Chuck Fruit: A Marketing Guru With a Diplomat's Touch Who Embraced Change

John Dooner Remembers the Man Who Was Always the Voice of Reason

By Published on .

John Dooner
John Dooner
Chuck Fruit was a gentleman, polite and caring and fair. He had a keen intelligence and a diplomat's approach to business. In a world where chaos and conflict often set the agenda for the day, Chuck would foster engagement and collaboration that cut through all of the noise and clutter. As he used to say, "Let's not get crazy." Chuck was always the voice of reason.

Chuck understood that marketing Coca-Cola was part logic and part magic. He understood the brand strategy, but he always embraced the magic of the brand and gave Coke's marketing partners the opportunity to create work that touched consumers' lives.

Remembering Chuck Fruit:

Fruit, 61, Left Indelible Marks on A-B and Coke
Chuck was first and foremost a media and sports-marketing guru, but he embraced every aspect of marketing equally. He welcomed new technologies and new ways of talking to consumers. He was never afraid of change and always saw new possibilities for the brand and for the company. In fact, when I met Chuck, he was at Anheuser-Busch, where he collaborated on the launch of ESPN.

Only a fool would mistake his kindness for lack of resolve. Chuck always made things happen. He was passionate about Ad Council causes, for instance, and was the driving force, working with Bill Cella and Phil Kent, in doubling donated media during the last decade. He also bought to the Ad Council important affiliations with sports organizations including Nascar, the NBA and the NFL. The difference between Chuck and many other highly successful people is that Chuck never called attention to himself or made success a zero-sum game. He made every part of his success a joint venture.

John J. Dooner Jr. is chairman-CEO of McCann Worldgroup.
I remember a particularly aggressive Coca-Cola strategy meeting held in London in the mid-1990s. Big ideas and big egos were bouncing off walls as big agencies competitively collaborated on behalf of Coke's big brands. Chuck wasn't leading the marketing team at that point, but, quietly, he was a key presence. The meeting went on and on. To say it was exhausting is an understatement.

A few of us, including Chuck and myself, met for dinner afterward. Chuck did an amazing job of smoothing the waters of that long day. That dinner, like so many to follow, would run late into the night. You weren't a business partner of Chuck's, you were a partner. You had a relationship. You mattered as a person.

Over the years, I met with Chuck in many of the countries in which Coke is marketed. We spent tough days hammering out strategies for the brands. There also were extraordinary evenings when, inevitably, he was the last to leave. Chuck would stay as long as anyone had an idea to discuss or a question to ask. He always wanted to hear what you had to say, no matter how late the hour.

Chuck was incredibly generous with the time he gave to colleagues and partners and friends. Our world owes his wife, Sharon, an enormous debt of gratitude for sharing him with us, and our thoughts and prayers are with her and her family.
Most Popular
In this article: