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October 23, 2012

MC@Work: Getting to Know Katie Bayne

As president of sparkling drinks for Coca-Cola North America, Katie Bayne reveals her secrets for getting ahead in a big company, the common mistake working women make, and how soda fits in to a healthy diet (really!).

katie bayne

Photo Credit: Ryan Pfluger

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Your father was the CEO of a copper mining company. Did you ever consider a career in mining?
I did! I was born in Australia, but we moved to the U.S. for my dad's job. When I was growing up, he'd bring me and my brothers to one of the huge mines in Salt Lake City every year to check things out — we'd ride around in the trucks, and they'd blow things up for us. But I really wanted to work at a company that was international and had marketing at its core.

After graduating from Duke's business school, you started at Coca-Cola as an assistant brand manager in 1989. What did you do there?
When I started at Coke, there were only 12 beverage brands. We realized consumers wanted variety, so things had to change. One of the first projects I ever managed was Tab Clear. This was during that period in the '80s when all products went clear, even dishwashing detergent. We took a look at consumer desire for clear beverages, and though we didn't see it, Pepsi had put out Pepsi Clear and we felt we needed an answer in the marketplace. So we took one of our smaller brands, Tab, and put out Tab Clear. It wasn't very successful and isn't on the market anymore. But I was the low man on the totem pole, and luckily Powerade, which I also brought to market, became one of the fastest-growing brands for us.

It's often said that the best way to advance your career is to move from one company to another. You've done the opposite, staying put at Coca-Cola for 23 years. Why have you stayed?
That's the wonderful thing about working at a company with a broad reach. I've had 15 different jobs at Coke and lived in three cities. Many of those moves were lateral — some were even steps back, like when I went to Sydney in 1996 to help start a retail marketing arm for our South Pacific business. Since I didn't have much experience in that arena, it was a bit of a crapshoot. At that point, I'd only done pure marketing jobs, and I was working with people who knew a lot more than I did about commercial business. But I always went where there was a clear opportunity for development or if it was something the company needed. You go where the bar is low, and then you can make a real difference.

You also served as Coca-Cola's chief marketing officer, where you were responsible for some of the brand's most iconic commercials. Do you have a favorite?
The one I'm proudest of is our 2008 Super Bowl commercial "It's Mine," which showed balloons in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade battling for a balloon bottle of Coke. The Charlie Brown balloon gets it. I loved that one.

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