Coca-Cola's Kimberly Paige on Thinking Beyond Ethnicity

Often, Consumers See Themselves As More Than One Marketing Segment

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Coke's Kimberly Paige
Coke's Kimberly Paige
In honor of Black History Month, Ad Age caught up with a number of marketing and advertising executives for a Q&A. The final in the series is Kimberly Paige, assistant VP-African American marketing group, Coca-Cola North America.

AA: How did you get into the business? Any advertising heroes? Professors? Celebrities you looked up to?

Ms. Paige: I started in the business at Procter & Gamble and was able to build core marketing brand building capabilities. From marketing Cascade dishwashing detergent to Brand Sprite, the fundamentals are the same. As a marketer you have to consistently deliver on your brand promise in an emotional and compelling way. When people love your brand and see its value, not only will they buy it more often, and sometimes at a premium, but they will become an advocate and one of your "super fans." That's the power of marketing and why I love this business.

I have had the pleasure to work with some very smart and creative people at the Coca-Cola Co., as well as with associates from various agency partners. I especially like working with agencies that have a strong, innate consumer sensibility and understanding. Their culture is not based on the latest agency proprietary tool or model, but is driven by their relentless pursuit to deliver great ideas and game changing marketing.

AA: What are your thoughts on marketing segmentation?

Ms. Paige: Market segmentation is important because you have to ensure your brands are connecting with the right people at the right time with the right message and brand offering. The opportunity is to segment by speaking to like-minded consumers who share interests, passions and values. This doesn't necessarily imply that ethnicity is the only way to segment consumers. Like most characteristics, ethnicity is an important identifier, but the degree of its importance can be very situational/contextual. And sometimes people see themselves as more than one segment.

Ms. Paige: Our approach is not an either/or strategy -- it's an "and" strategy. While there are universal platforms that allow us to speak to our consumers through one brand narrative, there are times when we need to be precise and local in our approach. We base those communications on a specific insight or set of values and beliefs that say to consumers, "We get you, we recognize you and we appreciate you."

AA: Should it be company-wide or handled on a brand by brand basis?

Ms. Paige: If a marketing segmentation approach should be company-wide or by brand depends on where a company is in its understanding and commitment of what it means to truly market to a multicultural nation. If a company doesn't understand the similarities and nuances of the diverse consumer landscape -- or at minimum have agency partners at the table who live it and breath it -- then it may be necessary to have a core group within the organization to be subject-matter experts that are tasked with developing cohort specific strategies and programs to support overall business objectives.

AA: How do you feel about diversity in the advertising industry? Is there a need for African American targeted agencies?

Ms. Paige: Diversity is an opportunity in the advertising agency space. Given the shift in the consumer landscape and the cultural exchange and fluidity that is happening among all people, especially youth and millennials, it is incumbent that agencies continuously evolve to ensure they have in-depth knowledge and grasp of all consumers in the new Americana.

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