Our talk with Taylor Justin of Coca-Cola brings us to discuss how to drive innovations in trends. The full transcript for Talk Experiential episode #24 Using Trends and Insights to Build Actionable Data-Driven Results is followed below.

#24 How to Drive Innovations in Trends

Taylor Justin on episode #24 of Talk Experiential.


JOEY: Welcome back to another podcast with Talk Experiential.  I am Joey Kercher, your host. We have Taylor Justin from Chicago, Illinois.  She is the market development manager for Coca-Cola in downtown Chicago. Thanks for joining.


TAYLOR: Thank you for having me, Joey.


JOEY: Yeah.  We’ve been talking for a little bit so I’m pretty excited to get you on here.  How’s the weather out there? Is it starting to get chilly in Chicagoland?


TAYLOR: It is but, it’s like – I don’t know; I personally enjoy this type of weather.  I’m an Ohio girl so I’m used to the cold. I will say that there’s a difference between Chicago’s cold and the rest of everywhere else that gets cold weather, but you know, it’s not too bad.  We’ve had some – We’re going to have some peak spike days so, for the most part, I’m enjoying it.


JOEY: Right?  Well, good.  Well, good, it’s always a fun place to visit.




JOEY: Well, cool.  Why don’t you tell us a little about your background and we can kind of dive into some of the work you’re doing with Coke.


TAYLOR: Yeah, so as you mentioned in my intro, I am market development manager with Coca-Cola, in the downtown region of Chicago.  Primarily, I manage and go some of the most affluent accounts in the city. Northwestern Hospital is one of my biggest accounts: a very reputable and well known hospital in this state, as well as The Rehabilitation Center, which is a part of the Northwestern campus, also very well known in the healthcare sector.  I manage a host of business professional accounts that have their food service in well known facilities such as the Aon Building, Prudential, as well as NBC Tower.


And then finally, I retain the business, also, for a host of what we deem quick service and full service restaurants in the downtown area, so the RPMs of the world, really well known restaurant groups like Let Us Entertain You, and a host of other really fantastic restaurants in the area that I’ve been able to build really long term partnerships with, since managing this part of the city.


JOEY: Gotcha; very cool.  So, it sounds like you work with – We were talking a little bit earlier before regarding kind of an on-premise focus for Coke – and I assume it’s multiple brands for Coca Cola?


TAYLOR: Definitely.  So, it’s always interesting to have the conversation about what falls under the Coke umbrella, because people still think that we still classic Coke.


JOEY: Right [0:02:41.3].


TAYLOR: That’s it; nothing else that I’m pushing out here.  But, no, there’s a host of brands that people know and love and might be surprised about that falls under the Coke umbrella.  


So, some of my favorites are Smartwater -that’s under the coke family – the Minute Maid line of juices is under Coca-Cola, Honest Tea is a Coca-Cola Brand – I remember I met a guy who seems like he was very anti-corporation and when I told him that we have Honest Tea under our portfolio and he – it seemed like everything just left his body.  He was just so unhappy. And I’m like, “You know, it’s kind of one of those things.”


But, what’s great about these brands and the business that Coke has is that they’re a beverage company and that’s all that they do, and so they beauty of the brands is that they don’t fall into one another, like most people don’t realize that all of these different brands – many of them being their favorites – fall into the Coke umbrella because they act separately.  


Internally, we have different ways of looking at it but even we have different teams that operate some of our well known brands differently because they target different consumers and because of that, they’re all not going to be treated the same.  So, that’s what’s pretty cool about having all those brands that I’m able to sell, is that even though they’re all under one family – I get to sell them all – that they still manage to reach people differently as well.


JOEY: Right, gotcha; very cool.  Well, and I know that, yeah, these big companies: Coke, Pepsi – it’s a lot of different brands under one and they’re almost m&a shops, when you really look at it, from a big picture.  So, you focus on certain hospitals and hotels and things like that?




JOEY: Awesome.  And, from that side, you were talking about immediate consumption type of product.  This is obviously a form of marketing and obviously a channel – We were talking about this earlier: this is a channel that Coke sees very valuable to continue through at these locations.  Let’s talk a little bit about what your goals and strategies are, offering Coke product, whether it’s through merchandizing or through activations.


