A Lasting Engagement

A consumer products professional works to create the ultimate brand experience for buyers

Name: Frank Cooper III
Title:
Senior Vice President, Chief Consumer Engagement Officer, PepsiCo Beverages Americas, PepsiCo
Location: Purchase, New York
Age: 46
Power Play: Cooper is responsible for developing new consumer engagement models and marketing programs tailored to such beverages as Pepsi, Mountain Dew, SoBe, and Aquafina. He also directly oversees operational areas such as digital, media, sports, multicultural, and entertainment to determine consumer engagement.

Your division’s net revenues decreased by 1% in 2008 and by 8% in 2009. With increasing food prices and the public more willing to purchase store-brand beverages, how do you keep consumers engaged?
Some deep loyalties have set in across some of the major brands, like Pepsi, that we don’t take for granted. In order to deepen our engagement as brand marketers with consumers, it’s no longer about communicating a consistent message or promoting a symbolic image—it’s really about adding value to people’s lives by looking at what they value in a brand and what they want to accomplish in their lives. For example, we launched a program called the Pepsi Refresh project, in which consumers pitch an idea about how they would like to have a positive impact on the world. Ideas have ranged from addressing diabetes to increasing literacy in at-risk communities. We’ve invested $20 million to fund the project. We also launched Dewmocracy, under our Mountain Dew brand, where we collaborate with passionate consumers to create the next Mountain Dew product. Not only do they choose the color, flavor, and name [of the product], but they actually select an ad agency to promote it.

How does your team brainstorm new techniques to engage consumers?
The traditional approach is to have a research team develop insights, and then a brand manager craft an idea around the brand, and then a creative agency comes in to present ideas—but I think that model is becoming obsolete. The best approach, which I’ve seen at PepsiCo, is to have a multidisciplinary team—people from insights (which leads consumer research efforts and provides insight into consumer behavior), strategy, branding, sales, and creative—that operates throughout the entire process. Our meeting places can range from the boardroom, to someone’s office, a hotel, or outdoor spaces. We will typically bring to the meeting a set of questions to try and dig deep into the ‘whys’ of consumer behavior, cultural trends, and emerging markets.

How does diversity optimize engagement models and marketing programs?

We’ve approached it in three ways: One, we start with a specific demographic—African American, Hispanic, or Asian American—as the core target and have communication focused on that consumer. Two, we see [minorities] as the new American mainstream, so we communicate with them and incorporate their input as we would any other consumer. Three, we’ve used [minority] consumers as influencers to have a broader impact across the marketplace. For example, we have a platform called We Inspire that we started because we believe that women, African American women in particular, can be motivated, energized, and inspired by real stories told by real people who overcome everyday challenges. A microsite was created for We Inspire by Sixth Floor, an African American-owned development agency. We use social media tools and platforms to spread the word and increase interaction.

Brittany Hutson is a frequent contributor to Black Enterprise.

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