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Interesting profile in Business Week of Mary Minnick, who runs marketing, strategy and innovation for the Coca-Cola Co. "I tend to be quite discontented in general," BW reports she once told investors. "It will never be fast enough or soon enough or good enough."

According to the article, Minnick is blunt, acerbic, stern though occasionally charming, and really smart – and not particularly concerned if she offends employees as she tries to cut through “the sclerotic complacency that has marked Coke for the past decade.”

BW writes: “To Minnick, growth means more than simply boosting sales of Coca-Cola Classic. And innovation involves more than repackaging existing beverages in slightly different flavors. Minnick is exploring new products as far afield as beauty and health care. If she accomplishes even half of what's on her drawing board, she'll usher in the greatest flowering of creativity in the company's history. And should her plan succeed, she could end up CEO, if not at Coke then almost certainly elsewhere.”

And: “With the solid backing of CEO E. Neville Isdell, to whom she reports, Minnick is pushing to transform Coke from a soda-centric organization that was long content to offer ‘me-too’ products in emerging categories to one on the cutting edge of consumer trends. At a private, mid-May meeting of Coke's top 200 global marketers in Istanbul, Minnick implored her troops to stop thinking in terms of existing drink categories and to start thinking broadly about why people consume beverages in the first place. The goal: to come to market with products that satisfy those needs before the competition…Minnick loves to talk about what she considers the 10 primal ‘need states’ that consumers have, including ‘hunger and digestion,’ ‘mental renewal,’ and ‘health and beauty.’ Creating drinks that meet each of those need states may mean inventing entire new categories. Imagine drinks, for example, that are fortified with vitamins or nutrients and provide women the same benefits as a facial scrub or cold cream. In the future, Minnick says, the winners will be the beverage companies that develop breakthrough products that, more often than not, cross over traditional beverage categories.”

Ironically – or perhaps not – there also is a story in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that quotes John Brock, CEO of Coca-Cola Enterprises, the company’s largest bottler, as saying that “if Coke doesn't innovate fast enough, the bottler will acquire drinks in fast-growing categories other ways.” Including from other companies.
KC's View:
While we have to be honest about the fact that we don’t admire a bulldozer management style – “The Devil Drinks Diet Coke” anyone? – it would seem that Minnick certainly is doing what someone in charge of innovation needs to do.

As we read this piece, though, we kept thinking that all companies – not just the ones that have fallen on hard times – require “breakthrough products” that help them remain compelling and relevant to their customers. If cultures of innovation were more common, then perhaps fewer companies would find themselves in desperate need of such fixes, and a bulldozer management style wouldn’t be necessary.