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Coke appoints a CMO two years after killing off the role

Coca-Cola brings back the CMO role

Coca-Cola's decision to axe the global chief marketing officer role sparked a wave of companies adopting a similar structure. But two years later it’s U-turned with the appointment of a new marketing boss.

The president of the company’s Asia Pacific business, Manolo Arroyo, has taken on the position of chief marketing officer as part of a new integrated global structure that will come into effect on 1 January.

The soft drinks giant will now have divisions for creative, category, marketing operations, design and knowledge & insights, all of which will report to Arroyo.

Coke said the alignment of integrated global marketing under Arroyo “will more closely integrate marketing within operations”.

“We know consumer needs are changing faster and faster, and it is critical for the company to be agile in how it responds and adapts,” said James Quincey, chairman and chief executive of The Coca-Cola Company.

“Manolo’s dual leadership over operations and marketing is a new structure for us, and we anticipate that it will evolve in the months ahead. Manolo’s focus will range from developing work that can be used around the globe to supporting local campaigns.”

The shake-up was sparked by the retirement of senior vice president and chief growth officer Francisco Crespo. Crespo assumed that role in 2017 when Coke said it would rid the company of the distinct CMO title, instead giving him control of global marketing, corporate strategy and customer and commercial operations.

It was a shock move at the time as the business tried to “move quickly to structure for faster growth” amid declining sales. Advertising industry commenters were concerned, and confused, as to why the brand didn’t trust a CMO to drive long-term growth.

However, local marketers were quick to defend the strategy. Then-UK marketing director Aedamar Howlett stressed it had given regional marketers a wider remit and was pushing them to work against commercial objectives.

In quick succession, brands like McDonald’s and Johnson & Johnson also embarked on similar restructures, shedding their organisations of the top marketing roles in favour of “chief growth officers” or “chief customer officers”.

Mastercard marketer Raja Rajamannar recently told The Drum it was evidence of “further erosion of the role” as company CEOs hunt accountability for marketing spend “quarter in and quarter out”, and have failed to find it from marketers that have no experience of managing P&Ls of businesses across multiple functions.

“If they struggle to connect the dots, then there's the question of who can. And that's where you see people from a non-marketing background being appointed to those roles like chief customer offer and chief growth officer," said Rajamannar, who is also president of the World Federation of Advertisers. "The entire marketing department is not being eliminated, it's having a non-marketing person leading it that's the big issue as I see it."

Coca-Cola was quick to highlight the “extensive background” of Arroyo, a nearly 25-year veteran of the company. After running the brand in Spain, he moved to Atlanta where he led the first global water strategy for the company before returning in 2000 as marketing director for its Iberia business unit. He then moved on to a series of roles in operations and began his current position in Asia Pacific at the start of 2019.

Quincy said Crespo had played a “critical role” in recent years, “especially in helping develop a growth strategy that has become thoroughly embedded in our operations and our culture".

“He leaves an important legacy of helping make us more focused on fast-changing consumer needs at a critical time,” he added.

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