Pepsi Taps 3M's Mauro Porcini for New Chief Design Officer Role

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PepsiCo has tapped Mauro Porcini, 3M's longtime design guru, as its first chief design officer.

Mr. Porcini will be charged with creating a culture of design at PepsiCo as well as globally managing design for a variety of key food and beverage brands. His reach will extend from package design to advertising, industrial design and digital experiences. He will report to Brad Jakeman, global beverage group president.

Mauro Porcini
Mauro Porcini

"We firmly believe design and design thinking is a significant vector of innovation and therefore growth," Mr. Jakeman said in an interview with Ad Age. "I was looking for somebody who could not only orchestrate amazing design but someone who could build a design culture within an organization. Mauro, through all of his accomplishments doing that at 3M, rose to the top as the perfect candidate."

Mr. Porcini, a 37-year-old Italian, has spent the last decade at 3M, the technology and materials giant. He studied design at the University Politecnico in Milan, as well as the National College of Art and Design in Dublin. As a young gun, he created goods at Philips, the health-care and lighting company, and for his own design firm Wisemad SrL. In 2002, he joined 3M as a design manager in Europe, where he was charged with building a design center in Milan. He rose through the ranks, getting the attention of the straight-laced 3M brass by demonstrating how innovative, imaginative design could impact the bottom line. Eventually he became chief design officer and just last fall opened a new design center in St. Paul, Minn. where 3M is headquartered.

The hiring of Mr. Porcini is an outgrowth of PepsiCo's recommitment to its top global brands, Mr. Jakeman said. Earlier this year, the company announced it would spend an additional $500 million to $600 million to market its brands, with a focus on a dozen top performers. The company has also recently created global groups, in an attempt to leverage synergies and provide a more cohesive global vision for its brands.

At PepsiCo, Mr. Porcini will lead packaging efforts and have a key role in creating design language for the company's extensive portfolio. He'll focus on those top dozen brands, which include Pepsi, Lay's, Gatorade, Quaker, Tropicana, Lipton, Sierra Mist, Doritos, Cheetos, Mtn Dew, SunChips and Mirinda. Mr. Porcini is expected to work closely with the marketing and advertising teams as well as those execs responsible for various digital experiences and touch points. He will also be involved with ventures such as masterminding cooler vending machine and delivery truck designs.

In the coming months, Mr. Porcini will begin building out his team and creating what Mr. Jakeman calls a "center of excellence" for design. At the moment, PepsiCo doesn't have anything resembling a design center of the 3M variety. Over time and as Mr. Porcini's team expands, it will likely make sense for that team to have some sort of physical space, Mr. Jakeman allows.

"I have my own ideas, but I have been impatiently waiting for Mauro to join us, so he could bring his ideas and thinking and experience to how we do it here," Mr. Jakeman said. Mr. Porcini is slated to begin work in early July, though he will commute from his home in St. Paul initially.

Mr. Jakeman said Mr. Porcini has a unique combination of idealism and practicality. "A lot of people I met with were very big design thinkers, as Mauro is. He is extremely conceptual and extremely forward looking, and I found that to be very inspiring," Mr. Jakeman said. "But he also is profoundly practical. He wasn't in any way daunted by coming in to build something. It's an unusual balance."

An installation of 3M products, many designed by Mauro Porcini and his team, during Milan Design Week 2011.
An installation of 3M products, many designed by Mauro Porcini and his team, during Milan Design Week 2011.

Indeed, during his time at 3M, Mr. Porcini created award-winning tape dispensers and a nifty "fur fighter." But he also tackled more ambitious projects like a sleek pocket projector and an architectural hoop light, the last of which debuted at last year's Milan Furniture Fair.

Given that PepsiCo deals in aluminum cans, PET bottles and plastic bags as well as coolers and vending machines, Mr. Jakeman said Mr. Porcini's range was appealing. "I was struck by the fact that he really believes design should pervade every aspect of consumers' lives," he said. "Nothing was too small or mundane to bring a design ethos to."

First on Mr. Porcini's to-do list? Brand Pepsi, which recently established a new global positioning and launched its "Live for Now" campaign.

Pepsi's design efforts have been much dissected in recent years. In 2008 it introduced a new globe logo and began updating packaging. That move highlighted for many one of the key differences between Pepsi and its rival Coke. Coke's logo has undergone changes in its 126 years, but the giant has largely stuck to its brand equities: the color red and a scripted font. By contrast, little has been sacred at Pepsi.

Mr. Jakeman is now looking to impose a design framework but without eliminating Pepsi's trademark variability. He has cited MTV, Starbucks and Google as brands that regularly fiddle with their logo size, design and color. The difference between them and Pepsi is that those brands have operated within a system of "strategic variance," Mr. Jakeman said.

Under Mr. Porcini's guidance, Pepsi will embrace that system and look to build on brand equities. For example: the idea of red and blue divided by white -- imagine a guitar or the Statue of Liberty swathed in red, white and blue mimicking Pepsi's logo.

"We're really going to lean heavily on this now, take that strategy of strategic variance, and expand and articulate it across all consumer experiences for Pepsi," Mr. Jakeman said.

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