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It’s hard to keep iconic brands fresh. However, Kristin Patrick, EVP and CMO at Claire’s, and Mark Kirkham, SVP and CMO of International Beverages at PepsiCo, are the Visionaries for the task. Why? They use a unique blend of tradition and innovation paired with careful strategy and fearless risk. But most importantly, a commitment to never stop learning alongside their teams.

With a shared passion for marketing efficiencies that keep iconic brands fun and relevant for today’s consumers, they will leave you feeling inspired throughout the entire conversation. From creating platforms geared towards Gen Z and Gen Alpha to keeping their teams unified and aligned, here’s what they had to say on Visionaries and how it could impact you and your teams.

Seven Tips for Leading Iconic Brands with a Future Mindset:

  1. Never Stop Learning
  2. Preserve Nostalgia while Pursuing Innovation
  3. Take Risks to Reach New Audiences
  4. Master the Messaging Mix
  5. Seek to Understand Disparate Markets
  6. Hone Your Servant-Leadership Mindset
  7. Let Your Passion Fuel Your Work

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Never Stop Learning

Kristin Patrick: I didn’t grow up classically trained. I started my career at the Walt Disney Company after leaving law school. I learned very early how to build brands from a unique perspective. I learned about content, product, and experiences, which is the foundation of how I think about building iconic brands while working at companies like Calvin Klein, Revlon, and Gap Inc. I also spent time working for super-agent Ari Emanuel and Playboy.

After leaving Playboy, I joined Pepsi [with Mark Kirkham], and I had no idea what I was in for. Together, we found our way. One of the reasons why I was so excited to work with Mark was that I knew I could be completely honest about my weaknesses and where I needed guidance as a leader. We helped each other throughout that journey.

Mark Kirkham: It’s important to learn from every experience, and I’ve had many throughout my 13-year journey at PepsiCo, from navigating various roles and brands to living overseas for the past 7.5 years.  I’ve learned a lot about the world and the role our iconic brands play globally.  In a company like PepsiCo or any major CPG company, you need to spend time understanding the consumer and the dynamics. 

Fundamentally, it’s about passion for brand building, and luckily, Kristen and I, along with many of my colleagues, have been able to travel the world and learn from our consumers.  The day I stop learning is the day I stop existing as a marketer.  The world has changed so much in the last 10-15 years that you can take traditional brands, like Pepsi, and make them fresh. 

“The day I stop learning is the day I stop existing as a marketer.”

Mark Kirkham, SVP and CMO of International Beverages at PepsiCo

More importantly, you can convince consumers, franchisees, and operators that the brand is as amazing as it was 125 years ago.   That’s what keeps me going – learning and challenging myself at every step of the way and taking those learnings into the next role.

Preserve Nostalgia and Pursue Innovation

Mark Kirkham: Finding the balance between authenticity and relevancy is the hardest yet most important part of brand management. For iconic brands, it’s particularly challenging to remain relevant to younger or new audiences while preserving what made them special in the first place.

Pepsi is a great example of a brand that has managed to stay relevant by embracing change without losing its essence. Pepsi’s approach to music and sports has evolved over time, but it has always remained true to its core values. In a global role, it’s essential to be globally scalable while remaining locally relevant.

It’s crucial to understand local nuances and insights to avoid imposing ideas on people. This balance of authenticity and relevance is what makes a brand iconic today.

Kristin Patrick: Claire’s is a 60-year-old global brand that most people enter during a rite of passage: their first piercing.  As a marketer, I feel lucky because there is a sense of specialness and nostalgia associated with the brand.  Customers often come for their first piercing and return for first communions, proms, and homecomings, and later bring their kids back to get their ears pierced. 

When we thought about creating a new voice and vision for the next generation, whom we refer to as the “Zalpha’s,” (Claire’s classifies Gen Z as 13 to 24-year-olds and Gen Alpha as 13 and under), it started from a place of empathy.  We took a lot of time listening to them, and they told us they wanted more from us: apparel, accessories, décor, content, and storytelling.  I had a hunch that Claire’s could play a deeper role in consumers’ lives. 

Now, we’ve been on that journey, figuring out where they are from a technology perspective.  We took the brand into the metaverse with a piece of intellectual property called Shimmerville, a game on Roblox. We rebooted our piercing business and will enter new categories over the coming year.  Ultimately, it all starts with our consumer base and what they’re feeling. 

Take Risks to Reach New Audiences

Kristin Patrick: In some ways, the company’s secret sauce is being really good at tracking trends and staying on the cutting edge. Even from a technology perspective, I have to be a first mover. That’s where the consumer goes.

We had to be there on the first day of Threads, and when we went into Roblox and created a game, I didn’t know what would happen. Instead of approaching it from a branded perspective, we created a piece of intellectual property.

Many brands have had to pull out of Roblox, but we were willing to take calculated risks. As the CMO of any iconic brand, it’s about knowing when to step in and try things in a calculated way. Fortunately, I have a board and CEO who support this change and evolution.

“Claire’s secret sauce is being really good at tracking trends and staying on the cutting edge... I have to be a first mover. That’s where the consumer goes.”

Kristin Patrick, EVP and CMO at Claire’sg

Master Your Messaging Mix

Kristin Patrick: We specifically target the Zs, but this is one of the most complex iconic brands I have worked on. There are moms, dads, grandparents, Zs, and alphas to consider.  We decided to age up the brand just a touch, which was a big decision for a 60-year-old brand.

