Coke CMO Comes Clean About Going Green

Katie Bayne Explains the Brand's New Health and Sustainability Push

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NEW YORK ( -- Like every other high-profile name in the food and beverage industry, Coca-Cola Co. has come under fire from critics, the media and consumer watchdog groups for not doing enough in the areas of health and wellness and sustainability. People inside Coke will tell you the company has been a long-time practitioner of sustainability projects but has never been one to talk about these efforts.
Katie Bayne
Katie Bayne

But as reported exclusively by Ad Age last month, the company is changing that tack with a multimillion-dollar marketing campaign touting its efforts in environmental sustainability and personal well-being. Katie Bayne, chief marketing officer at Coke since early 2007, recently spoke to Ad Age about the reason for launching the push and how it helped employees wrap their heads around this change in its longstanding policy.

Advertising Age: What are you hoping this campaign accomplishes for Coke?

Katie Bayne: That it allows people to see us for the brand and the company we really are.

Ad Age: Does that imply that you believe there's a misperception about Coke among consumers?

Ms. Bayne: No. I just think there's ways we go to market that focus more on certain parts of the brand and the taste of Coke. This is about making sure we step forward with integrity. Consumers are in control of the flow of information now, and it's time for us to make sure we have everything that the brand and company are committed to readily available for them.

Ad Age: How is this sustainability campaign going to be different from those done by other brands and not appear as if you're taking advantage of a popular trend?

Ms. Bayne: One thing you will see in all the work here is there is nothing new about [sustainability work] for Coke. These are all partnerships we've had for decades and some for nearly 100 years, and that is a fundamental difference.

Ad Age: How will you measure the success of this campaign?

Ms. Bayne: We will be using a combination of our brand tracking systems, ongoing consumer research, and company/brand advocacy research.

Ad Age: Do you have plans to take it global?

Ms. Bayne: This campaign is designed for the U.S., but the commitments and responsibilities to consumers and communities are all consistent in nature to the 200 countries we do business in. This formula and advertising will be looked at around the globe. When the creative messaging works, we do export it pretty readily.

A print ad backing Coke's sustainability push.

Ad Age: Are you going to use this to debut any new products?

Ms. Bayne: Yes. If you look at the print ad it clearly indicates that consumers should stay tuned because it's just a taste of things to come. I can't reveal our innovation plans right now but there are a lot of things coming out before the end of the year that further our commitment to finding new ways to suit the changing tastes and needs of consumers.

Ad Age: Was there an internal effort to help people understand the policy shift of talking about your sustainability work?

Ms. Bayne: Absolutely, there is an entire employee plan. We realized that many of our own employees are not aware of a lot of the messages and simple facts we're promoting here. Our employees are our best brand ambassadors, but we haven't been giving them the tools to act as such. We're providing them with easy facts, like Coke has one-third the amount of caffeine a cup of coffee has, and doing training where employees can come in and ask us anything about the products they want.

Ad Age: What's the digital component of the campaign going to be?

Ms. Bayne: There's a new website,, focusing on the effect we have in the communities we do business in. The site provides ideas for consumers and employees looking to volunteer time in their communities. In time, that will evolve to where we can tell you by zip code what exactly we're doing and how you can help. It's a campaign ... that really lets us draw out what's happening in a particular community, which is what our consumers said they wanted to see.

Ad Age: Are you planning on tying in the health and wellness messaging into this effort?

Ms. Bayne: It's already completely tied into this because the two key areas of this work are well-being and environment. We've really seen a change from health and wellness being a key issue to something called holistic health. It's this idea that my health is not just about calories or joints. It's a personal approach that may involve my community efforts, my environment and my immediate affect on it. What I eat and drink is part of it, but it's a holistic health and it's a much bigger space than just a particular thing about your body, the way you look or the way you feel. That's the sweet spot of where this all comes together.
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