Bea Perez – CMO, The Coca-Cola Company, North America

Bea Perez

The Marketer: Don’t slash your marketing budget yet, says top Coca-Cola exec Bea Perez.

[Editor’s Note: At the time of this interview, Perez was senior VP of integrated marketing for The Coca-Cola Company, North America.]

By Taylor Mallory

“I ask myself every day, Should I spend money on that program, or can I make small adjustments to make what we’re already delivering better?” says Bea Perez, senior vice president of integrated marketing for The Coca-Cola Company’s North American division. Perez is responsible for leading all media, entertainment, digital platforms and sports strategy, including partnerships with NASCAR, the PGA, the Oscars, and American Idol.

Here she talks to PINK about marketing in troubled times – and overcoming challenges.

PINK: How is the recession affecting your segment of the business, and what are you doing to work through it?
Bea Perez: This year, I’m more focused than usual on growing our business while still extracting productivity and eliminating waste. But you can’t cut your marketing budget or stop advertising. You still have to make short-term decisions that will affect long-term growth, or you’ll go out of business.

PINK: What’s the best business advice you’ve ever received?
B.P.: Always reject your first thought. Your initial reaction might be the right path, but think things through. When we first decided to work with NASCAR, I thought we needed a car. Everyone has a car. But as I listened to people who knew more about it than I did, I realized that having a car is great for brand awareness, but we didn’t need that. So we got a group of drivers, the Coke Racing Family. Plus, one driver can only do so many appearances per year; multiple drivers can do many more.

PINK: Who inspires you?
B.P.: My mother. She’s faced a lot of barriers but has never seen them. She was a political exile from Cuba. She eventually moved to Connecticut, where she raised two daughters alone, not speaking English, with a nursing degree. She got her Ph.D. and a fellowship at the White House and, ultimately, started her own real-estate business. But she always volunteered for the Red Cross, spent time at church and fed the homeless during the holidays. She gave back even if she had a hard time paying our heating bill.

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