Backstage with Michael Jackson & Muhtar Kent, Chairman of Coca-Cola

“A brand is only a promise”

Muhtar Kent, the Chairman of the Coca-Cola Company, is not only a very well-respected businessman but seemingly a great guy to boot. Having begun his rise through the organization from humble beginnings selling from its delivery trucks in the 1970’s through to heading up the company worldwide today, he seems to have never lost touch with the common man either. Spending time with him recently backstage at the Winsight Global Restaurant Leadership Conference in Dubai was an absolute joy.

Muhtar is renowned for his commitment to growth and reminded me of the that when I checked my figures with him in respect to the number of Coca-Cola product servings daily around the globe. I had the number as 2 billion drinks daily. He gently corrected me with a warm smile on his face; “Actually, it’s around 1.9 billion a day Michael,” he said, “but with 7.6 billion people on the planet – I think there’s still plenty of room for growth!”

Famous for his brand values and belief that innovation comes best from the customer, he expressed the view, later on stage, that “It is incredibly hard to innovate from within a company – as the best innovation always comes from outside, and the customer in particular”. He’s also on record as having said that “A brand is only a promise, and a great brand is a promise always kept. Keeping our (Coca-Cola) promises means never falling into the traps of complacency or arrogance, whilst always being open to change and improvement.”

Living his values on his sleeve, Kent had flown into Dubai to address this prestigious conference audience with advice that resonated well: always focus on their markets, work smarter, think like an owner and be the brand they represented.

It was an honour and pleasure to meet the man briefly.