How Do You Become a Senior Brand Manager at Coca-Cola?

By Alina Buzgar, Editor-in-Chief

Ted Ketterer ‘10 was recently promoted to Senior Brand Manager of FUZE. He talked to us about life at Thunderbird, career building and the future of brand management.

Coca-Cola 2014 FIFA World Cup Tour (Photo courtesy Ted Letterer)
Coca-Cola 2014 FIFA World Cup Tour (Photo courtesy Ted Ketterer)

“Since joining the FUZE team in 2013, Ted has led a number of key initiatives for the brand to build its presence and preference in the marketplace. Most recently, Ted led the launch of the brand’s most successful IMC campaign to date, featuring American icon Mr. T.” says Geoff Henry, Marketing Group Director at The Coca-Cola Company. Prior to joining FUZE, Ted spent two years on the Multi-cultural Marketing team, where he led the Hispanic teen recruitment strategy for brand Coke and before that, he was part of the team in charge of commercializing national Hispanic strategies and programs and driving sparkling share growth with Hispanics in key markets. He joined Coca-Cola North America in 2010 after he completed his MBA at Thunderbird.

Tell us about your time at Thunderbird.

Throughout the time I was at Thunderbird, I had a chance to live both on campus and off campus, and took advantage of a module abroad in Monterrey, Mexico, and a module abroad in Beijing, China. I was involved in Thunderbird Student Government (TSG) throughout most of my time at Thunderbird. I was a First Trimester Representative, a study abroad liaison, and Vice President in my last semester. In addition, I was a leader with Thunderbird Marketing Association (TMA), a Director for The Latin American Business and Culture Club, and a singer for The Global Sounds.

How did your classes and any extracurricular activities help you in your career?

Thunderbird was the perfect place to explore. I mean that in every sense. I was able to explore other countries through my study abroad opportunities and internship, understand new ways of thinking by listening to my classmates, each with their own set of diverse experiences. I explored what “global” meant from every functional lens and made some great relationships with professors, which stick with me to this day. This open-mindedness or orientation towards exploring new places and ways of thinking is a big part of what has made me successful so far in my career at The Coca-Cola Company. I strongly believe that it will continue to help me excel in the years to come.

Can you share a strong memory you have of Thunderbird?

The Pub (Photo courtesy Ted Ketterer)
The Pub (Photo courtesy Ted Ketterer)

I remember the last night in the campus pub. All of our classmates embraced in a giant hug and sang together “Hey Jude.” It was a moment that very few will forget. Reflecting on our experience, enjoying the time with each other, and realizing how fast it went and that we might never be able to replicate the magic that we all felt for roughly two years of our lives.

What is your experience with the Thunderbird Alumni network?

I think the Thunderbird Alumni network is fantastic. The global breadth of the network combined with the unique spirit and familial attitude make it truly unparalleled. Being able to know that wherever I am in the world, there is a good chance that I can attend a First Tuesday. It’s so cool! Also, if it weren’t for the alumni network I never would have made it to The Coca-Cola Company. I networked my way to an internship in Peru, which gave me just enough leverage to get in front of my dream company. Now, the rest is history.

Is there a message you would like to share with current students?

Be proud of being a T-bird. We are like a family. Regardless of what family members do to you that might make you mad, at the end of the day we are all family and we need to support each other. That is how I view Thunderbird and that is how I will always view Thunderbird.

Also, don’t be afraid to build your own culture. Often times we think that unless we have the word “President” or “Chief” in our title, that we aren’t the ones that set the tone. That is entirely untrue. Lead by example. If you notice a lot of negativity and inaction around you, create a culture of positivity and productive action. I have been through many “uncertain” situations in my career. It is incredibly stressful, but when I was able to tune out the noise, keep my head up, stay close to the business, and drive results, everything worked out fine.

What do you think are some key trends in the brand management profession?

Brand management is truly an amazing area of business. While the function itself can vary by company, in general it is like running a company within a company. It is a great cross-section of various functions and requires both a broad and deep expertise.

Brand management has been evolving. There is more and more pressure nowadays to bring a diverse perspective. Being able to spend some time in sales, with customers, in emerging areas of marketing are all become increasingly more important. Changes in technology, social media, consumer expectations, stakeholder/shareholder demands are increasingly putting more pressure on brand leaders to have a much broader understanding of how their decisions and actions impact different aspects of the business.

What are some key changes in marketing you have seen in the last five years?

Ted Mr. T- In a Mr. T headlock during a production day for FUZE in 2015 (Photo courtesy Ted Ketterer)
Ted Mr. T- In a Mr. T headlock during a production day for FUZE in 2015 (Photo courtesy Ted Ketterer)

As mentioned above, the world is changing rapidly. Global urbanization, access to money, the growth of mobile technology, advances in data analytics, and paradigm shifts of relationships between manufacturers, customers, and consumer/shoppers are all contributing to huge changes in the way we go to market. In order to stay relevant brands must understand how and where these changes might affect their business and the relationship with customers, consumers, and shoppers. In the past it was all about coming up with a cool product or service and developing a traditional advertising campaign, and then measuring results. Now it is a much more dynamic process and requires constant recalibration.

For those interested in brand management or marketing in general, do you have some advice?

Drive your career like you believe you can drive a brand. Truly talented brand marketers are analytical, resourceful, and results oriented. When I was at Thunderbird I certainly had plenty of gaps and barriers getting in the way of me and my dream job in Brand Management at Coke. Rather than give up and rather than fool myself into thinking I was better positioned than I was, I created a plan. I mapped out my strengths, I mapped out my gaps, and I developed a six month plan to fill those gaps. For me, that included getting more exposure to brand marketers, doing everything humanly possible to secure a marketing internship in consumer goods, and then tightening up my elevator speech. I knew my strength was my ability to display potential and to persuade. If I could have just enough experience to be listened to, I was confident I could make a compelling case for myself as a candidate.

The short announcement mentioned quite a few achievements. Would you like to elaborate on some of the key factors that led to such successful results?

The real key to the success that I have had has been applying strategic thinking and analytical rigor, coming up with creative solutions, and not being afraid to take risks.

In the case of my brand, it was riskier to maintain the status quo than to shake things up. I understood clearly the dynamic that I was operating within. I was managing a brand that by many standards would be considered a big brand. Within a company that has over 20 billion-dollar brands, we still were very much in the “emerging brand” mode. In order to breakthrough a cluttered ready-to-drink tea category and a bottling system that does best with more developed and scalable products, I needed to find a way to stand out.

I began with a brief to our agency that if our brand was positioned as “bold” to consumers, than we needed to do something truly “bold.” We came up with this crazy idea to introduce a butterfly version of pop icon, Mr. T as our newest brand ambassador, and we tested it rigorously. We found that the campaign idea scored exceptionally well with our consumer target, performing among the top 10% of all consumer-packaged-goods (PCG) ads overall and top seven percent in terms of persuasion scores. When we first shared the idea with our bottling system, they thought we might have been under the influence of something other than our Non-alcoholic Ready To Drink products. Now, three months into the campaign we have seen our brand preference metrics nearly double. While we still have a lot of work cut out for us to drive the business, this fearless attitude has helped change the tone for the better and put the brand on a more sustainable trajectory.

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