Over the past year, PepsiCo announced that it would reduce sodium, fat, and sugar in products globally; debuted the Pepsi Re- fresh Project, a CSR/cause program in which consumers compete for grants to activate change; and, in a bold move for its namesake beverage brand, replaced traditional Super Bowl ads with a digital promotion for Refresh.
As PepsiCo SVP and CCO since 2008, Julie Hamp, who faced many communications challenges during her 25-year tenure at GM, has been at the forefront of these efforts.
Through communications surrounding the concept of "Performance with Purpose," she seeks to help activate CEO Indra Nooyi's vision of a more unified and global corporate identity across brands. The idea is to meet societal expectations and business goals through long-term global sustainability efforts, product health innovation, and robust digital programs. She defines the concept as PepsiCo's commitment to "investing in a healthier future for people on the planet."
"Societal expectations are so great for a food and beverage company," says Hamp, adding that PepsiCo has "19 very big brands, each worth more than a billion dollars."
She explains the model, and an increased global PR investment of approximately $12 million to $16 million, was inspired by research showing consumers, largely unaware of the vast portfolio of brands, had been associating PepsiCo only with Pepsi-Cola.
"Nooyi said, 'You have the opportunity to do something most don't - change your whole industry; build a team, start it up, make it global, and make a difference,'" recalls Hamp of the time she was recruited to PepsiCo.
Hamp's first task was to change the company's communications structure to boost its capabilities and reflect the overall mission, shifting from a market-based approach to one that's more globally focused and consistent.
The approach, inspired by research showing engagement with 1,000 stakeholder groups, narrowed PepsiCo's target to 38 groups, such as the World Health Organization and UNICEF, in six key global markets, including the US, Mexico, and China. Within the markets, about 15 global reputation ambassadors could develop deeper media relationships and attend key conferences, she says.
She sought to leverage its 285,000-plus employee base via its ambassadors; the development of a more consistent look and feel for global Web properties, for which the digital team is finalizing implementation; and amended or developed new global tasks. For example, Charles Nicholas, a US VP of communications for Frito-Lay, is now VP of communications for PepsiCo Europe.Building on success
This approach is apparent in PepsiCo's consumer-facing efforts, for which Hamp en- courages regional teams to take advantage of successful existing programs in other markets.
For example, the US Doritos digital team tweaked Brazil's augmented reality effort, which created the illusion of a character jumping out from the packaging when held up to a webcam. The effort encouraged consumers to share the experience via social platforms.
"Why reinvent the wheel," asks Hamp, "when you can learn from other markets?"
Hamp credits her role as VP of communications for GM Europe with informing her global approach. "It took me one year to get around to everyone and really understand the vast differences and cultures," she says.
Tony Cervone, currently SVP and CCO at United Airlines, had known Hamp during his time at GM. He notes the "astonishing" cultural challenges she had to deal with in Latin America and the Middle East and praises Hamp's ability to effectively capture the ears of high-level execs so she could implement "sound communications strategies."
"She's very consistent in her approach to communications, but she also recognizes that it's much easier if you build on what people find in common," he explains.
Well-versed in cultural barriers, Hamp understands the value of fighting for budgets to support consistent yet unique messaging in relevant markets. The approach drives Pepsi- Co's global health and corporate reputation efforts, which also represent a large makeup of the Performance with Purpose mission.
"When we tell consumers we have Sun Chips, which are made from the sun using solar panels, are in bags that decompose in 12 weeks rather than 100 years, are under 150 calories and multigrain, suddenly we're listened to in a different kind of way," she says.
This is the kind of information the global teams must communicate, she stresses.
While recently speaking to Pan-American MBA Institute alumni in Mexico, she faced inquiries about the progress of the market's health efforts. She explained that for various products, such as Mexico's Stila Bar, the company is on a 20% salt reduction rate and "still has a ways to go."
One of the platforms through which the company is communicating this attempt is the global Web property that features baseline progress reports, such as the percentage by which PepsiCo has globally reduced sodium-per-serving or saturated fat.
The communications effort also leverages public-private partnerships with university research departments and foundations, and it encourages product innovation - especially with the new Gatorade G Series, SoBe Water, and Naked Juice - that provides the opportunity to "talk about health, nutrition, and a multi-function product," explains Hamp.
"It's the stories we tell that seem to capture that imagination," she says. "It's allowed us to expand the definition of who we are. To achieve that, it does take understanding the ingredient and adding a science team that can really reach out and make these changes."
To tell these stories, Hamp has lobbied for additional digital resources and amplified global digital strategies. She also replaced the brand-centric digital structure with a central global digital department and, in September 2008, hired Bonin Bough, formerly EVP and director of Weber Shandwick's interactive practice, to lead the department as global director of digital and social media at PepsiCo.Breaking from tradition
The Pepsi Refresh Project is perhaps the brand's most buzzed-about example. When the brand announced that the digital launch would halt the 23-year run of traditional Super Bowl advertising, it not only turned heads, but it immediately reached consumers vying for its philanthropic grants via online votes.
While the effort encapsulates the goals of Performance with Purpose, Hamp says it was the team's Internet Week initiative, in partnership with ThinkSocial, that brought the concept to life. In June, the company brought together six companies, including GE and Timberland, and used digital media to deliver sustainability stories. The event attracted more than 600 attendees.
She is also working with her digital team on developing a universal purpose code that, when activated by an iPhone app, replaces a product barcode with sustainability and nutritional information about the product.
Bough says, "She has a unique understanding of the digital space and knows it's not about controlling the message, but about being a company that does good, and dealing with the positive and negative comments in real time. We're driven by the passion of bringing Performance with Purpose to life."
"We believe the communications efforts will help remove cultural barriers and add positive impressions," adds Hamp. "There's no one entity that can get it done." lSidebar: Hamp's goals for PepsiCo
Leverage product benefits associated with fruits and vegetables in global efforts. "That's a really important place to expand because less than 20% of Americans get their daily dose of fruits and vegetables."
Develop additional mobile opportunities specific to mobile-heavy markets that may have less access to traditional tools. "We have to change even faster to connect with consumers of the future. It's looking at which digital or mobile engagement strategies work best in different markets."
Develop global impact stories based on local successes and tailor local stories for individual communities. "Consumers feel far better about a company like PepsiCo when they know we're providing 3 million people with fresh drinking water around the world. We could tell that story in one market, but the impact would be far less."2008-present
SVP and CCO, PepsiCo1999-2007
Various parent company posts at GM, culminating with her role as VP of comms at GM Europe, which began in July 20061982-1999
Various posts at Buick, Cadillac, and Saturn - all GM divisions