People to Watch 2021: Colleen Kerins


Colleen Kerins

Company: The Coca-Cola Co.

Title: Manager, Connected Commerce

Age: 33

Education: University of Florida (bachelor’s, marketing)

a woman looking at the camera
Colleen Kerins

Colleen Kerins was an avid sports fan growing up in Western Pennsylvania. She chose to attend the University of Florida not only for its business school but also because of its strong football tradition.

Her first job out of college was at Fox Sports in Atlanta, a fitting move given her marketing degree. She began focusing on brand and media activation, both for TV and digital as the latter medium took off, and ultimately moved to New York City after she accepted a media planner role at Fox Sports, along the way contributing to the first live-streamed Super Bowl. After nearly five years, she moved to IBM, where she was tasked with leveraging complex data sets to deliver better digital personalization. She spent five years there, ending in a media strategy and brand partnerships role.

Ultimately wanting to apply her skillset on the brand side, Kerins made the move back to Atlanta and joined the Coca-Cola team in late 2019 as manager of connected commerce.

Kerins now focuses on leading strategy and planning with cross-functional partners, including brand, digital commerce, sales and frontline marketing, to deliver integrated connection plans, as well as using digital media to reach shoppers along their journey. Her team drives omnichannel solutions across shared, earned, owned and paid connection points for the company’s beverage portfolio.

“We’re trying to see our whole consumer and all the touchpoints they go through until they purchase our product,” she says. “If we can insert ourselves across that consumer journey in the right way, to build brand equity, [sell] more products more often or deliver new and surprising product they’ve not heard of based on what we know about them, that is our goal.”

The trick is to translate big brand marketing campaigns, coming up with ways to drive actual purchase of the products being promoted, she says.

In response to the massive e-commerce growth sparked by the COVID-19 pandemic, the team quickly needed to pivot its media investment strategy to address the shift in consumer behavior, Kerins says. “As part of this cross-functional task force, we were responsible for building and managing digital investments on behalf of our operating units and brands. We built a prioritized digital commerce strategy in order to drive share and revenue growth across key e-commerce and retailer platforms. This ‘connected commerce’ – how we redefine our shopper investment team – is the evolution of how we think of our digital marketing in a digital world.”

Kerins credits her parents with instilling in her a drive and strong work ethic. “I learned at a very young age that nothing comes easy, so you need to work hard,” she says. Her current manager, Katie Neil, connected commerce lead for North America, has also influenced her significantly. “She is an amazing leader who enables and empowers individuals on her team to show up every day being their best self,” Kerins says, adding that peers in her various roles have been instrumental in blocking and tackling obstacles along the way to achieve success.

She believes there will always be value for consumers visiting a physical location to buy their products. The pandemic just pushed consumers to plan ahead more when it comes to what beverage they want to consume and when.

“In order for us to be more human-centric, we need to solve how our digital commerce strategy can reach the hyper-connected consumer,” Kerins says. Developing a truly personal, authentic connection with shoppers is key. “We need to stay focused on delivering a seamless shopping experience – both online and offline – across all touchpoints to drive repeat purchase and brand discovery of our products,” she adds. “I’m confident that the work we’re doing today will make sure we win in this space.”