An Entrepreneurial Consumer Champ
Vice president of global interactive marketing,
The Coca-Cola Company
When Carol Kruse took her first job at Clorox, the move didn't seem to position her for a career in digital marketing.
But geography--specifically, Clorox's headquarters in Oakland, Calif.--trumped other considerations. Living so close to Silicon Valley brought Kruse in contact with the Internet in the early 1990s, just as the space was heating up.
With headhunters knocking down her door, Kruse left the Fortune 500 company in 1993 to join a tech-oriented startup. "The lure of the Internet and the Internet boom caught me," says Kruse. "I decided I was really interested in consumer technology and being more entrepreneurial."
Kruse worked at a few companies in the next five years and then, with two partners, founded her own shop, RocketCash, a precursor to PayPal.
"I'm very comfortable in the wet cement, starting new things, bringing an organization along to start new areas of marketing," she says. Kruse landed at Coca-Cola in 2002, after the company purchased RocketCash. At the time, RocketCash was working with Sprite to run its loyalty program. Since coming to the company, Kruse has seen its interactive marketing efforts balloon from loyalty programs and experiential Web sites to full-scale online and mobile advertising.
Among other initiatives, she's in charge of the My Coke Rewards program, a loyalty program that allows consumers to sign up online for rebates and discounts for a variety of items ranging from movie tickets to flip-flops. Kruse also shepherded a campaign for Cherry Coke on MySpace, and efforts in Second Life and on YouTube.
But despite the surging online ad efforts, it's not always easy justifying the dollars spent on the Web, or proving that online marketing efforts really do have an impact on the bottom line.
"We all intuitively understand that bringing our brands on the Internet, mobile phones and gaming, is important and a great way to enhance our clients' experiences," she says. But, she laments, the metrics still leave a lot to be desired.
Of course, offline metrics aren't any easier. "It's hard to understand what the impact of an out-of-home billboard is as well," Kruse says.
Her next hurdle? Figuring out how to bring mobile marketing in the U.S. to the same level as the more mature European market. The first step, she says, is evaluating consumers' attitudes. "We need to understand what consumers want, what level of engagement can we have with them on their mobile phones and what level is acceptable to them."
-- Wendy Davis
A Confident Brand Steward
Director of marketing, Frito-Lay's Doritos
"Doritos" means "little bits of gold," and Frito-Lay hopes it's struck a vein with a new multi-year campaign that will stem a slide by allowing brand enthusiasts to help promote one of the country's most popular chips.
Rather than having executives react to consumers' choices after the fact, the snack food giant is giving the end user direct influence. For the past year, the company has employed various media to help consumers marry their personal passions with the corn chip.
Last fall, devotees and aspiring auteurs were invited to direct and shoot a Super Bowl commercial. Executives expected, maybe, 150 entries. More than 1,000 poured in. Viewers selected the winner, which debuted in front of more than 70 million people and ran for several more months.
In June, Frito-Lay unveiled the "Unlock Xbox" challenge, where gamers could develop their own Xbox live Arcade game. The winner, also selected by fans, will be rolled out as a free downloadable Xbox live Arcade game in the summer.
Another initiative was allowing consumers to select a chip flavor. With Doritos Collisions--two flavors in the same bag--consumers can take a special Missy Elliott track and mix it with another sound to create their own song.
Behind much of the push is Jason McDonell, Doritos' 33-year-old director of marketing.
"Doritos provides a stage for consumers to celebrate what they love," he says. "It's less about user-generated. It's more about letting consumers have a voice and letting them have control," he says. "We're going to develop programming and programs that let consumers share their voice and be empowered."
Letting consumers--many of whom are in the key 16- to-24-year-old demographic--have so direct a say in the company's No. 2 seller (after Lays) could have shaken a less confident brand steward. "Imagine sitting in front of a room and telling senior executives that you want to put a 30-second commercial on the Super Bowl (that wasn't created by an ad agency). Only an entrepreneurial-spirited organization would allow that to happen," McDonell says.
Of course, McDonell also deserves credit for championing the idea. "He puts us and our learning in front of all we do," says Jeremy Tucker, associate brand manager of communications for Doritos. "That leadership gave us the courage to take risks."
-- Hillary Chura
Vice president, Scion,
Toyota Motor Sales, USA
The notorious Toyota Scion--ugly outcast or gorgeous rebel?--may seem miles apart from the automaker's iconic luxury car, Lexus, but they do have one important thing in common: Each markets to a highly specific audience, almost to the point of alienating everyone else.
"We're not trying to be everything to everybody," says Mark Templin, a 17-year veteran of Toyota Motor, who became vice president for Scion in 2005, after serving as vice president of Lexus marketing. He's been with Toyota Motor Sales since 1990.
"We see Scion as a laboratory for change, as our incubator. Everybody expects us to experiment and try new things."
Templin's leadership helped produce this year's cutting-edge campaign for the new xB, which included Want2BSquare.com and LittleDeviant.com. Unbranded but provocative TV commercials drove home images of cubes, reminiscent of Scion's boxy shape, and led users to an interactive branded site.
"The xB campaign was a way for us to say, 'Don't be like everyone else,' " Templin says. (See "Who Wants a Car Just Like All the Other Sheeple's?" on page 38, for more details about the Little Deviants campaign.) But executing that message meant Templin had to take a big risk.
"The campaign is polarizing," says Nancy Inouye, Scion's advertising manager. Inouye also worked in the Lexus division with Templin. "There are some individuals who just love it, and there are some individuals who just don't get it, they don't understand it. That's just the nature of the brand."
Scion's next steps include incorporating the brand's touchpoints into the customer's whole experience, Templin says. Owners will experience the brand even at its call centers; representatives will call owners to ask about their cars and to invite them to Scion events--although it's worth noting that some events are organized by owners themselves.
To keep up, Templin attends as many Scion events each month as possible, although the number can climb to 200. He visits Scion dealers and regularly travels to Japan. Although he travels a lot, Templin is always accessible to the Scion team, Inouye says. He helps set strategy, gets involved in the creative, and supports daring campaigns like the new one for the xB, she says.
-- Liz Tascio