Marley Beverage Company Stays Course After Losing President, CMO

The loss of a pair of high-ranking executives at the Marley Beverage Company has forced organizational change at the fast-growing company.

In September, Chief Marketing Officer Paul Fuegner left the company – and while the company has not yet filled the role, it has also not yet executed a strategy to fill the position with brand managers for its different product lines.

Additionally, late last year, the company’s president, Robert Nitisco, a former Red Bull executive, departed after two years with the company. He was replaced by Kevin McClafferty, who had been general manager and Marley’s SVP of Sales and Distribution.

Behind McClafferty – a skilled CPG veteran whose hard driving “land grab” style has has helped the company rapidly gain accounts and distribution – Marley had a surprisingly successful 2011, moving past 100 distribution outlets and selling more than one million cases.

But there is still an organizational vacuum on the marketing side following Fuegner’s departure four months ago. Fuegner, who joined Marley after holding similar positions at Diageo and SKYY Spirits, said he had left because a promised move to Miami…

Fuegner stated that his departure stemmed from Marley’s insistence that he relocate to Detroit, where the beverage company is headquartered.  Fuegner, who had been commuting from his home in the San Francisco Bay area, said that when he joined the company in 2010, he was led to believe that Marley was planning to move its operations to Miami. While Fuegner said that he was willing to uproot his family for a move to South Florida, Detroit was not an option.

“It’s not what I signed up for,” Fuegner said.

Nevertheless, Fuegner said that the split was “amenable,” and wished Marley “nothing but success.” Fuegner is now in the midst of a finding another marketing role within the beverage industry.

Kevin McClafferty, who was promoted to president of Marley Beverages in December, called Fuegner, “a good guy,” and though he declined to say whether Fuegner’s resignation was amicable, he noted that he never comments on employee departures.

Despite the fact that Marley has been without a CMO for the past four months, McClafferty said that he doesn’t see the need to fill the position anytime soon. Instead, Marley will appoint individual brand managers to handle marketing for each of its three drink lines. Though he gave no definite timeframe for the new hires, McClafferty said that the company would look for mid-level managers with 5-8 years in marketing and brand management, beverage industry experience, and a firm grasp of new media and social marketing.

Additionally, McClafferty said that the company will eschew traditional, high-end marketing in favor of a ground-up, street-level sales strategy for what he considers to be an “urban brand.” McClafferty explained that Marley will invest in brand demos and point of purchase marketing for its coffee line and localized events and promotions for its relaxation line.

“We’re trying to keep things ‘unsophisticated,’ if you will,” McClafferty said. “We’re trying not to overthink the brand. We want to allow it to dictate where we spend our marketing dollars… matching our target demographic with [individual] product attributes.”

Despite the fact that Marley appears to paring down its marketing budget, McClafferty stressed that the company is not taking any cost-cutting measures. He said that Marley was simply focusing on “slow growth” by carefully selecting new markets and penetrating each fully before moving on to the next.

“We’re being prudent, but not tightening belt,” McClafferty said. “It’s about trying to take advantage of what brand gives us… and build strong and slow as possible. We want to make sure that we are making smart investments.”