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PepsiCo CMO Jane Wakely: ‘Don’t just a be storyteller, be a storydoer’


By Webb Wright | Reporter

August 23, 2022 | 8 min read

We catch up with PepsiCo’s new chief marketer, Jane Wakely, for The Drum’s 3 Actionable Insights series, where top industry leaders share their thoughts about the actions our readers should take immediately.

PepsiCo CMO Jane Wakely says 'now is the time to master the metaverse'

PepsiCo CMO Jane Wakley says 'now is the time to master the metaverse' / PepsiCo

1. Don’t just be a storyteller – be a storydoer

The world has really, really burning problems – on climate, on social inclusion – that, as a society, we have no choice but to help do our bit to fix. Companies, and particularly large scale global companies, need to step up to the plate and make a significant difference.

One of the reasons I joined PepsiCo was I was extremely excited about the ambitious goals that [the company] has set, the values that it has set, the impact it wants to make with Pep+ (PepsiCo Positive). Pep+ is a very comprehensive program that seeks to make a difference on the world’s most challenging issues. The leaders at PepsiCo are held accountable to growth and value creation, but also to the impact that we’re making on our pep+ journey…

We reach billions of consumers every day with our product and brand portfolio. So our opportunity is to find that sweet spot, that authentic sweet spot, where our company actions actually link with our brand meaning and we can actually involve consumers, share with consumers, create a bigger movement as a result of involving consumers in our actions.

Why is that exciting? Because I believe in the creative powers of marketeers to innovate, and to create storytelling that backs up those actions. It starts with actions; it's very important that we are storydoers, as well as storytellers. We can use our creative and innovative capabilities to meet consumers’ evolving needs, involve them and create movements of change that really seek to make a difference on climate and social inclusion.

2. You must anticipate the waves in order to surf

Marketeers are growth architects. What does a growth architect do? You try and envisage a bold future, you create a strategic roadmap and an action plan to navigate towards that with very volatile and changing conditions around you.

We’re in a VUCA [volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity] world right now. In my approach to navigating that, I always think of it like surfing: if you wait for a wave to come, you're already too late. You’ve got to be anticipating, looking around, understanding the wind, the waves, everything. You’ve got to see the wave beginning to form. And then you’ve got to get momentum before the wave reaches you in order to catch it – it’s anticipation, you’ve got to anticipate the future tailwinds.

We learned that through Covid: if you wait to see the change happen, and then you’re shifting resources, you’re already too late… You’ve got to pivot your resources ahead of the tailwinds and the changes that are happening.

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3. Don’t chase the metaverse for its own sake

Chase the metaverse as a means of delivering even more value to the people you serve. There are all sorts of technological changes that have happened in the last decade. My learning is consistent on all of them: be consumer-centric – or I’d even say be human-centric – in your approach. Don’t chase something for technology’s sake. Find a way you can deliver mutual value for the people you’re serving. Can it help you solve a problem, a business problem, a job to be done for consumers? Start there.

We had some fantastic sessions in Cannes; we’re all in learning phase, in curious phase about the metaverse. It’s tremendously exciting as marketeers that we can help create what the metaverse could be like. What if we could actually innovate in the space and create whole new value, a whole new business model?

The important thing is to set up our teams in a way that is human-centric, that is really trying to hypothesize the value that can be added, to have expansive thinkers, to have diverse thinkers and experience. Because the one thing I can be sure of is I can’t predict the exact value the metaverse is going to create for us. I know it will create some value. Absolutely. I know it’s something we absolutely need to innovate behind. But we need to put together teams of people and partnerships to explore that.

Someone asked me one day: ’Do you find the technological advancements and change intimidating in the last decade? Isn’t it too much to master?’ I feel the reverse – I feel that everything we were dreaming of as marketeers many years ago was just a dream because you couldn’t actually make it happen. Now, for marketeers all over the world, technology is there to serve them in terms of making their dreams a reality. There has never been a better time to be a marketer than now… We have to master the metaverse, we have to understand it to find the value that we can add to the human beings we serve.

You can check out more of our 3 Actionable Insights series here, and The Drum’s Inside the Metaverse weekly newsletter here.

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