Friday, March 18, 2011

Snort this: How much Coke is Corporate using?

Amid speculation that new Chief Marketing Officer Maryam Banikarim may now have overall control of advertising sales, I've been told that an Atlanta-based consulting firm with deep Coca-Cola Co. ties has played a big role in Corporate's thinking about Gannett's future.

It's unclear whether three of GCI's top executives are happy about any such radical shift in sales strategy: U.S. newspapers president Bob Dickey; broadcasting division President Dave Lougee, and USA Today Publisher Dave Hunke.

The consultant, I'm told, is Core Strategy Group, a 23-year-old shop in Atlanta focused on marketing businesses, including several news companies, as well as political candidates, from (it says) Bush-Cheney to Barack Obama. Needless to say, the services of consultants like this don't come cheap.

Core's CEO and co-founder, Scott Miller, says he has particular experience as a consultant to Google, News Corp., Tribune Co., Cox Newspapers, the Newspaper Association of America, and Knight-Ridder.

What's more, through Chief Consulting Officer Craig Binkley, Core Strategy has roots in its corporate neighbor, Coca-Cola, the Atlanta-based beverage giant. Binkley was Vice President of Marketing for Coca-Cola Mexico, overseeing market development for the company’s second-largest division, the firm says. Craig also served as worldwide director of Marketing for Diet Coke and Coca-Cola’s Minute Maid’s brands.

Therein lies a direct GCI connection via the board of directors: Scott McKune, a director since 2008, is vice president and director of integrated marketing at Coke. McCune was preceded on the board by another Coke executive, the late Charles Fruit; he had joined the board in 2007, and was senior advisor on marketing to the beverage giant prior to his death in 2008.

Both McCune and Fruit came to the board under Chairman and CEO Craig Dubow, who has run the company since 2005.

What have you heard about Core Strategy? Please post your replies in the comments section, below. To e-mail confidentially, write jimhopkins[at]gmail[dot-com]; see Tipsters Anonymous Policy in the rail, upper right.


  1. So if the speculation is that the new CMO is in charge of advertising, where does that leave Michelle Krans & Co? I thought that was why she was moved to the palace?

  2. Someone on top has the first original idea I've ever seen come out of the Chrystal Towers. Who would have thought of hiring outside consultants? Who would have thought about hiring outside consultants who know absolutely nothing about the news business? Wow, now that's truly creative thinking.

  3. I can see how someone might think a newspaper looks like a Coke bottling plant. There's the presses that look like the soda pop assembly line. And there are trucks that back up to the plant and take the product away each day. So what's so different?

  4. A company hires consultants once they have completely run out of ideas. It's the great executive bailout!

  5. JIM,
    I WORK IN DIGITAL AND YOU NAILED IT ON THE HEAD WITH THIS!!! No one knows what Corestrategy does, but they have certainly spent a lot of time (last two years) here and have been pushing the "CMO" role and socializing it to all the executives.

    This puts the sales role across Gannett squarely in the hands of Maryam. No one is happy about this.

  6. Yeah, kinda like a bottling plant. Except, Coke tastes good. Gannett news content not so much anymore.

  7. Gannett kinda does remind me of New Coke.

  8. The shit pile just keeps getting bigger and stinkier

  9. How many years have they spent coming up with a strategy? If they had listened to Ram Charan before they would be further along. They may run out of high paid consultants soon. No accountability. Board needs to act.

  10. And now a word from a lowly daily sales rep: Thank god they've given advertising over to someone else. I can't even begin to put down in words what a freaking mess we're in. I hope and pray that this woman can bring some order, sense and logic into the DISASTER that is our sales force.

    Please! For the love of God Maryam, we need you to step up to the plate and bust some heads around this place. I hope you have it in you.


    Desparate and frustrated account rep who loves their coworkers, job, and paper and needs a savior. Somewhere on the east coast.

  11. Sorry but Maryam is not responsible for advertising. You are all either resorting to extreme speculation or wishful thinking. It's not in the plan now or in the future. But if you are going to make stuff up, this was a good one.

  12. So when does Craigy join the Coke board?

  13. If these payouts to underachieving execs don't make you sick, you must have had a lobotomy. The people in the Middle East rise up against stuff like this, but we just take it -- the pension demise, the layoffs, pay cuts, etc. I'm not advocating street protests, but if we all exercised our rights AS A BLOCK as owners of company stock, we could change things.


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