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Women to Watch 2007

Katie Bayne

Coca-Cola North America

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NEXT: Julie Mulholland

Among the charges for Katie Bayne, Coca-Cola North America's newly installed chief marketing officer, is to help make 120-year-old Coca-Cola Co. a more nimble marketer.

Katie Bayne, chief marketing officer, Coca-Cola North America


Ms. Bayne was handed the CMO reins in April following the domestic unit's restructuring. She will run what she calls its in-house "strategic marketing shop" as partner to three category general managers. Paramount to Coca-Cola's future is the turnaround of the flagship cola business (repositioned under sparkling beverages). At the same time, it must apply lessons from the global system to the fast-growing still and emerging brand portfolios.

Her challenge includes breaking long-held cultural biases in how Coke's brands go to market, Ms Bayne says, adding, "There are so many amazing things going on around the world that we're not doing here."

Born in Perth, Australia, to a copper-mining company CEO father and artist mother, Ms. Bayne, 40, seems bred for agility. Dinner-table talk while she was growing up ranged from school to labor union strikes, governmental protection to the arts.

Those early discussions were instructive during a shipping strike that held hostage the equipment Ms. Bayne was about to roll out to 115,000 Australian stores. After spending weeks in the shipping-union office, she helped make Coke's boat one of the first to reach the docks after a settlement.

A self-confessed "Diet Coke girl" who as a 13-year-old sporting braces taped herself singing the "Just for the taste of it" jingle, Ms. Bayne joined Coca-Cola out of Duke University's MBA program in 1989 as an assistant brand manager. She progressed through a series of marketing posts in Atlanta, Los Angeles and Sydney.

In her most recent post as senior VP for Coca-Cola brands, Ms. Bayne realized the benefits of shifting gears. While presenting a marketing plan for Coke at a bottler meeting two years ago, she admits she robotically "regurgitated" facts about Coke being the No. 1 brand and the most-loved brand in America. The turning point: when she openly acknowledged the doubts uttered over those claims. "Do you really believe it? Are you sure you're not sitting there wondering?" she asked the delegation, noticing her then-boss' jaw grazing the floor. "I've gotten better about stopping meetings ... and opening up avenues for people to speak," she says.

It's a change that could prevent flops like C2 half-calorie cola from happening again. "I get more from slowing down and listening. ... So often you just hurry and you miss it," Ms. Bayne says.

"She is a total marketer," says Jerry Wilson, senior VP at Coca-Cola Co. and president of its McDonald's division. "She has the ability to not only see the concept and strategy but also visualize the execution in the marketplace."

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