Faster, stronger, better: How PepsiCo is reinventing insight

PepsiCo is taking a “systemic approach” to insight that positions it as a driving force within the business and enables it to continually learn and grow each year.


The way insight is positioned within organisations needs to be reinvented to keep up with the rapidly changing consumer landscape, which PepsiCo is looking to achieve by being faster, stronger and better, according to Tim Warner, vice-president of insights and analytics for Europe and Sub-Saharan Africa and global digitisation.

“Insight – and I mean that in its broadest sense; the capabilities, the process, the talent, the organisation, everything – needs to be reinvented,” he said, talking at an event held by the Market Research Society and Kantar this morning (21 March).

Given the pace of change and the fact consumers are always on and have more control, as well as the emergence of a “whole new breed of competitor”, he believes the sequential process once deployed by insight teams needs to be replaced by processes that allow for rapid experimentation and test-and-learn.

“We have three very simple but difficult-to-achieve goals,” he added. “One is to enable faster speed to market through the adoption of digital, tech-first, science-led tools and techniques that allow the organisation to move smarter and faster. Second is stronger, insight-led strategies and plans… that really radically elevate consumer empathy instead of us just being an organisation.”

The third goal is to drive better return from commercial investments. “That’s what we’re here to do: better integration of purpose and acceleration of growth.”

In many industries, many organisations, there’s a growing realisation that consumer-centricity is arguably the most important source of competitive advantage.

Tim Warner, PepsiCo

Warner was talking at the launch of a report by the Market Research Society and Kantar on creating growth and value through ‘intelligence capital’ and the fact investment in insight can deliver strong financial returns for businesses.

“In many industries, many organisations, there’s a growing realisation that consumer-centricity and marketplace responsiveness – whatever you want to call it – is arguably the most important source of competitive advantage and hence it has been elevated to the C-suite. It’s no longer a conversation that just sits in marketing; it’s a C-suite conversation,” he said.

READ MORE: The Future Marketing Organisation – Building a customer-centric business model

However, while there are examples of how companies are doing this, they are still relatively limited, because being able to elevate the insight function within an organisation is challenging.

“We believe the conversation about intelligence capital is fantastic and does warrant us being much bolder and more assertive about what insight does and how it does it,” he added.

Reinventing insight

To become faster, stronger and better, PepsiCo is taking a “very systemic approach” to insight that enables it to continually learn and grow each year. While Warner can see “pockets of greatness” it tends to be reliant on “one amazing person” or senior sponsor, which makes it hard to implement across a broad organisation with thousands of people working across different functions.

Everything PepsiCo is doing to reinvent insight can be simplified into four buckets: capability, transformative technology, talent and simplification.

When it comes to capability, the business started with the focus and scale of the insight function. Historically, it has always been focused on service, marketing, content, brand, design and innovation, which continue to be fundamental, but Warner added “we need to reinvent the capabilities that drive much stronger brand building” as well as having bigger conversations “around where we invest, where we put our resources, where we focus”.

At the other end of the spectrum insight needs to assert its role in creating brand experiences, communications and innovations that can be executed both online and offline, and in having the right pricing and promotions to support and enable that.

Transformative tech has also driven real change, Warner said, as it touches everything from the capabilities and tools it works with to the culture.

For example, PepsiCo is building an enterprise-wide digital insight platform, which he describes as “ambitious but critical” in order to put insights at associates fingertips no matter where they are in the world, so they can spot changes much earlier and respond faster.


PepsiCo has also been looking to network its data, which is something Warner believes the whole industry needs to improve. “Because at the moment it’s criminal how we invest in consumer learning but then typically we then throw that away. We need a way to network and connect all of that so we can not only be smarter and faster out of the gate but we can surface it [when needed],” he added.

“The insights are there, you just can’t see them because we don’t have the ability – believe it or not – to connect within different disparate data sources.”

Given that what’s expected of the insight function is so different today compared to a decade ago, PepsiCo is also looking at how best to deploy talent and create the right culture.

It is also thinking differently about specific roles. “In the insight world, and certainly in PepsiCo, most people have historically been generalists, they’ve had to spend their time designing capabilities, executing them [and also being] amazing business partners. First of all, it’s very difficult to find people who can do all those things amazingly, plus even if you have that underlying skill, which is rare, it’s a distraction. You can’t focus.”

Instead PepsiCo now ensures people are “laser-focused” on each specific aspect. “Business partners should be spending 95% of their time in front of the business, doing what matters and not 60% of their time below the water line figuring out how we do it and then executing it,” he added.

Lastly, PepsiCo is looking to simplify insights and maximise the the value of investments made based on intelligence to help build credibility.

“[It’s important to put] discipline and transparency around where you invest, how you invest, how much you invest, [but also] ensure the insight that comes from that investment is actually activated in the business. There are too many examples where the insight was very strong but did we really leverage that insight? No, because no one had the discipline to [ask] where should the insights land? It’s an end-to-end process.”