Messina Departs VEB to Become Global CMO at Beam Suntory

Rebecca MessinaDistilled spirits conglomerate Beam Suntory has hired Rebecca Messina, a key figure within Coca-Cola’s Venturing & Emerging Brands (VEB) incubation unit, as its global CMO. Messina spent 22 years at Coke, culminating in her role as VEB’s Senior Vice President of Marketing & Innovation. Monday was Messina’s last day with the soda giant; her position at Beam Suntory is effective on April 25.

As part of VEB’s senior leadership team, Messina played a critical role identifying emerging trends and investment opportunities for VEB, whose primary objective is to find and nurture the next generation of billion-dollar brands for Coke. An experienced marketing executive, Messina held several corporate-level roles with the company in the United States, Europe, Australia and South America. She was Coke’s Vice President, Global Marketing Capability & Integration from February, 2006 to June, 2014, leading the strategic development of its global marketing agenda.

At VEB, Messina was chiefly tasked with aligning marketing efforts for the unit’s portfolio of brands, which include Honest Tea, Zico, Core Power and Illy Issimo. She placed significant emphasis on storytelling as a way to enhance an emotional connection with consumers, a hallmark of Beam’s marketing strategy; it’s part of the reason she was drawn to the spirits company.

“Given my last role at Coke there are so many parallels to a growth-oriented trajectory that I was loving and thriving at VEB,” Messina told BevNET. “So much of [Beam’s] marketing on these brands is about discovery, and it’s about authenticity, and it’s about telling brand stories that are real.”

Messina was also centrally involved in VEB’s efforts to foster an entrepreneurial community and led the creation of VEB’s “Founders Forum,” a hand-selected group of beverage and food entrepreneurs brought together to discuss challenges affecting their respective businesses. Messina described the Founders Forum as an opportunity to understand emerging marketing practices “and really study, dissect, codify and make it available to all of the businesses we work with.”

In an emailed statement to BevNET, Coke praised Messina as “a great talent who has served as VEB’s senior vice president of marketing and innovation for nearly two years.” The company said that it is currently seeking a replacement for Messina, who noted that “it was really important that I left things in good shape, and… I tried to do a pretty thorough transition.”

Messina will be based at Beam Suntory headquarters in Chicago and oversee a team of approximately 280 employees. She will report directly to Chairman & CEO Matt Shattock, who, in a company statement, described her as “a dynamic, growth-oriented leader.”

“We’re delighted that she will join Beam Suntory to lead our global marketing and strengthen the function to deliver industry-leading, market-beating growth,” Shattock said. “With experience as a global brand marketer, leader of fast-growing entrepreneurial premium brands and a leading developer of marketing capability, Rebecca will be a perfect fit for us as we pursue our ambitious growth objectives.”