TAYLOR: Yeah.  So, with these accounts, one of the things that I really try to focus on is who’s consuming these beverages?  So, immediate consumption is essentially like a single serving of something. So, when you think about your fountain machines or if you go to your favorite restaurant, you’re most likely just getting one or perhaps two of a single beverage.  So, it’s just for you to have right at that moment and probably not going to share, versus if you – Our other channels being large and small store, which are mostly related to convenience and grocery stores.


So, with this immediate consumption channel, what I strategically like to do within my accounts is to really figure out what the market is moving towards and the trend, especially on the beverage side is all about innovation.  The market is very competitive for beverages. Companies like Coca-Cola as well as the competition were major players in the game, but there’s a lot of smaller brands that are coming in and finding and seizing opportunity as well.  


I think with this channel in particular and just with big brands in general, people are starting to not necessarily get tired but they do want a little bit more excitement and a lot of that comes from some of these smaller brands who thought about the market that wasn’t being tapped into, whether that be through the way they market the products, how the bottle looks – the packaging and things like that – and they’re able to capture that audience.  So, for me, it’s really about trying to make sure that our brands can hold their own against that and figure out how to keep our space within these accounts, and again, continue to grow the brand.


Probably the best example of what I just kind of laid out is this whole sparkling water war that I feel like everyone is doing right now.  Under the Coke family, we have Smartwater and Smartwater has a sparkling but we also have Dasani. Dasani has a line of sparking waters that recently came into the market, maybe this time last year or it’s been about two years.  I feel like that was a product that was very late to the market, especially for such a big company like Coke, and even the competition because Le Croix had been in the market for some time and completely swept the competition and a big name like Coca- Cola, one of the things that I have to really strategically do is leverage that name of Coca-Cola, leverage the name of Dasani to try to push that product in against a brand like La Croix, who’s really been holding it down in the sparkling water category for so long.  So, it’s really for me figuring out how to drive the innovation and being proactive and determining what the trend is.


So, there’s a couple that are out there – it’s so competitive out there – but you know, a big name, a heritage name, does carry its weight but sometimes if something’s been around as well and people get used to a certain taste, even if it’s a heritage brand, sometimes it can be a little bit harder to push that in.


JOEY: Right, got it.  So, through this channel, this immediate consumption channel – you’re mentioning a little bit about driving innovation – what kind of things are you doing, I guess on a merchandising level?  Is it product placement? Is it being able to educate consumers? Because obviously, this day and age, consumers are smarter and they understand what they want, they know what’s in it – What are some of the ideas or ways that you are kind of pushing that innovation to get them to do that immediate consumption?


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TAYLOR: Definitely.  So, Joey, what I like to do, especially if it’s a really good partner that’s just kind of willing to bring in any and everything, is to see how I can leverage the brand in a way for their shoppers or their consumers to get a taste of it.  So, we will do or I’ll host sampling events during peak consumption hours, which mostly is lunch for a lot of these places.


So, generally it’ll be maybe an hour and a half to two hour sampling, just showcasing off the new products, and again, really focusing on the beverage category that’s really important for our business and then being proactive.  For example, it might be something like energy, and so we’ll have a two hour showcase of our Monster Energy line and really focus on, depending on the account – for example, if it’s the hospital, then focusing on the zero sugar zero carb line of the product so that we’re kind of addressing a two in one there.  We’re showing that, “Hey, this is an energy product. It’s going to provide this alertness, these type of vitamins, but also showcasing that we understand that this is a healthcare facility. So, this won’t have as much sugar as what you might assume has an energy beverage or it won’t have as much carbs in it.”  So, really focusing on the channel and making sure that I host events that are going to make sense for that audience.


