Tripodi Is Seen As Coke's Knight In Shining Armor

In hiring Joe Tripodi to lead its global marketing and commercial organization, Coca-Cola is counting on this seasoned veteran of consumer product marketing to pull it out of a new-millennial slump. Flush with success at Allstate Insurance Co., where he was responsible for all of its award-winning marketing efforts, Tripodi is seen as someone who can return the iconic brand to its former glory.

Tripodi is perhaps best known for being the brains behind MasterCard's enormously successful "Priceless" campaign, back in the day. This year, he helped Allstate win a silver Effie Award in the "Corporate Reputation, Image & Identity" category for leading a public dialogue around a post-Katrina plan to better prepare and protect the nation from natural catastrophes.

"Look at the job he's done at Allstate, with [actor] Dennis Haysbert as primary spokesperson," says Bob Liodice, president/CEO of the Association of National Advertisers, on whose board Tripodi served for most of Liodice's 13-year tenure. "Allstate must be heartbroken, and over at Coke, they must be dancing in the aisles."



In Atlanta, Tripodi also will be responsible for coordinating and leading the company's strategic direction in commercial leadership. Coke CEO Muhtar Kent said, in announcing the appointment: "We believe that enhancing the focus of our global marketing team and processes on our customers [retail outlets]--who are the direct pipeline to consumers, all the way to point of purchase--will strengthen our entire business."

Strengthening it needs. On Thursday, the consultancy Interbrand, which publishes with BusinessWeek an annual list of 100 global brands by value, had this to say about its No. 1 choice: "Even such perennial winners as Coca-Cola can have trouble boosting their brand. The beverage giant claimed the top spot for the seventh year in a row mostly because it is big and everywhere, but it failed to further grow its reputation because its move into healthier drinks has yet to resonate."

Tripodi is Coke's first full-fledged CMO in quite some time. Mary Minnick served in the role in addition to other duties at Coke before quitting in January, when it became apparent she would be passed over for CEO.

At the soft drink giant, Tripodi will have a much larger budget with which to play. According to Nielsen Monitor-Plus, in 2006 Coca-Cola spent nearly $500 million on marketing efforts versus Allstate's $336 million.

Northbrook, Ill.-based Allstate, meanwhile, named Joan Walker interim CMO in addition to her duties as senior vice president/corporate relations. Prior to joining Allstate in 2005, Walker was the chief marketing and communications officer for Denver-based Qwest Communications International, a provider of voice and data solutions.

Tripodi's Move Follows Trend

Tripodi is following in the footsteps of other CMOs who leap tall industries in a single bound. Last year, Pizza Hut named Bob Kraut, General Motors Corp.'s director of brand marketing and advertising in North America, as its vice president/advertising and brand image. And Qwest Communications International named Thomas J. McLoughlin vice president/consumer marketing. He had been brand director at Miller Brewing Co.

"People who can transition [from one industry to another] or who have successfully done so are very much in demand," Caren Fleit told Marketing Daily early this year. Fleit is senior client partner in the consumer and retail practice in the New York office of Korn/Ferry International, the executive search firm.

"There's a lot of activity in the marketing area," Fleit said. But it's not a cakewalk: "The pressure is harder and [marketing execs] aren't lasting as long. They're on the hot seat as far as delivering results."

The ANA's Liodice thinks Tripodi will do well at Coke. "He is one of the most intelligent people I've ever run across. He's incredibly insightful, a brilliant individual. He has such a great marketing sense and savvy. It is no surprise that one of the leading consumer products companies in the world would gobble him up.

"He has a great sense of how to bring the fabulous Coca-Cola brand to the heights it once enjoyed."

Still, there were cautionary notes. John Sicher, editor and publisher of Beverage Digest, said in reaction to the news: "People I talk to say good things about [Tripodi's] overall business skills. He now needs to learn a business, which looks much simpler from the outside to many people than it actually is."

Tripodi also had been CMO for The Bank of New York and for Seagram Spirits & Wine. He had worked in various capacities for MasterCard International, where he created the "Priceless" campaign, and for Mobil Oil Corporation.

"I've always greatly admired The Coca-Cola Company and its brands," Tripodi said in Coke's announcement on Friday. "Like many others, I have watched from the sidelines as they embarked on a transformational program to revitalize their business.

"It's a great honor for me to partner with such a strong and creative management team and to help contribute to future growth through successful alignment of the Marketing and Commercial Leadership functions."

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