B. Bonin Bough, PepsiCo's global director of digital and social media, opened up Breakthrough's second day in Rancho Mirage by stating that the PepsiCo business ethos, "performance with purpose," was what inspired him to work for the company. Two years later, Bough is among the 250,000 PepsiCo employees working under the belief that: "We can build sustainable growth and be investing in a healthier planet." The company does this successfully, Bough said, by making sure that sustainable growth is at the core of the business. For example, not only is PepsiCo the largest buyer of recycled material, but it is also en route to becoming the largest recycler.
Bough thinks of digital in a similar way: As our society is approaching 100 percent digital connectivity, digital must be at the core of the business as well. We are being rewired as a participatory society, regardless of which side you fall in the "Is Google making us stoopid?" discussion. For the record, Bough believes Google is making us smarter, but he is more concerned with how we are going to evolve to deal with the onslaught of information and knowledge we're creating. It's not just society that's being transformed, it's business.
Business is changing at lightning speed, and Bough believes that the only way to survive the evolution is with strong digital R&D. Digital and experimentation must be at the core of every business. "Open yourself up to innovation," Bough told audience members. He added that PepsiCo makes a point to go to the places where new information breaks -- South By Southwest in Austin, Texas, for example, or the BlogHer conference in San Diego, Calif.
Bough took the audience through PepsiCo's recent successes in this area, from Mission Control, Gatorade's glass-walled control center, to the PepsiCo 10, the company's call for open innovation. He mentioned Twitter several times, initially fingering it as a possible gateway drug to internet addiction, and later pointed out that it was instrumental in the company's PepSuber ad campaign, which was modeled after the "Saturday Night Live" character, MacGruber.
In addition to integrating experimentation into its most important work -- like the Pepsi Refresh Project, which began as a big experiment and morphed into a digital program on the flagship brand -- PepsiCo is also concerned with dropping corporate social responsibility into the hands of the consumers themselves. Not only does this match the corporate ethos, but it also acknowledges the fact that technology is the best way to bond with consumers. It helps bring corporate social responsibility to life, but also allows consumers to bond with the brand and recognize aligned values.
"If you look at people who are winning in this culture, they are all iterative," Bough said. "We need to get away from the mindset that's all about 'I have to have the next big thing.'"
Nearing the end of his speech, Bough reiterated the conviction that digital should be at the heart of every business. He also stressed that technology is consumable and compared giving away an app to giving away a T-shirt. Bough also emphasized that women are leading the digital trend and that transparency is dead -- "It's no longer about being transparent, it's just about being."
So, what about that noisy SunChips bag? Smiling, Bough took the question in stride. "We don't ever turn a blind eye when it comes to listening to social," he said. "I think it's important that we haven't backed down from being an environmental package leader. Maybe we weren't 100 percent spot-on in this venture, but we're going to continue the march. Even though that didn't work, we've made it clear, 'Here's all the things that we're continuing to do and will continue to do' [in the environmental spectrum]. At the end of the day, you can't be afraid to experiment."
Lucia Davis is associate editor for iMedia Connection.
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