Coca-Cola names ex-Reebok exec Melanie Boulden to lead North American marketing
Coca-Cola Co. has named Melanie Boulden as its new senior VP marketing for North America, giving the former Reebok and Crayola marketer an influential role in its critical U.S. market, including advertising related to the Super Bowl and Olympics.
Boulden has been with Coke for a year, leading the company’s so-called stills business, which includes water, tea and coffee. Her promotion to marketing VP signals that Coke could be taking a fresh look at its ad approach, given that she is still relatively new at the company and has previous experience outside of consumer packaged goods.
At Reebok, Boulden oversaw global marketing and brand management and was known for helping the Adidas-owned brand reclaim a place in pop culture. That included a campaign called "Sport the Unexpected" that helped spark a fashion resurgence at the brand, with its kicks being worn by celebrities such as Gigi Hadid and Ariana Grande.
Boulden joined Coke in 2019 as president of its venturing and emerging brands unit and was quickly elevated to oversee the stills business. She’ll keep that role but add marketing oversight for both stills and carbonated beverages. Her appointment comes four months after the departure of Geoff Cottrill, who had served as the beverage giant’s senior VP of strategic marketing in North America since 2018. Boulden will have broader responsibilities than Cottrill.
“She’s come in and been shooting up pretty quickly,” says Duane Stanford, editor and publisher of Beverage-Digest. Her experience outside of the consumer packaged goods industry signals that “she’s not necessarily going to hue to the decades-long patterns in beverages,” he says.
Boulden's promotion comes amid a broader restructuring at Coca-Cola that included offering 4,000 North American employees voluntary separation packages in a cost-cutting move announced last week. Like all brands that rely on restaurant and sports stadium sales, Coke has suffered during the pandemic due to the shut-down of major beverage-selling establishments. The company’s global revenues fell 28 percent in the three months ending June 26.
Coke paused most ad spending as the coronavirus took hold in March, but began coming back online in July with efforts such as a new campaign from Anomaly New York that plugs Coke with food. The MDC Partners shop recently took over lead creative duties from Wieden+Kennedy in North America. Even though Coke has turned its advertising back on, it is putting a new emphasis on efficiency. “We are going to be judicious in our use of marketing, in our use of capital expenditures,” CEO James Quincey said on an earnings call in late July.
“You really have to pick your shots in this environment, especially for Coke [because] a major portion of their business has been challenged,” Stanford adds.
Among the key decisions on Boulden’s plate are what to do with the Super Bowl—for which Coke is a regular advertiser—and the summer Olympics, which were delayed by a year to 2021. Coke is a longtime Olympics sponsor and the summer games often sets the tone for how the company goes to market in the critical warm-weather selling period in the U.S.