People to Watch 2017: Joe Davis
Company: The Coca-Cola Co.
Title: Group Director, Marketplace & Shopper Insights
Education: University of North Florida (bachelor’s, marketing)
Ten individuals represent the People to Watch Class of 2017. Nominated by their respective companies’ representatives in the Path to Purchase Institute’s League of Leaders, these rising stars are making a name for themselves by doing work for their brands that is worthy of attention.
You can look at numbers and deduce information. If you hear someone speaking, you get it. But if something is beautiful to look at, it stays with you longer, Joe Davis says. An avid reader, Davis has always been interested in a good story. And in his career, his true passion has lied in telling stories, not only verbally but visually.
“I’ve hammered into my team that what we do needs to be factually relevant and have a lot of power and meat in the insights,” he says. “But put some theater behind it and make sure people remember it beyond the afternoon – and into the weeks and months following.”
As group director, marketplace and shopper insights, Davis and his team collaborate with a “wide swath of functions” including shopper marketing, sales, category management, Coca-Cola’s channel & commercial strategy teams, and its retail customers. True to form, he says they seek to “craft industry-leading insights and stories for use in a broad array of initiatives” from those teams, tailored in a way that achieves maximum business impact.
Creative agency briefs, selling tools, growth forecasting, strategic partner brands selection, post-program analyses, initiative development, advising customers on market forces and trends – his team jumps in on anything shopper-related. “We’re relentlessly focused on exporting that knowledge – both internally and to our customers – and on the best methods to do so that drive engagement and action,” he says.
Davis, who joined Coca-Cola in May 2013 as a senior manager of category insights, worked at Acosta and Nielsen (as a client manager for Coca-Cola) before joining the beverage giant. He also then served as director, shopper insights and HQ initiatives, before assuming his current post in June 2016.
He will tell anyone he fell into this career – his first aspiration was to be a history teacher – but looking back, he says he was fortunate to have both literature and writing teachers that were able to transfer their passion for great storytelling. “You cannot overestimate the power of a compelling tale, and remembering that has made a substantial difference in my career in being able to craft and communicate them effectively,” he says.
Davis works daily within the company’s sales leadership and strategy teams on high-priority issues and capabilities to scale across the Coca-Cola system (the company and its bottlers). Today, he says he’s most proud of the growth framework he built three years ago and has developed since then. “Coca-Cola is so strong in consumer-centric marketing, but we had some difficulties internally in pivoting our strategies and thinking from the consumer to the shopper – which became more apparent to our customers over time,” he says. The Business Growth Model, as it is called, basically helps pinpoint the specific shopper target and, more important, the shopper behavior that they want to impact.
“Leveraging panel data from a variety of sources, we’re able to analyze shopper behaviors across the total store and deep within categories to identify areas of opportunity,” he says. By zeroing in on the specific behaviors, they can then get very precise in the tactics they deploy to change them.
“In just over three years, it went from a pilot with a few customer teams to now being used by every organization in the U.S.” It has become the cornerstone of how they do joint business planning with their customers, he says, and it has rapidly empowered teams from brand to sales to be shopper-centric in tandem with strong consumer understanding.
Most recently, Coca-Cola’s foodservice business and its Canadian market adopted the model, and the company is exploring a rollout to Western Europe. “All of this I credit to the enthusiasm of our people in embracing the chance to have industry-leading shopper understanding.”