ANA 2008

Despite a Bubbly Business, Coke CMO Vows Not to Relax

Joe Tripodi Claims Reports of Soda's Demise Are 'Greatly Exaggerated'

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ORLANDO, Fla. (AdAge.com) -- Coca-Cola has made a big comeback as of late. The company said this week that profits were up 14%, while sales grew by 9% during the third quarter. The beverage giant has reinvigorated its soft-drink portfolio with the introduction of Coke Zero, and it has rethought its approach to marketing, both internally and within its agency structure. Though business is looking good, Joe Tripodi, chief marketing officer-commercial officer, is prepared to sit back and relax.
Joe Tripodi
Joe Tripodi Credit: Art Beaulieu

"When you start believing your own bullshit, that is the death knell. It's absolutely critical that you get grounded in reality," he said at the Association of National Advertisers' annual conference here today. "We had a very good quarter [but] things will always change." One area Mr. Tripodi said the company is improving on is agency relationships.

Making agencies a partner as opposed to a vendor is key. "Coke has, probably, a long history of, probably, a short attention span with a lot of agencies," he said. "We're trying to be a better partner to our agencies."

Internally, Coca-Cola is focused on ensuring quality marketing messages across its massive global business. Mr. Tripodi said that if people around the world are creating their own messages, minimum quality standards become difficult to meet.

"Every brand manager in every country doesn't have the right to go produce advertising for the country. ... There needs to be a good-taste test," he said. "But it's not about increased centralization, it's about enhanced collaboration. [There needs to be] more transparency into what's going on all around the world."

For example, the company has unified its various cause and service initiatives under the banner "Live Positively." Also, for its biggest effort ever behind the 2008 Olympics, global marketing messages and programs were created and made available for use to markets around the world.

Mr. Tripodi also lauded Coke Zero, one of the most successful launches in the company's history. Last year, the company sold nearly 450 million cases of Coke Zero globally, creating new excitement around its soft-drink portfolio.

"I believe stories of sparkling [beverages'] demise have been greatly exaggerated," he said. "Coke Zero has a really nice space in North America with young men, which is a direct target."

Looking ahead, Mr. Tripodi said it will be important to continue to invest, even given the state of the economy. "Don't jump," he said. "Don't let urgent overwhelm important."
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