Ex-Pepsi NA CMO Sees Parallels At Equinox


Some may see Cie Nicholson's new job as chief marketing officer for Equinox Fitness Clubs -- which she began last month -- as radically different from her previous corporate gig: CMO for PepsiCo North America. Nicholson, however, doesn't see the brands as radically different. As organizations, they're both innovative, collaborative and growth-focused.

But even Nicholson, who at Pepsi helped launch brands such as Sierra Mist and Mountain Dew's Code Red, admits she's a bit out of her comfort zone of the CPG world. And that's the way she wants it. Nicholson spoke with Marketing Daily about her new job, what the experience working for a giant like PepsiCo brings to it, and where she wants the brand to be in a year.

Q: Why Equinox? What appealed to you about the job?



A: I've admired the brand for years. I love that it's so high -end. I love the industry, the health and wellness world. I'm a member of Equinox. I work out all the time; I do yoga. This is definitely in my wheelhouse, personally. I like that it's had so much success and is poised for growth, whether it's in the U.S. or internationally. It's a great brand that's so well-positioned.

Q: What are the opportunities you see for the brand?

A: In general, as we continue to go into more markets, every market is going to be different. Each one has its own different challenges, marketing-wise. Internationally it's going to be different as we take these brands overseas.

I did CPG for 20 years, and it was great and I loved it. But this gives me a chance to do something different. It's end-to-end, and you own it. You don't turn it over to a retailer where it's out of your hands at that point. [Equinox's] brand target is obviously higher than the brands I've worked on in the past. In general, this is more of a high-end brand. I found that interesting.

Q: What is Equinox doing marketing-wise, and what can it do better?

A: It's evolved from print and direct marketing, and has more recently moved into digital and social. We'll continue to play in that arena. One thing I worked on a lot at Pepsi was partnerships, whether it was sports partnerships with the MLB or NFL or celebrities, iTunes, and Apple. Equinox has done some partnerships, but not as many, and that's what we'll see a lot of going forward.

Q: Where do the companies intersect within the marketing?

A: Pepsi is very collaborative and we were very growth-focused. And that's what I see here at Equinox. Innovation was one of the hallmarks of Pepsi, and while it certainly manifests itself differently at Equinox, they're very focused on innovation. That's something I see us continuing. We're very much both image-focused companies. Pepsi's products were all image-based and Equinox is a lifestyle brand that has a great image.

Q: How do you apply lessons learned at Pepsi to Equinox?

A: There's tons of overlap in many of the marketing tactics. They might be applied in a different level of intensity. But the overall question of how to you make a relevant message to engage your consumers is always going to be important. Right now, it's hard for me to give specific examples.

One thing I think may be successful will be to do nontraditional marketing tactics to stay ahead of the curve. That will be in the spirit of the things we do at Equinox. It's about understanding the essence of the brand, getting out there and communicating in relevant ways to the consumer.

Q: How do you plan to play in the social space?

A: TBD. All the obvious answers you would think, and how they would be applicable for Equinox. Much of the stuff we're already doing. It's "How do we take it to the next level?"

Q: Where do you want Equinox to be in six months to a year?

A: To be successful in all the markets we are launching in, to continue our international expansion. We're launching a private [clothing] label, Orange. We want that to start getting traction. We're launching more outlets for Pure Yoga. And we're looking at another outlet that plays to an entirely different demographic than Equinox that's going to be launching this winter. All that, as well as keeping an appropriate image for Equinox and keep playing our game.

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