CMO of the Week: PepsiCo Foodservice’s Scott Finlow

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Scott Finlow, global chief marketing officer at PepsiCo Foodservice has been with Pepsi for more than 23 years working across brands around the globe. In his latest role, Finlow is all about purpose-driven initiatives.

Scott Finlow, global chief marketing officer at PepsiCo Foodservice has been with Pepsi for more than 23 years working across brands around the globe. In his latest role, Finlow is all about purpose-driven initiatives.

Two years ago at the height of the pandemic, PepsiCo. Foodservice made a $50 million commitment to support restaurant tours with a series of programs and investments and tools. One program within this framework is called Black Restaurants Deliver, an initiative to support Black-owned restaurants. 

“As we went through COVID and over the last couple of years, we helped invest in building the digital capabilities and the off-premise capabilities for some of these restaurants so that they were able to respond to the shifts in consumer behavior,” says Finlow. 

The company also made an investment in directories for Black restaurants in America called Eat Okra. “We invested to help build their capability and expand that list of Black-owned restaurants and connect people to that list,” he explains. “We were able to essentially enable that consumer behavior and help raise awareness for some of those restaurants.” Additionally, PepsiCo. Foodservice’s foundation has donated to The National Urban League to provide grants and mentorships for 500 restaurants through their entrepreneurship program around the country. 

PepsiCo Foodservice also launched the Pepsi Dig In platform –a purpose-driven platform designed to drive business acceleration and awareness of Black-owned restaurants. “Through the course of that we've been able to help 13,000 Black-owned restaurants already with our investment and we're just getting started,” reflects Finlow.

The platform creates events to build awareness and support these restaurants. This week, Pepsi Dig In has teamed up with celebrity chef Carla Hall for the second annual Pepsi Dig In Day on Saturday November 5. The day is aimed at celebrating Black-owned restaurants and encouraging consumers to visit these establishments on the day. As part of the initiative, Pepsi Dig In is collaborating with 20 Black-owned restaurants across the country to host brunches. Consumers are encouraged to post a photo of their favorite Black-owned restaurant and tag @PepsiDigIn for the chance to win $5,000 for themselves and $5,000 for the restaurant. 

“We want to support the Black restaurant industry, which is an industry that has faced historical inequities,” explains Finlow. “We're working hard with our actions and investments to really support that industry, building awareness and driving behavior from consumers who are potentially aware or potentially not of this culture of Black food.”

Brand Innovators caught up with Finlow from his office in New York to discuss Dig In, purpose and how the brand is supporting Black-owned restaurants. This interview has been edited for length and clarity. 

Can you talk about how partnering with celebrity chef Carla Hall helps support Black-owned restaurants?

Carla is really our lead spokesperson and partner to build awareness and we are obviously putting support behind that and tapping into Carla's network and audience, as well. The reason we love Carla is that she doesn't only bring tremendous energy and passion in her audience, but she's also a fierce advocate for this industry and for Black chefs and for Black food culture. She's credible. She's passionate. She's been an amazing partner. We're excited to have her as part of this. 

A big part of what PepsiCo brings to this is obviously the scale of PepsiCo. We're a big organization. We've got significant resources. We're committed to making a big investment. We also have a broad range of partners that we can bring on board. But as much as PepsiCo can accomplish, it is nothing compared to what we can accomplish together with others in the industry. We are excited, and happy to have others pick up on what we're trying to do. We've got what we call Dig In Corporate Week. We got 20 partners signed up already. We're going to be enlisting them to support Black-owned restaurants that week, as well by paying for their employees to get catering, lunch, etc. from those restaurants.

Can you talk about how you're marketing and communicating these events through Pepsi’s channels?

For Pepsi Dig In Day on November 5, we've really leveled up the support versus last year. First of all, we are providing increased media investment. We get digital and social, we're running events on the ground. We're certainly pushing for some significant earned [media] on this one, as well.

We've got 20 local hosted brunches that are happening at 20 restaurants around the country with national representation. Those brunches are going to be paid for by PepsiCo and we're providing influencer marketing partnerships around those brunches, as well as a variety of turnkey tools for the restaurants themselves. 

We're excited that we've leveled up this Dig In Day program versus last year. We're going to be helping build more awareness for more people to connect with these restaurants, and then also helping these restaurants by driving more traffic to them as part of that awareness.

Can you talk about how purpose-based initiatives like these help you connect with your consumers?

Consumers increasingly expect and want brands that take a stance, take a position. Consumers are looking to brands to see what actions they are taking and what they stand for. This is a clear example of us being clear about our purpose. Our purpose here is to help these Black restaurants. There's historical inequity that's at play in the world and these restaurants have faced, whether it's access to capital or awareness in their industry. There are a variety of different challenges they may have faced and continue to face. We're clear that we want to help in that regard. 

The other thing that's part of this is being purposeful. You've got to do that in the right way with the right brand. Pepsi is authentically and legitimately anchored around food. Food is better with Pepsi and Black food and the food that these restaurants and Black chefs are making is better with Pepsi too. We feel proud of that. Purpose is about building brands and culture. Black food and the food that these chefs are making in these restaurants are super relevant to culture today. We want to lean into these restaurants and support them together with Pepsi, because we think it's relevant and we want to be a part of that.

Do you have any predictions for brands for 2023? 

The importance of being purposeful and being relevant in culture is important in 2022, it was important in 2021 and I only think that's getting more important. A brand has to do that in the right way. They have to be credible, it has to be authentic to the brand. And we believe strongly that Pepsi Dig In does that and will continue to do that by building awareness for consumers to support these restaurants. It's a sustained investment for PepsiCo. Where we're taking action, we're committed to the action. We're here to help.

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