J&J Taps Coca-Cola Veteran Alison Lewis as Consumer CMO

New Role Is Latest in Series of Outside Hires for Unit Rocked by Recalls

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Alison Lewis
Alison Lewis

Alison Lewis, Coca-Cola's head marketer in North America, is heading to Johnson & Johnson as the first-ever global chief marketing officer of its consumer companies, reporting to Worldwide Chairman Lynn Pendergrass, another outsider who recently came to a unit long headed by J&J veterans.

Ms. Lewis is still wrapping up her duties as VP-strategic marketing at Coca-Cola's North America Group through the end of this month, where she oversees more than $600 million in U.S. ad spending. At J&J, she takes on a global role in which the consumer unit accounted for more than $750 million of the company's $887 million in measured media in the U.S. alone last year, per Kantar Media.

Ms. Lewis doesn't replace J&J's top global corporate marketers -- VP Global Corporate Affairs Michael Sneed and Worldwide VP Global Marketing Group Kim Kadlec. They continue in their roles overseeing corporate marketing efforts, which include J&J's pharmaceutical and medical device businesses, which are much bigger than the consumer group but also spend far less on advertising. Globally, J&J spent $2.3 billion in advertising across its divisions last year.

A draft of an announcement on the hire by Ms. Pendergrass said Ms. Lewis will oversee the four global franchises -- consumer health/nutrutionals, beauty, baby care and over-the-counter drugs -- and a new marketing-services function for the group.

"Bringing these groups under a single leader enables us to build repeatable, end-to-end, global business models and innovation pipelines for our brands, focusing investment more effectively and efficiently," the announcement says. "It will also allow us to leverage successful digital and professional models globally and to build and employ more effective marketing-analytics capabilities in support of our brands and global franchises."

J&J's consumer business, which includes such household names as Johnson's Baby products, Tylenol, Neutrogena, Aveeno, Listerine, Splenda, Band-Aid and Zyrtec, has been shaken in recent years by a series of product recalls that began in late 2009. Manufacturing fixes for over-the-counter drugs under a consent decree with the Food and Drug Adminsitration are still in the works. It also had struggled some in recent years with share losses, though results have improved lately, with sales up 2.6% in the 12 weeks ended Sept. 28, according to Nielsen data from Deutsche Bank, vs. only 0.6% for the full 52 weeks.

The hiring of Ms. Lewis is the latest in a series of moves that has brought three new female executives from outside to oversee the consumer companies. Ms. Pendergrass, a former Hewlett-Packard executive, was named worldwide chairman of J&J's consumer segment in August, replacing Jesse Wu, a longtime J&J executive who became chairman of J&J China. She in turn reports to Sandra Peterson, group worldwide chairman, who came to J&J in December from Bayer.

"We're looking to catalyze our global growth strategy for our consumer business and the CMO role, and Alison in that role, will allow us to better anticipate our consumers' needs and look for solutions," said J&J spokeswoman Sandra Pound.

In an interview, Ms. Lewis declined to say what her priorities would be in the new post, since she's yet to start. But she's developed a reputation as a champion of bringing digital and social media into the mix, addressing those issues at a digital marketing event last year at Procter & Gamble Co., now a rival, and in a presentation at last year's Association of National Advertisers Masters of Marketing event. On her watch, Coke has had such Super Bowl campaigns as last year's Polar Bowl and this year's choose-your-own adventure series of ads.

"All marketers are dealing with the reality of digital marketing being an important part of their overall marketing mix," Ms. Lewis said. "It's obviously a significant time of change, with your smart phone or tablet starting to become that first screen."

But she said it's become the age of "and," where it's "television and social and how do you make those things work together, where it's consumer and shopper marketing, driving brand health and taking that all the way down to the shelf for purchase, investing in your brand and delivering return on investment at the same time."

She's been with Coca-Cola more than 18 years, formerly heading the Odwalla unit, where she managed around 800 employees. She's also been senior VP-commercial and franchise operations, head of integrated marketing, VP-marketing of Canada and senior brand manager for Diet Coke. She began her career with six years in brand management roles at Kraft Foods in Canada.

"Opportunities like this don't come around very often," Ms. Lewis said of her decision to move from Coca-Cola to J&J, which she said "has amazing iconic brands, a commitment to innovation and growth and openness to change."

Contributing: Natalie Zmuda

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