launch of Coca-Cola’s campaign celebrating 100 years of its contour bottle in Atlanta, Marketing Week caught up with Katie Bayne, senior vice president of sparkling brands at Coca-Cola.

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Bayne, a former president for its brands in North America, has global responsibility for Coca-Cola’s marketing, portfolio strategy and innovation for sparkling brands. We talked to her about the soft drink giant’s global approach to marketing, the influence of digital and why the bottle is key for health concerns surrounding sugary drinks.

Q. The Coke Bottle 100 activity is a global campaign running in 140 countries – What are some of the key strategic reasons behind Coca-Cola moving towards this approach to marketing?

Katie Bayne: We found we had six markets working on the same holiday campaign. We had ten launches in summer, six cricket programmes, 25 FIFA activations and it didn’t make any sense.

Rather than that, part of the goal from having a strong global centre and then very strong business units is to find those things we should be doing together and allowing for the breathing room for the brand to be relevant locally.

Q. Does this global approach affect the culture of the company?

Katie Bayne: It’s not about a ‘command and control’ from the centre, it’s about getting out and interacting with the business units that have great ideas and moving ideas around. With those that are having trouble it’s about jumping in with hands to help not hands to punish.
That is a big part of global business today, making sure you are letting the businesses in the local regions to run as best as they can and enabling them to run faster.

Q. You spoke at the launch event about Coca-Cola campaigns having a ‘digital backbone’ – how much investment is the brand making in digital compared to traditional channels such as TV?

Katie Bayne: It requires continued investment. We will have two full days discussion at Mobile World Congress with the top marketing leaders from around the globe only on social and digital. Where we are, what our vision is, what are we going to need to get to and what are we going to need to do to get there

Q. Does Coca-Cola have to justify spend in marketing?

Katie Bayne: There is certainly a lot of pressure but we look at it from both sides, there’s definitely an art to marketing but there is a science and we have invested in the science side.

So when we want to advance we can because of increased information sources. You will see us in market [in the US] and we’ll go and invest three times as much in Coke Zero to see what happens. We’ll read it and watch it, and it’s a key part of our knowledge and insights.

Marketing science analysts distil everything and it allows us to have that conversation with our operating community in our company to say this is a good investment and it will pay out at this time.

Q. At the launch you said that the bottle would propel Coca-Cola into the future – how and why?

Katie Bayne: We would rather have more people drinking every day, and a little bit less at a time than fewer people drinking tonnes, because our business was designed for everyone to enjoy it. Packs that were designed for sharing, people were drinking on their own so this presents coke at 100 calories in a great way.

Q. Do health concerns come into play when you run marketing campaigns?

Katie Bayne: They do in terms of our commitment to choice. The bottle is available in Diet and Zero for a reason and in many markets the point of sale will have all three bottle on it. As long as we offer choice and clarity on calories that is the one thing we can do to educate people in making the best choices.

Q. How much is Coca-Cola influenced by ad technology?

Katie Bayne: As much as we have great partners who highlight some of the advancements and possibilities for our brands we also have strong specialists in the digital world. We are not only working more closely with all the digital experts outside our company but we have hired many into our company. We put an expert in this space in all of the key markets that are the hotbeds of growth for our investment and consumer reaction to our digital infrastructure.

Q. What advice would you give other big brand marketers?

Katie Bayne: I see brands today that have a rich history becoming trendy and attaching to trendy things that aren’t really authentic to the brand.

Consumers see through that really quickly, we have lost our way in that at times but this campaign shows that we do understand where the brand is coming from.

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