Two Lessons From the Road: Never Get Comfortable and Always Look Up the Hill

I’ve worked for the same company for 14 years.  Crazy, right?  When you start early at such a dynamic company like PepsiCo, it’s hard to make a change.  But, it’s more than that.  Throughout those 14 years, I can honestly say I’ve transformed.  And I’ve had to because the company and industry have moved so fast.  It’s been exciting to run, or in my case, cycle, at that pace.  I’ve been an avid cyclist for many years, so I tend to appreciate high velocity.  I’m inspired daily by my colleagues, who are pushing the beverage category and consumer marketing to the next level.  This is why, 14 years later, it still feels just as exciting as it did in the beginning.

So, that got me thinking about the keys to create a culture within a company that inspires and encourages transformation.  What have I learned from my own career path at PepsiCo and my passion for being an ever-evolving employee?  It’s interesting — two lessons that immediately came to mind are also true in cycling; never get comfortable in the saddle and always look up the hill.

Never Get Comfortable

Think about it: Nearly 10 years ago, the idea of Twitter — using 140 characters to communicate in real-time — was not even on the radar.  Fast-forward to today and you can’t imagine life without it.  Actually, I just became more focused on my own social media, and as a non-digital native, I’ve really had to push myself to jump in and not be afraid.

In today’s environment of 24/7 connectivity and real-time communication across multiple platforms, we need to constantly transform the way we speak to our fans.  We’re not only finding innovative and unique ways to engage with them, but to give them one-of-a-kind experiences unlike anything they’ve seen before.  The truth is, we don’t have all the answers and not everything we do will be 100% perfect.  However, we’re taking risks, we’re learning and we’re evolving our marketing practices to make products and programs even better for the future.

Speaking of “future” … Whether it’s celebrating the 30th anniversary of “Back to the Future” with the limited-edition release of Pepsi Perfect like we did in October or tapping into moments that focus on the happiness that Aquafina brings your body after consumption with our “For Happy Bodies” campaign, we’re always looking for new ways to bring people closer to our products in organic ways.

Always Look Up the Hill

Consumers think and act differently today, which means we need to pay close attention.  For more than two decades we’ve transformed the products we offer, expanding beyond our iconic soft drink brands to give consumers choices for every lifestyle and occasion, including tea, water, sports drinks, ready-to-drink coffees and premium juices.  Why?  Because we’re listening to consumers’ needs and then creating products around those needs.  If we don’t, we’re not staying ahead of the game.

We’re also transforming by building teams of individuals with diverse backgrounds, skill sets and passion areas who are capable to make this ride; together, they experiment, they explore, they push the boundaries and facilitate change.  For example, our Creator group explores the edges of culture to co-create innovative experiences such as the Pepsi Art Dome at the recent Voodoo Music and Arts Experience in New Orleans.

There’s no telling what changes will happen next.  But as the saying goes, the only thing that is constant is change.  And that’s what makes it fun.  At PepsiCo North America Beverages, we’re all in for the ride.  And like our consumers, we’ll keep on transforming.


You can hear more from Seth Kaufman at AAF’s Digital Conference in Chicago, IL! Learn more and register here.


About the Author

Seth Kaufman, Chief Marketing Officer, PepsiCo North America Beverages

Seth Kaufman, PepsiCo

Seth Kaufman is the Chief Marketing Officer for PepsiCo North America Beverages (NAB), where he leads the holistic business, brand and consumer agenda across the company’s beverage portfolio in North America. This includes popular and iconic brands such as Pepsi, Mountain Dew, Aquafina, Lipton iced teas, Sierra Mist and Starbucks ready-to-drink iced coffees. He was inducted into the Advertising Hall of Achievement in 2015 and will deliver the opening keynote on February 16 at the Edge Effect: Media Meets Technology in Advertising conference in Chicago. Prior to his current role, Kaufman served as Senior Vice President of Pepsi and NAB’s Flavor Portfolio and before this, he was Vice President/General Manager of the North American Coffee Partnership, a joint venture between PepsiCo and Starbucks.

Kaufman received his Bachelor of Science in Television, Radio & Film Management from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University and his MBA from The Ross School of Business at The University of Michigan. He is a Board of Trustee member for the Immune Deficiency Foundation, is an avid cyclist and lives in Northern NJ with his wife Faith and their daughters Emma, Noa and Samone.

Follow Kaufman on Twitter: @SethAKaufman.