So, that’s a part of it and then, secondly, like you said, merchandising, so, getting the product, especially if it’s new, right in the customer’s face.  And so, one of the biggest products that I do this with is with Smartwater or just our water category, in general, because I think out of any craving that a person might have, water is a necessity, especially a water that they really like.  So, it’s a matter of having this water right in their face, so placing it strategically at eye level – One of the things that we do with Smartwater a lot, too, is to make sure that it’s ambient because there is a trend with having room temperature water versus a water that’s been chilled.  Some people’s bodies are sensitive, I think there’s some studies that are related to that, and so we try to have as much ambient water on the floor as well, and place it by stations – if we are in one of our food service accounts – placing it strategically by stations so that people can have the idea of paring it with a meal or that they grab it upon the consumption of grabbing their food.


So, we always want to make sure that when we’re marketing the products, that we have it go with food.  That’s always been a big initiative for Coke, just speaking to the brand itself, I’m not sure how it is with other brands but we’ve always been a brand to pair with food.  You can see it one of the recent commercials that I see a lot is people are enjoying Coke or Coke Zero, Diet Coke, or something like that with different types of cultural foods.  So, whether it’s with barbeque, whether it’s with tacos, whether it’s with soul food, we always pair our beverages with food.


So, again, relaying that same message into a retail space by pairing the products by food stations and ambient places so it immediately catches the person’s eye so that they’re like, “Wow, I’m grabbing this cheeseburger; of course I’ve got to have a classic Coke to go with it.”


JOEY: Right.


TAYLOR: And then, lastly, having it as an impulse purchase as well and placing it in stations next to gum, chips, kind of grab and go areas like that.  So, again, kind of focusing back on entry points, by food stations and then of course by the check out.


JOEY: Yeah, very cool.  No, that’s interesting.  It’s so crazy how water has just – It’s just water, right?


TAYLOR: Right.


JOEY: But there’s so many ideas around it.  I just started drinking sparkling water probably two years ago and I started out with a different brand: La Croix, started out.  Now, I actually have two on my desk. Really, at the moment it’s – I like this –


TAYLOR: Oh, Perrier?


JOEY: Yeah, I have this Perrier and then I have this spring water.




JOEY: But when you think about it though, it’s like – Well, for me, instead of having some type of sugar, I want to have something that I still get the same effects of drinking a soda –


TAYLOR: Definitely.  Definitely. It’s the carbonation.


JOEY: Yeah.


TAYLOR: It’s the carbonation.


JOEY: Yeah.


TAYLOR: Because I have the same craving.  I really want something – I’m not a sweets person and I’ve never been a heavy pop drinker.  My go-to, if I’m going to have a pop is Sprite because it’s very light, but if I’m just craving and I’m like, “Man, I really want something,” I will go for a sparkling water and get a flavored one and it’s weird how – I think it’s more of a psychological thing –


JOEY: Yeah.


TAYLOR: – but it’s just really good.  The satisfaction is there.


JOEY: Yeah.  Well, you know, it’s interesting.  People don’t realize marketing – There’s so many different avenues with marketing.  I mean, just marketing water, like what we were talking about, it’s marketing to the right consumer and everyone’s different and people get – drinking a certain water gets a certain emotion that they get attached to it and especially with Coca-Cola, it’s definitely one of the biggest soda companies in the world.  I wouldn’t say, sorry, soda – Would you consider drink – Drink companies in the world.


So, I guess, let me veer for a second.  I know that you work at hospitals and hotels and different locations.  Do you have to change your approach, depending on what type of on-premise it is?


TAYLOR: Definitely because the product can be used in different ways, so immediate consumption at a fine dining restaurant in downtown Chicago is going to definitely be different than me selling it into the hospital.  SO, the approach, generally, with that is aesthetic and it’s generally less of a product – less product options. So, kind of touching on aesthetics – and this relates to hotels as well – Hotels are very competitive when it comes to food and beverage and I think mostly it’s because of how the hotels are changing, in terms of their operation.  


So, I manage – I don’t know, I might have 15 hotels that fall under my management alone and all of them are different, in terms of their operations.  Some may not have in-room dining or a mini-bar, some do. Some have gift shops, some don’t; some have restaurants and lobbies where you can hang out in all day and have grab and go sections and then some just have cute rooftop bars that people go to after 5 o’clock.  And so the whole approach is different and what it comes down to, especially within those channels and the restaurant channels is that it’s an aesthetic thing.


