Jenny Chan 陳詠欣
Oct 15, 2014

Richard Lee's curious double-CMO role for Pepsi and Master Kong

SHANGHAI - In September, Richard Lee, PepsiCo's Greater China chief marketing officer, took on an additional role as CMO for Master Kong Beverages. In his trademark confident manner, Lee speaks out about the potential conflict of handling two of the largest beverage brands in China.

Richard Lee
Richard Lee

In addition to managing the brands under PepsiCo China, Lee will guide the marketing strategy for Master Kong (under Tingyi Holdings). This includes the development of individual sub-brand strategy, product portfolio framework, consumer insight, communication management, celebrity endorsements and agency relationships.

This is obviously not an easy task. How will the double-CMO, who was born in Hong Kong and schooled in America, add value to both brands?

Lee said that for PepsiCo, a large international brand, to be successful in China, it must be "grounded". This means an ability to integrate Chinese traditional culture into its marketing. Pepsi's annual marketing blast for three consecutive years, 'Bring Happiness Home', is one example, he asserted.

"Master Kong is also very good in this respect with Chinese-style family values ​as a key concept for communications and branding," Lee said. "On this point, the two companies have a common goal."

"Pepsi and Master Kong are actually a perfect match, as you will find that Pepsi has the world's best brand philosophy, and Master Kong is skillful with localisation," Lee said. Although these two brands have their own unique marketing approaches, they can complement each other in the future. Lee went on to hint, with a faint smile, that market reality nowadays requires even giant-sized companies to engage in collaboration, when in the past they had isolated marketing operations.

Furthermore, more and more young consumers in China have an international mindset, calling for creative campaigns to achieve a mix of West and East. That will become "the new normal", he said.

On the subject of agency competencies, Lee proposed that agencies aim for "convergence and single-mindedness" with their clients.

"I do not like the word 'agency'," he said. "Agencies should be 'agents' for brands but more appropriately, 'creative partners'." A core creative idea should be single-minded, he emphasised. Advertising agencies now need to play a three-C role: consultant, curator, coordinator. They must be all those before they even talk about the fourth C: compensation.

Based on past impressions and this interview, Lee is definitely a talker. He has a lot to say about Pepsi and less about Master Kong, given that he only started his dual position one month ago.

Pepsi's largest target group is Chinese youth, and in order to learn more about the psychology of young people and to become friends with them, the brand specially created a new 'Pepsi Youth Board': a board of directors comprising young professionals from all walks of life. Pepsi plans to let them express their ideas, and even directly involve them in the development of brand strategy, Lee disclosed.

When it comes to digital marketing, Lee believes that internet media platforms have steadily strengthened their creative capabilities. Together with big data, these media platforms may become completely independent and professional advertising agencies themselves. Meanwhile, brands are also becoming their own publishers.

Ambitions in China have certainly doubled in size, Lee concluded, citing another of what he called concepts of two. "I think life is very simple with two goals: firstly, be positive and optimistic in the pursuit of happiness; secondly, do something meaningful for society."


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