An Innovative Force in Ethnic Marketing

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Heading Frito-Lay North America's year-old multicultural team as vice president of ethnic and urban marketing, Rebeca Johnson has made a very Latin impact.

For years, Frito-Lay and PepsiCo sibling Pepsi-Cola Co. did point-of-purchase promotions together in the general market. At Ms. Johnson's initiative, Fritos and Doritos last summer kicked off "Reventon de Sabor" ("Mega-Party of Fun and Flavor"), a joint Hispanic campaign including TV, radio and grassroots events starring popular Puerto Rican singer Chayanne and Mexican singer Lucero.

Audience sang along
So pervasive was the screen-to-street brand experience that Don Francisco, host of Sabado Gigante, clutched Doritos and a Pepsi as his studio audience sang to the catchy "Reventon de Sabor" music.

Ms. Johnson, 42, worked with Pepsi's ethnic and urban team and Hispanic agency Dieste Harmel & Partners, Dallas, partly owned by Omnicom Group, to create "Reventon." Now plans are in development to partner with Pepsi to target African-American consumers.

"She was the force selling the program within the Frito and Pepsi organizations," says an agency executive. "She's indomitable."

Mexican snacks
Starting late last year, Ms. Johnson attracted a new consumer group -- and incremental sales -- by introducing products from Sabritas, a Frito Lay-owned Mexican snack giant. She's aiming the products at the U.S. Hispanic heartland that especially likes the three C's: chili, citrus and cheese flavors.

Until now, Ms. Johnson's career has been in the general market, most recently as Frito-Lay's vice president of customer marketing. Although born and raised in New Orleans, she learned Spanish from her parents, who are from Guatemala.

Her own test market
She has her own test market for snacks, with a 14-year-old daughter and 6-year-old twins. "They enjoy coming to the office because they can eat," Ms. Johnson says. "Doritos, Chee-tos. ... We love them all."

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