Coke Global CMO to Depart Amid Leadership Changes

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Marcos de Quinto.
Marcos de Quinto. Credit: Courtesy Coca-Cola Company

Coca-Cola Co. Global Chief Marketing Officer Marcos de Quinto, who led a significant marketing overhaul of the company's flagship soda brand with the 15-month old "Taste the Feeling" campaign, is leaving the company as the beverage giant overhauls its marketing leadership structure under its new CEO.

The changes, which were announced Thursday morning, include consolidating marketing, customer and commercial leadership strategy into one combined function led by a chief growth officer that will report to James Quincey. Mr. Quincey is currently Coca-Cola's chief operating officer but will assume the CEO role on May 1, replacing the retiring Muhtar Kent in a succession plan that was announced late last year.

The chief growth officer role will be filled by Francisco Crespo, a 28-year company veteran who currently serves as president of Coke's Mexico business unit.

Mr. de Quinto, 58, assumed the top marketing job on Jan. 1, 2015, following 14 years leading Coca-Cola's Iberia business unit, which covers Spain and Portugal. He joined the company in 1982 in Coca-Cola marketing department in Spain and left in 1988 before rejoining the company in 1990. In an emailed statement, Coke said Mr. de Quinto Marcos "has chosen to retire from the company," adding that "he will leave behind a strong legacy as he has been responsible for a resurgence in the quality of Coca-Cola advertising."

The leadership changes mean that Coca-Cola will not have a global CMO, representing the first time that been the case since Coke created the CMO role until 1993. However, the company in an emailed statement emphasized that "global marketing will be a key part of [Mr. Crespo's] leadership team," adding that "decisions about who will fill the key roles in this team will be made in the coming months as [Mr. Crespo] assumes his new role."

"We are moving quickly to structure our organization for faster growth and to ensure we can respond to the fast-changing needs of our consumers, customers, system and associates around the world," Mr. Quincey said in a statement announcing the changes. "Each of the leaders named today is highly capable and understands our clear mandate for change, and I look forward to partnering with them as we transform our business for the future."

Other changes include appointing a chief innovation officer to "elevate global research and development into a standalone innovation function reporting directly to the CEO," the company said in today's announcement. The role will be filled by Robert Long, currently VP-R&D. Also, Chief Information Officer Barry Simpson will be elevated to report directly to the CEO "to increase visibility and focus on efforts to digitize all aspects of the company's business," Coca-Cola said.

As CMO, Mr. de Quinto was a staunch defender of TV advertising and believed in spreading work among numerous roster agencies rather than relying on a single agency-of-record for each brand in the company's vast beverage portfolio. But the most significant change he made was on brand Coke, which ended its "Open Happiness" campaign in early 2016 for "Taste the Feeling" as part of a broader strategic overhaul on the world's largest beverage brand.

The new campaign moved Coke away from lofty, ideals-based ads and into a more product-focused approach in which bottles of Coke are at the center of every spot. Mr. de Quinto also pushed Coke into a "one-brand" approach in which multiple varieties like Diet Coke and Coke Zero appear in the same ad, rather than disparate spots.

"If you want people to love to drink Coca-Cola, please show in your commercial people who love drinking Coca-Cola," Mr. de Quinto said at a Beverage-Digest conference late last year, summarizing his approach. "We are re-Coca-Colizing Coca-Cola. We are going to the roots of what made this brand big," he said.

Coke is expected to continue the "Taste the Feeling" campaign as well as the "one-brand" marketing approach for its flagship soda. The newest round of ads includes one spot in which a brother and sister seeking to win affection from a Coke-drinking pool boy, only to be outdueled by their mother.

In the emailed statement, Coke credited Mr. de Quinto with improving "the productivity of our marketing, which enabled significant reinvestments in our marketing spend and supporting results in our growth."

But Coke, like all soda brands, continues to battle industry headwinds including health concerns that has led more consumers to drink less pop and in favor of bottled water and other beverages. Sales volumes of regular Coke dipped 1.3% in the U.S. last year, according to Beverage-Digest. The brand -- which is the top-selling soda with 15.8% share -- outperformed No. 2 Pepsi, whose volumes plummeted by 3.8%, according to Beverage-Digest.

Mr. Quincey has signaled an intent to keep broadening Coca-Cola's beverage portfolio beyond its flagship cola brand. "The Coca-Cola Company has grown to be bigger than brand Coca-Cola," he said in February at the Consumer Analyst Group of New York conference, according to a summary posted on the company's web site. "The brand Coca-Cola will always be the heart and soul of the Coca-Cola Company, but the company has outgrown its core brand. The company needs to be bigger than our core brand."

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