5 Things I Know About Marketing – Jim Trebilcock, EVP, Dr Pepper Snapple Group

Jim Trebilcock is executive vice president of marketing at Dr Pepper Snapple Group where he has been for 25+ years. He was a presenter at MSI's February 2014 conference,"Brands in the Balance: Managing Continuity and Change." In September, he spoke with Executive Director Kevin Lane Keller; below is an edited version of their discussion.


The marketing function today is more important than at any point in my career. This is particularly true for CPG marketers. The need to be closer to your consumer—your shopper—is greater, because everything is changing. We are facing a consumer who is rapidly changing and who is challenged. As a result, there is no easy growth out there.

Whether our organizations are operations oriented, finance oriented, or sales oriented, at the core we have to make something that connects with our customers. That is the heart of marketing.  


Marketers have to play a challenger role within an organization. Organizations can become complacent and ride on their success. I believe marketing’s role is to create positive agitation within the company to continue to improve, to seek new ways of satisfying a consumer or shopper. That to me is part of the magic and fun of being a marketer: being given a license to think like that, to create options for the company based on consumer and shopper insights and data analytics.

We have built a very strong intern program here. It is so neat to see young new employees sending challenges up the food chain. That is when we get a really dynamic organization: I will be passing down  ideas, but they have no problem pushing ideas back up at the same time. 


Marketers must be very good at making choices in the long-term interest of the brand and the company. Sometimes you have to create innovation that may not pay out in the short run, but will solve a really important problem for a consumer or a retailer over a longer period of time. And in the long run, you may be able to charge more for the innovation or extend it. 

It took two years to get our organization rallied around our Snapple re-launch. This was a complete transformation at a time when our board thought we weren’t making enough money on the brand to begin with. We invested heavily in all the commercial elements, such as manufacturing capabilities and new packaging innovation. And we have had five years of straight growth. 


Marketers never “arrive.” It’s a constant learning environment. There is a humility to marketing. “Yearning to learn” is a core skill for any marketer at any level.

Marketers need be in a learning mode all the time. For example, we have a ton of research on the millennial and “we” generation, but I wanted to get closer to our target audience. So our agency recruited millennials from around the country—all wickedly bright—and we spent two days following them around New Orleans, going to where they go to eat, and getting a sense of their thought processes.

It was a unique event, and a little “scary,” too. We are still mining through those insights to make sure that we remain true to their behavior and how they are making decisions. 

Marketing leaders need to emphasize organization structure, hiring the right people and building their capabilities. I think I am a very capable person, but without a really strong team with a similar orientation and thirst for learning, it just is not going to work. The structure has to be fluid, in order to have the right resources for opportunities that might emerge, e.g., in media or digital or creative content. I talk all the time about being able to adapt, and my folks are ready for it.

Marketing’s strength is in the people and their ability to see things that others don’t see, to do the analytics and think in a different, fresh way. The best people I have working for me can simplify an idea to a nugget. They can take all the data and frame the opportunity so that the broader organization can understand it, digest it, and act upon it. It’s a beautiful thing to see.

Insights is a word that gets thrown around by organizations, but the ability to get to a true insight—a fairly simple concept statement—is a unique skill. Every time we get that right, everything else works. 

Motts’ apple juice is a great example. We had done well with it for years, but when we observed moms, we saw they were diluting the apple juice with water for their children. They were cutting the sugar, but they were also cutting the nutrients in half. So we developed a new process with 40% less sugar but which preserved more of the nutrients which we launched as Mott’s for Tots. We solved for something that was important to moms, and that product has grown every year since we introduced it. It is now 20 percent of the entire trademark. 

Five Things I Know About Marketing Series

Related links

The New Marketing Discipline: Dynamic Change Management
Jim Trebilcock (2014) [Video]


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