The Drum Awards Festival - Official Deadline

-d -h -min -sec

Brand Strategy PepsiCo Marketing

Lessons in running a global marketing team from PepsiCo’s international CMO


By Hannah Bowler, Senior Reporter

April 11, 2024 | 7 min read

How do you monitor the marketing output of multiple brands in over 170 countries? That is the challenge Mark Kirkham, chief marketing officer of PepsiCo International Beverages, is tasked with.

Pepsi's new look logo on a can of cola

Last year, Pepsi unveiled its fresh look, a first in 16 years

You can’t be a global CMO today “if you don’t understand what’s changing in the role of a brand manager in Uzbekistan or Tanzania or Cairo or Kyoto,” PepsiCo’s chief marketing officer for international beverages, Mark Kirkham, tells The Drum.

According to Kirkham, a global chief marketer used to be the “big brand steward” who focused on the big campaigns and rebrands, but now they must be on the ground understanding the daily challenges of their local marketers.

“I have to get close to marketers in different parts of the world, understand their backgrounds, passions and ambitions from both a career and a personal standpoint,” he says of his responsibilities as lead marketer.

Last year, Pepsi unveiled its fresh look, a first in 16 years, and announced the news to the world on the same day. Getting 179 countries behind one consistent campaign with local variations to be ready on time was no mean feat.

Kirkham describes the challenge as being “how you drive all the power and the strength of big global brands but ensure that you’re not just taking a top-down approach, or the other extreme, being fragmented in every market around the world.”

The problem with a lot of global marketers is that they often forget Europe alone has over 50 different countries with 24 official languages, he adds.

Two weeks ago, Kirkham was on a business trip in Hanoi, Vietnam, where he did some informal customer research. He went to a coffee shop and gathered a group of 18-to-22-year-olds and talked to them about what they liked to eat and drink and what they were watching and engaging with online. Then he talked to street vendors to find out what, if any, Pepsi drinks were being brought and why.

Although this sounds like an ideal scenario, Kirkham admits it’s not always easy for him and his team to find the time. He does lay out two ground rules to help him and his marketers carve out time.

Firstly, they need to make sure to make time to engage with consumers at least once a month. “Now, it doesn’t mean every time you have to go into a focus group or something formal, but you just need to find that time to engage consumers once a month.” Secondly, he says that anytime they go for a business meeting in another country, they make sure to do a consumer immersion and trade visit. “Go out to the trade, meet customers, meet retailers and then go to a coffee shop and go to a restaurant, the gym or a sports game. When you spend time with people in a real, normal environment, you get richer insights.”

He adds that it’s worth remembering that local marketers are also consumers. “We have to take advantage of the fact that we have a diverse community of marketers around the world and listen and understand their cultural dynamics, their family dynamics and their day in and day out.”

Taking a ‘lead market’ approach

Clear processes are essential to ensuring global and local marketing teams work efficiently, says Kirkham, but CMOs should be “mindful” that the process doesn’t restrict creativity. “If process defines how you do everything, you lose some of the creativity and some of the natural ideas that come through.”

With many international businesses, the global marketing team will develop ideas and create the bulk of the assets for local marketing teams to make relevant to their market. PepsiCo, however, takes a “lead market” approach, where a local market develops an idea for the global market.

Suggested newsletters for you

Daily Briefing


Catch up on the most important stories of the day, curated by our editorial team.

Ads of the Week


See the best ads of the last week - all in one place.

The Drum Insider

Once a month

Learn how to pitch to our editors and get published on The Drum.

Kirkham gives the example of the UK team driving Pepsi’s Uefacsponsorship campaign because the final of the Champions League will take place at Wembley. The ‘Press Play’ campaign from energy drink Rockstar is another example. The UK team secured Stormzy for an exclusive performance on Spotify, with the project then exported to Germany, Poland and Saudi Arabia, where Stormzy was replaced with local musicians.

“When you work with the lead market team, they feel like they’re part of the global team. And by doing that, you create work that’s highly locally relevant but equally globally scalable.”

All of these things allow you to be a better leader, adds Kirkham, as well as helping to build better brands and creative strategies. “That cumulative understanding of the consumer, your team and business – if you take those three things together, you’re ultimately better at your job.”

Brand Strategy PepsiCo Marketing

More from Brand Strategy

View all


Industry insights

View all
Add your own content +