Coke Shuffles Its Global Marketing Group

As Minnick Prepares Exit, Marketer Tweaks Reporting Lines

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CHICAGO (AdAge.com) -- In the wake of last week's announcement that its top marketer would leave the company, Coca-Cola Co. today dismantled its global marketing group and divided reporting lines. Strategy and innovation will now report to Chairman-CEO E. Neville Isdell and marketing to President-Chief Operating Officer Muhtar Kent.
Chairman-CEO E. Neville Isdell will oversee Coke's strategy and innovation group.
Chairman-CEO E. Neville Isdell will oversee Coke's strategy and innovation group.

The company revealed last week that Mary Minnick, exec VP-president of marketing, strategy and innovation, would leave at the end of February. The announcement set off a storm of speculation that her departure would stymie the marketer's recent innovation tear.

"We believe that the loss of Ms. Minnick's creativity and leadership may slow Coke's ability to innovate new products across beverage categories as Ms. Minnick was quick to get new ideas off the ground," Bonnie Herzog, Citigroup beverage analyst, wrote in a Jan. 18 note to investors. In a memo to employees, Mr. Isdell attempted to assure staffers that the transition would be seamless.

'Effective connection'
"As the health of our business continues to improve, the factors that necessitated the combining of marketing, strategy and innovation have evolved," wrote Mr. Isdell. "Muhtar and I agree that it makes absolute sense to continue our ongoing efforts to increase the impact and effectiveness of the global marketing community while preserving the benefits we have captured through the integration of the component parts of marketing, strategy and innovation. We believe that the processes, systems and routines established will ensure an effective connection between R&D and marketing, and that it is possible to structure the organization differently at this point."

Beginning March 1, Danny Strickland, senior VP-chief innovation and technical officer, and John Murphy, VP-strategic growth, will report to Mr. Isdell, Mr. Isdell said in the memo.

Meanwhile, Coke elevated Marc Mathieu to senior VP-brand marketing from senior VP-global core brands, adding responsibilities for noncarbonated brands -- including Dasani, Powerade and Far Coast -- to the carbonated soft-drink portfolio, which includes Coke, Sprite and Fanta. His direct reports will be Penny McIntyre, senior VP-noncarbonated beverages and new products; Abby Rodgers, VP-company brand strategy and communications; and Mark Moreland, VP-program management.

Mark Greatrex, who joined the marketer in April 2006 as senior VP-marketing communications will now report to Mr. Kent. Scott Uzzell, VP-global new business models, will report to Mr. Greatrex.

Agency shift on the way?
The memo states that Mr. Kent is considering "various alternatives" for structuring marketing, whcih is leading some observers to speculate agency assignments may also shift.

"It's too early to tell on what impact if anything changes will have on our partners," said a Coca-Cola spokesman, noting that Ms. Minnick was "very involved" in selecting Wieden & Kennedy, Amsterdam, as creative shop for global advertising.
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