SHANGHAI (AdAgeChina.com) -- PepsiCo has surprised China's ad industry with the departure of Harry Hui, who has led marketing for Pepsi's beverage brands there for more than three years, and the return from New York of Richard Lee, Mr. Hui's predecessor, in a bigger role.
Mr. Hui is stepping down as chief marketing officer of PepsiCo's beverages business unit in Greater China, a role he took over in January 2007, when Mr. Lee moved to New York as PepsiCo's VP of international marketing for sparkling beverages.
Now back in Shanghai, Mr. Lee will take on a new and more powerful role, as chief marketing officer for Greater China, in charge of marketing and portfolio management of Pepsi's food and beverage brands.
Mr. Lee, a Hong Kong native, will also explore ways to leverage Pepsi's scale "to gain better advantages in media and communication platform opportunities [and] work closely with R&D to ensure alignment in the innovation agenda," according to an internal memo written by Tim Minges, PepsiCo's regional chairman, Greater China in Shanghai.
Mr. Lee's move to Shanghai "shows how serious PepsiCo is about consolidating its snack and beverage operation. This is the first time [there is] truly integration in our system worldwide. We call it 'power of one,' an advantage over competitors if we do it right," said a PepsiCo executive in Shanghai, who asked not to be identified.
Mr. Lee's return is likely to rejuvenate PepsiCo's operation in China, where he is remembered as a marketing star. During the decade he was involved in running Pepsi's marketing in China, from his start in 1997 as a brand manager to his final role as CMO, Greater China for beverage brands at the end of 2006, Mr. Lee transformed Pepsi from an underdog to one of China's hottest youth brands. He also doubled the company's market share to 22%.
During his final year in China, Mr. Lee initiated a user-generated content program, the Pepsi Creative Challenge, as the centerpiece of Pepsi's marketing strategy in China.
His successor Mr. Hui developed the annual, challenge contest, expanding into mobile marketing and formats that allowed even greater consumer involvement. He also positioned the Pepsi brand closer to the local music industry -- the core of China's youth market -- with a "Battle of the Bands" contest last year and the launch of a music label in China in partnership with Qun Yin Culture and Entertainment called QMusic.
Pepsi's attachment to music reflects Mr. Hui's background, which includes long stints at Universal Music and MTV in Greater China and a longstanding interest in entertainment, digital media and branded content. That legacy made him an unusual, and by some accounts inspired, choice to oversee marketing for a youth brand like Pepsi in China, one of the U.S. company's most important emerging markets.
Mr. Hui has decided to leave Pepsi to "pursue his own ventures in China," according to a separate internal memo released today.
The Hong Kong native declined to elaborate but his next move will likely involve a return to China's music and entertainment industry.
Mr. Hui isn't leaving PepsiCo entirely, however. The memo also said Mr. Hui will "remain as a PepsiCo partner to develop and lead our critical China power of one corporate social responsibility initiatives with a focus in the areas of nutrition and conservation."
Return to the Ad Age China home page here