So, they want to know, “Is this going to look cute on a table when someone is having a big banquet wedding or some type of awards ceremony?  Is this going to make a lot of noise?” So, I think what’s interesting with the Coke company and the products that they have is that they kind of consider those things.  So, there’s a certain package that we have that are in the classic glass Coke bottle, which are very nostalgic, they’re smaller in portion size as well, and so that business or that product in general for the business does very well and most of it is sold at, again, the fine dining restaurants and the hotels and the lodging accounts because aesthetically it’s more pleasing and it’s smaller.  So, probably on the operational end for them, it might be a little bit more profitable as well. But, just from, if you can imagine a waiter or a waitress coming over and them setting that on a the table at a five start Michelin rated restaurant, that’s much more appropriate than them setting down a 20 ounce plastic bottle.


JOEY: Right.  Right.


TAYLOR: So, that has a lot to do with it, as well, but packaging plays a huge part in that conversation too, because with the water category – we talked about it earlier – my water does very well in my hospitals and my business professional offices because you think about the grabbing, the going, it’s in plastic, they can drop it, it’s not going to burst or anything, but in my hotels or my restaurants, it’s harder to get a plastic bottle on a white linen table because it doesn’t look as chic.  But, for them to sit a glass bottle on the table that maybe the competition is able to provide, that looks a lot nicer. So, I feel like that’s the biggest hurdle and the biggest challenge between those differentiated accounts, from my experience, it really comes down to the aesthetics of the packaging and the presentation: how you’re going to be able to offer that to the in consumer, is what it mostly comes down to.


JOEY: Right, right.  No, that makes complete sense, regarding the packaging.  And, really, if you think about it, the brand is the packaging; it’s not really what’s in the product because water is water.  I mean there’s obviously different tastes and things like that, different things you can do it, but it is amazing – There is a marketing strategy for it.


TAYLOR: Yeah, definitely.  Definitely. Because I can’t  – It wouldn’t make any sense for me and vice versa, it wouldn’t make any sense for me to sell 8 ounce glass bottles to customers at a hospital.  That’s not their consumer and that’s not the package that they would want. Not even 12 ounce. They’re the perfect customers for 20 ounce just because you think about the time spent at a hospital, so they’re probably consuming beverages a lot quicker than the average person because they are sitting in a place all day, the beverages are probably a little bit more – or excuse me, we call it sparkling – more sparkling versus still, which would be like water and juices and stuff because they’re just more attentive in the space and they’re trying to stay alert, maybe within the ER or for whatever type of activity has brought them there.  


So, the consumption is different amongst all those channels and so adjusting to it, when I first started, was very interesting because I’m like, “You know this brand.  I’m sure you buy this brand for your home. I know that you drink Dasani plastic bottles at home or barbeque, bring them into your restaurant,” and it’s like, “No.” After learning and really getting to know the customer and understanding their in consumer, it’s like at the end of the day, that doesn’t match with their aesthetic over all, so they wouldn’t be obliged to bring it in because they’re in, “I can’t really move it.  It wouldn’t look right being here,” no matter how much it costs, in their favor or not.


JOEY: Right, absolutely.  No, this is exciting.  This is great stuff. It’s interesting just how marketing there’s so many different channels and different ways to get to your consumer and how you can do things.  So, I really appreciate you jumping on here and hopefully we can do a follow up at some point down the road.


TAYLOR: Yeah, I would love that.  That would be awesome.


JOEY: Yeah, and hopefully we can meet up at some point, too.  I’ll hopefully be in Chicago at some point.


TAYLOR: Yeah, yeah, that would be dope.


JOEY: Awesome.  Well, thanks so much for joining the podcast.


TAYLOR: Thank you, Joey, I appreciate it.

JOEY: No problem.  If you like what we’re doing with Talk Experiential podcast, please make sure you five star it and review it.  Also, please share it on Facebook and Twitter or any other social media outlets. Please, tell your friends who you think that will get value out of our podcasts.  Your support will help continue the success of Talk Experiential.

Find the list of full Talk Experiential episodes here.

Reach out to Taylor via her social channels Facebook, Twitter, blog, Instagram.

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