We talked to alphas, their moms, dads, and Gen Zs and figured out that little kids want to be big kids. They always want to be a little bit older than they are. So, we’re trying to perfect the art of making it youthful enough not to offend alphas and their parents but cool enough to attract the alphas and not alienate the Zs. We want to make the Zs feel part of this brand and culture. That is what great marketing is all about – figuring out that mix.

Mark Kirkham: Pepsi is famous for music and football, but we have had to adapt and find new ways to connect with younger audiences. Nowadays, many kids celebrate nostalgia, and even alphas are interested in 1980s trends. We have evolved our logo to reflect our past and our vision for the future.

Pepsi has a long history with football. Our work with EAFC is a great example of how we have adapted our gaming strategy to reach local audiences and integrate music, taking talent to virtual worlds and telling a brand narrative that connects with our consumers. This is different from how we used to do things, but staying relevant and engaging with our consumers is necessary.

By focusing on the mix of young-at-heart and heritage, we can reach younger consumers and maintain our connection to our loyal fanbase. As Kristen said, “Aging up makes you even more attractive to younger consumers.

Mark Kirkham, SVP and CMO of PepsiCo International Beverages discusses how he is steering iconic brands

By focusing on the mix of young-at-heart and heritage, we can reach younger consumers and maintain our connection to our loyal fanbase.”

Mark Kirkham, SVP and Chief Marketing Officer of PepsiCo’s International Beveragesie

Seek to Understand Disparate Markets

Mark Kirkham: Maintaining consistency in certain aspects of your brand and portfolio is one of the most precious and challenging parts of your job.  As you go around the world, that’s not easy. 

At PepsiCo, our business is mainly franchised, and it is essential to find a global-to-local approach that ultimately drives the business.  For example, we have amazing businesses in the Middle East, where the vast majority of their population is under 25, and it is crucial to listen and empathize with the consumers as well as your teams.   

I’m blessed to have an amazing, diverse team of almost 30 different cultures in our office, and this helps us understand the dynamics and differences and learn from each other.  As a global marketer, you can’t sit in one place and pretend to understand; you need to go into the markets, spend time with retailers and consumers, and figure out the magic sauce of what’s globally scalable and locally relevant.

Hone Your Servant-Leadership Mindset

Mark Kirkham: A servant leadership mentality ties right into authentic leadership. I know it’s an overused term, but it’s about connecting with those you work with. The best way to understand someone on your team or extended team is to understand their day-to-day and the dynamics they face.

A servant-leadership mindset looks like this:

  • You must be able to relate but also ensure your team can see where you’re coming from. You can’t do that if you’re just a top-down, mandate-based leader.
  • You have to get your hands dirty.
  • You must be willing and accepting and celebrate failures when necessary.
  • You have to be transparent, and sometimes you have to be direct.
  • But more importantly, you just need to care. Sometimes, we get too busy and have to step back and think, “Wow, we’re so lucky to work with these people.”

Let Your Passion Fuel Your Work

Kristin Patrick: I have been fortunate in my career to have had great family support and wonderful mentors who have guided me along the way. However, growing up, I experienced the harsh reality of girls being mean to each other. It was particularly tough in high school, and I promised myself that I would create a path for women where we could support each other.

As women leaders, we must support one another. My work comes from a place of appreciation for those who have helped me in the past, as well as the pain I felt in high school. This motivates me to support women and encourages me to pay it forward as a female leader.

Meet the Visionaries

Mark Kirkham, SVP and Chief Marketing Officer of PepsiCo’s International Beverages: Mark is responsible for global brand/category strategies and marketing programs for the beverage portfolio outside of the US. He previously was VP of PepsiCo’s sports, energy, and juice businesses, where he led the integration of #RockstarEnergy and the international expansion of #Gatorade. Before rejoining the global team, Mark was Head of Marketing and Innovation for Western Europe Beverages, leading the overall beverages portfolio, including #Pepsi, #7UP, #Lipton, and Gatorade. Mark is based in Dublin, Ireland, and loves sports, music, and travel. He has been married to his wife Jenn for twenty years and has two beautiful daughters (Kylie 15, Brooke 13).

Kristin Patrick, EVP and CMO of Claire’s: Kristin oversees all aspects of marketing, including e-commerce, consumer insights analytics, brand and business strategy, creative vision, and omnichannel media. Kristin spent her first year focused on brand evolution, and in a short amount of time, she has been a driving force for the brand’s repositioning, turning Claire’s into a powerful player in content by merging the physical and digital worlds. Prior to Claire’s, she served other as the global CMO of PepsiCo and has held leadership positions at renowned iconic brands, including as CMO for PLBY Group, Inc. and at WME | William Morris Endeavor, NBCUniversal, The Walt Disney Company, Revlon, Gap Inc., Liz Claiborne’s Lucky Brand, and Calvin Klein.

Visionaries, hosted by Nadine Dietz, airs every week and is brought to you in partnership with The Wall Street Journal. Each week, two new visionaries share their game plan and how that impacts today’s teams, talent, and hybrid work environment.   

Marketers That Matter® is a community of top marketing executives coming together to pioneer the future of marketing, sharing real-time experiences, and solving current challenges. 

Our parent company, 24 Seven, specializes in helping you find exceptional marketing and creative talent for your teams.