First, it was Mary Minnick, who resigned as The Coca-Cola Company’s VP of Marketing, Strategy and Innovation. This week it was Esther Lee, TCCC’s senior VP and chief creative officer. Minnick went into retirement. Lee is CEO of EURO RSCG Worldwide.
Two fabulously talented marketers, gone.
And what happens now? According to AdAge,
Chairman-CEO Neville Isdell assumed oversight for Coke’s strategy and innovation group, and marketing moved under President-Chief Operating Officer Muhtar Kent. … Coke’s North American unit was restructured in March, decentralizing marketing and shifting brand stewardship to newly named president-general managers for three business units.
Now Isdell isn’t remarkable for his mastery of marketing. Kent, well, Kent is an Operating Officer. This means the Coca-Cola Company appears once more on the verge of compromising its marketing. Isdell’s predecessor, Daft did this in 2000, casting to the winds a deeply talented Atlanta team on the grounds that there were local marketing teams around the world TCCC could fall back upon.
Without marketing, Coke, the product, the portfolio of products, is sweetened water. Without marketing to create new meanings and to renew old meanings, the brand begins to wither and die. And I thought TCCC had a go at this recently. The category, challenged by water, juice, sports drinks, is shrinking. Competitors multiply. Pepsi gets stronger. The little brands grow more numerous and more nimble. Is this the time for another disaspora of talent?
The field of marketing is undergoing a revolution that takes it out of the stupidities of the old world into strategies that are new, difficult, and ever changing. (See the post for yesterday, please.)
This is to say that marketing has always mattered to the Coca-Cola Company, and it especially matters now. Perhaps this is not the time to replace good marketers with non marketers. I mean, if I were a shareholder and I discovered that the marketing team was being once more diminished, I would not be happy.
Come to think of it, Warren Buffett, one of the great champions of TCCC investment, is now famous for having encouraged the Gecko ads for Geico. What happens if he starts to ask questions? What if he phones to ask what happened to the marketers?
"Mr. Isdell, I have Mr. Buffett on line 1."
Sanders, Lisa and Kate MacArthur. 2007. Euro RSCG Taps Coke’s Lee as North American CEO. Adage. May 2, 2007. here.