Magazine article Marketing

Profile: Coke's Local Interpreter - Cathryn Sleight, Marketing Director GB, Coca-Cola

Magazine article Marketing

Profile: Coke's Local Interpreter - Cathryn Sleight, Marketing Director GB, Coca-Cola

Article excerpt

As head of marketing at Coca-Cola GB, Cathryn Sleight has one of the most high-profile jobs in the industry. Yet the iconic status of its core Coke brand, combined with the unprecedented level of scrutiny facing UK food and drink companies, means it is also one of the toughest.

As befits a company battling to maintain its dominance in the face of consumer-behaviour challenges, Coca-Cola is keeping Sleight busy. The multimillion-pound launch of Coke Zero - the first extension to the core brand in 22 years - is an obvious example, and she will have little respite before embarking on a relaunch of the Schweppes brand.

Sleight might share the relentless working schedule of her US colleagues, but she does not reflect the stereotypical Coca-Cola culture oft-cited by critics, who accuse it of being overtly global in its marketing planning, slow to embrace change and obsessed with hierarchy.

She is only too happy to spell out that her corner of the Coca-Cola family is far-removed from this, placing an emphasis on the fact that she has more autonomy from its US headquarters than some might assume. 'A lot of people have preconceptions of what Coca-Cola is like to work for,' says Sleight. 'But you can do things locally and draw on the system; it is the best of both worlds.'

Sleight has also managed to overcome any limitations presented by Coca-Cola's global hierarchy, according to Adrian Coleman, partner at Coke's ad agency, VCCP. He says that she has wisely worked hard on her relationship with the company's bottling partner, Coca-Cola Enterprises, and brings not only a great understanding of marketing, but also acute business acumen to her role. 'She is really nice to work with; a great character who handles Coca-Cola's hierarchical structure well,' he adds.

In many ways, Sleight reflects the new face of Coca-Cola, as highlighted by its recent portfolio ad campaign showing the variety of brands under its umbrella. Pepsi and Coke's marketers tend to be fiercely loyal to their brands, and a change of job is often accompanied by a change of fridge contents. So it is interesting that when asked about her drink of choice, Sleight cites two still fruit drinks: Minute Maid and Oasis.

Politically speaking, this is a good choice, as it sums up a future for Coca-Cola in which it will depend less on carbonates and more on drinks with a healthier image. …

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