'Scary Mary' Ruffles Feathers in Coke Marketing Bunker

05 September 2005

If the anguished squawks at Coca-Cola's headquarters are anything to go by, the arrival of Mary Minnick, the beverage behemoth's newly appointed vp of marketing, strategy and innovation [WAMN: 31-Aug-05], has had an impact similar to that of a fox in a chicken coop.

According to AdAge, Minnick, a Coke veteran of twenty-two years, is "sending chills down the spines of the genteel Atlanta company's marketing ranks, challenging long-held convention and sending back to the drawing board agency work designed to revive the brand's iconic status".

And analysts and investors like the squawks they hear: "Feathers need to be ruffled at Coca-Cola. It has desperately needed shakeup for a very long time," opines Bonnie Herzog, beverage analyst at Citigroup's Smith Barney.

Moles among the Atlantean chickens report that the newcomer's abrasive approach has earned her such nicknames as 'Minnick the Cynic' and 'Scary Mary'. Some are said to be less printable.

Nor are Coke's several advertising agencies immune from the Minnick mayhem. A reeling ad executive told AdAge she had made it abundantly clear that her loyalties lay not with them but "with brand Coke".

Among the shops with sweaty palms are WPP Group's Ogilvy & Mather and Berlin Cameron/Red Cell; Publicis Groupe's Publicis; Interpublic Group's McCann Erickson; and independents Wieden + Kennedy and Mother.

Minnick's PR machine is working overtime. An unnamed source describes her as "time-sensitive, results-oriented and opinionated [with] little patience for pretense or politics.

While former Coke colleague Ian Rowden, these days vp and cmo at Wendy's, offered a string of complimentary adjectives: "She's fast, smart and brave. She's done a great job in navigating the system."

Smith Barney's Herzog, who participated in a conference call with Minnick added to the paean of praise: "Mary said the right things [and] knows how to [move product quickly] better than anyone in the company; and if she can affect that globally, that would be huge in terms of helping to turn the business around and possibly getting to the growth targets they're talking about."

Coke's quondam head of marketing, Chuck Fruit, ceded to Minnick after just one year in the job. His cmo post has been eliminated and Fruit moved sideways into an advisory role.

Data sourced from AdAge (USA); additional content by WARC staff