A nascent example of this can be seen in Coke's "Freestyle" touchscreen vending machines. Introduced in 2009, the soda fountains' microdispensing technology lets people quickly create flavor mixtures in about 100 combinations.
"The big shift is it takes your manufacturing innovation out of your plant and into the store," Tripodi said. And as for the data implications, "Any machine will know your favorite flavor combination, and so will we."
It's all about personalization and convenience, but the machines also speak to Coca-Cola's exploding partnership strategy. To distribute them, the company needed patents held by Dean Kamen, inventor of the Segway. Rather than simply license that intellectual property, Coke struck up a relationship with Kamen under which it will become a global distributor of another of his machines: the Slingshot water-purification system.
Using solar energy, each of slingshot machines can produce water to support 300 people. They can also be used to charge phones or refrigerate medicine. "I will let you use my patents if you help me take my Slingshot machine and make it go global," Kamen told Coca-Cola, which has pledged to place over 2,000 of them within the next couple of years.
Like Walmart's Quinn, Tripodi had some tough love for agencies. He said the key message is, deliver the best ideas and don't involve us in business intricacies.
"Office-level P&Ls: That's your problem," he said. "Don't make your problem our problem. I've told the leaders of holding companies, we just want the best ideas."
Globalization of the marketing campaign is another theme here. For Snickers, MARS Inc. created many local extensions of an idea that first debuted in its Betty White Super Bowl spot. Similar ads with regional and national celebrities eventually appeared in 80 markets. The effort helped Snickers become the company's fastest-growing chocolate brand globally. In the United States, Snickers will become MARS' first brand to surpass $1 billion in US sales, after M&M's.
"It's always hard," said Debra Sandler, president of Mars Chocolate, N.A. "There's always a reason why an idea won't work in a local market. We had recently reorganized the business to have a global segment focus. It was the ambition now that we were a global chocolate company to start with global campaigns."