B. Bonin Bough on Digital Fitness at PepsiCo

B. Bonin Bough on Digital Fitness at PepsiCo

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B. Bonin Bough on Digital Fitness at PepsiCo

An Interview with the Senior Global Director of Digital and Social Media
Technology & Digital, Marketing & Sales
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    In This Video
    B. Bonin Bough

    At a Glance

    Born in New York City

    Year Born: 1977


    1999, degrees in physics and political science, Hartwick College

    Career Highlights

    2008–2012, senior global director of digital and social media, PepsiCo

    2006–2008, executive vice president and director of the social, interactive, and emerging media practice, Weber Shandwick

    1999–2006, senior vice president, Ruder Finn Interactive

    Outside Activities

    Cochair, New York Digital Collective

    Board member, Social Media Advisory Council


    Editor’s note: B. Bonin Bough left PepsiCo in February 2012 to become vice president of global digital and consumer engagement at Kraft Foods.

    PepsiCo does not sell digital products, but the company recognizes that its success increasingly relies on managing bits and bytes, not just food and beverages. PepsiCo is always working to develop its digital strategy. Recently, the company has launched Gatorade’s Mission Control, a platform for real-time consumer engagement, and PepsiCo10, a program in which the company identifies and partners with start-ups as a way to stay on the bleeding edge of technology and social media.

    B. Bonin Bough, the global director of digital and social media, oversees PepsiCo’s digital activities, which include both social-media outreach and conversations with consumers as well as internal skill-building. In his role, Bough makes sure that the company’s workforce is, in his words, “digitally fit.” Digital skills, he explained, need to be embedded throughout an organization, not tucked away in a separate business unit or function. Dominic Field, a partner and managing director of The Boston Consulting Group, recently spoke with Bough about going digital at PepsiCo. Excerpts of their discussion follow.

    Tell us a little bit about your role at PepsiCo. It is a kind of unusual role.

    My primary role is to run the digital center of excellence. We have three core objectives: How do we identify platforms and opportunities that we can invest in globally? How do we share best practices? I think this is something that challenges most organizations, so how do we make sure that we are lifting and shifting across the global organization? And then, how do we develop cutting-edge strategies across brands, geographies, and functions and build world-class capabilities in the digital space?

    There are tremendous threats and opportunities associated with digital. What are you seeing as some of the challenges that organizations are having to deal with?

    The biggest threat is not being a part of it. I worry that organizations are still stuck in this Jurassic period, and they have not necessarily evolved at the same pace that their consumers have. There is not a lot of knowledge—up and down the ranks—about what good digital looks like.

    One of the things that we are highly focused on at PepsiCo is digital education. We call it digital fitness. How do you create a digitally fit global organization? I think that education will be something we will see people focusing on in the future.

    What does it take to be digitally fit?

    It takes pushing yourself past the point of where you want to say no. If you are not necessarily a digital native—and even if you are—there are going to be times in this new and emerging fast-paced world when you are going to feel uncomfortable, and that discomfort is okay. Just as when you get physically fit, you have to fight through that in order to build muscle memory.

    I know that experimentation—“test and learn”—is a big part of the digital-fitness approach. When is it time to move from the experiment to the large-scale idea? What does it take to scale things up?

    We are in a unique position. We are a scale player. When you look at what would be considered scaled digital platforms, our scale dwarfs those platforms. We can take an emerging technology and turn it into an emerged technology, almost overnight. We want to make sure that the kernel of a technology is servicing the right consumer-engagement needs. That is why we start with test and learn. How do we identify that this technology can help us cut through the consumer-engagement clutter?

    Once we know that we have a technology that works, how do we integrate it into programming? We do not believe that technologies alone can build businesses. It requires those technologies put alongside world-class marketing, delivered by world-class marketers. You have to understand: Is the technology going to meet the need that you have? If so, where is the consumer adoption? Are consumers actually using it? Then how do you put it into the right program that can allow you to achieve scale? We have been doing enough of this that we have a vast body of knowledge about how to make those things work.

    How do you at PepsiCo think about measuring success?

    The first problem is that most people set out to understand what the magic bullet is, and what metric is going to give us an answer. I do not think that is the right place to start. We try to start from the business priorities. What are the business objectives, and how do we align the right metric around those objectives? With PepsiCo10 and platforms such as TableTop Media, our goal was to use this emerging technology to drive sales at the point of purchase. All of the efforts were focused around the point of purchase and how do those increases in sales relate to other efforts that we have done. I think the real answer is “What is the business objective? What is the need? And how do you measure against that?”

    How do you think the digital realm will change organizations from a structural or organizational perspective? Or will they fit neatly into the way companies organize themselves today?

    From a structural standpoint, it is less about building world-class digital teams and more about building world-class digital knowledge across the global organization. We are going to see the effects from everything from supply chain to sales, and that is going to be the challenge. How are we going to retool a workforce that will help us change the game for the future? If you look at somebody who has been working in the supply chain for 25 years, his or her knowledge is vast. If you could just bring the digital knowledge to him or her and provide the support, the training, and the organizational imperative, then you could unlock a ton of value. That is where the win is.

    You are not going to hire your way to cultural transformation. It is just not going to happen.

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