Goodbye, corporate world

Goodbye, corporate world

Kerttu Inkeroinen left a top job as senior brand manager at beverage giant Coca-Cola to effectively become the marketing department for a London coffee start-up. It was a move that surprised her friends and family, but she has never felt it was a demotion.

I was not necessarily looking to move from Coca-Cola and the decision to leave to head up the marketing team at small artisan coffee producer – Union Hand-Roasted Coffee in East London – was definitely not the money choice.

I had plenty of discussions with my family and friends to weigh up the pros and cons. But the more I thought about it, the more I realised this was something I wanted to do even though a few people were surprised and might have seen it as a downward career step. Others, however, could see the attraction of going somewhere where you can sail your own ship.

I’d spent a few years as a senior brand manager at Coca-Cola and as a marketer it is great to work for such a huge, well-known brand. Yet, when you move to a smaller company, you are involved in everything. You might have a smaller budget, but there is the potential to make a bigger impact, which is very exciting. At a brand like Coca-Cola, which is more than 120 years old, you are in a caretaker role as a marketer.

Union Hand-Roasted Coffee only has 55 employees and there is a different mindset that can take some getting used to. It is all hands on deck and you are, in effect, the marketing department. At Coca-Cola, I had a large internal team and around 10 different agencies at my beck and call.

I would say to any marketer who moves to a smaller company, or who has been switched to a new internal role, that they might consider a sideways move to keep reminding themselves of the positives and the possibilities.At a large company with lots of brands, being involved in a challenger brand can be very rewarding. You are immersed in the innovation and R&D debate, for instance. I know, because I’d previously worked as brand activation manager for Coca-Cola’s PowerAde.

When I decided I wanted a change, I had a recruitment company looking for the right opportunity for me for over a year. If I was going to move from such a great brand as Coca-Cola, it was important to me that it was to a company with an ethical background and somewhere I could be part of the leadership team. I was attracted to Union Hand-Roasted Coffee due to its commitment to sustainable practices.

I would like to think any talented marketer that has made such a move could go back into the corporate world if they wanted to as a result of the experience they’d have gained from making such a move.

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Steve Hemsley Freelance Marketing and Business Journalist CPL
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