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A conversation with Mauro Porcini, Chief Design Officer of PepsiCo

I’ve had the pleasure of attending Collision From Home, top technology conference, and sitting down with Mauro Porcini, Chief Design Officer of PepsiCo. Mauro Porcini joined PepsiCo in 2012 as its first-ever Chief Design Officer. In this role, Mauro is infusing design thinking into PepsiCo’s culture and leading a new approach to innovation by design […]

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I’ve had the pleasure of attending Collision From Home, top technology conference, and sitting down with Mauro Porcini, Chief Design Officer of PepsiCo. Mauro Porcini joined PepsiCo in 2012 as its first-ever Chief Design Officer. In this role, Mauro is infusing design thinking into PepsiCo’s culture and leading a new approach to innovation by design that impacts the company’s product platforms and brands, which include Pepsi, Lay’s, Gatorade, Tropicana, Doritos, Lifewtr, bubly, and SunChips, among many others. His focus extends from physical to virtual expressions of the brands, including product, packaging, events, advertising, fashion and art collaborations, retail activation, architecture, and digital media. He leads teams based in New York City, Purchase, Dallas, Chicago, Miami, London, Dublin, Moscow, Cairo, New Delhi, Shanghai, Mexico City, and Sao Paulo. Since its creation, PepsiCo’s Design function has been recognized with more than 800 design and innovation awards – in 6 years of projects – from several institutions around the world. Prior to joining PepsiCo, Mauro served as the first-ever Chief Design Officer at 3M, where his mission was to build and nurture a design sensitive culture in a technology-driven global corporation.

What is Collision From Home?

Times may be uncertain, but one thing remains true. There’s a simple power in people coming together. 

Following in the spirit of Collision, Collision from Home attendees will participate from wherever they are in the world, live streaming talks from tech CEOs, international policymakers, and global cultural figures. They’ll chat and connect with each other through the bespoke Collision from Home app and they’ll engage with some of the world’s most influential companies and fastest-growing startups.

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Thank you for joining us! Can you tell us how you got to where you are today?

It all starts with a dream, and not being afraid to dream big. My dream was somehow impacting the world. Since I was a kid, I wanted to leave a legacy. I wanted to create something that will create value even when I’m not there anymore–in this world or in this company. 

My parents taught me two very important lessons, and these lessons have been my anchor for all these years. 

The first is to invest in knowledge and culture, to know things, to be curious, to read, and to grow. You don’t stop learning at the end of your degree, you learn for the rest of your life. You are a student for life.

The second is to be a good person, to have empathy, to connect with others, and to be kind. 

So, I had a dream, and I worked really hard on what I can offer and what I can create. And then I did it with others, bringing others with me, connecting with other people. We live in a society where it’s not a one-person show, it’s all about collaboration and working together. And that’s the beginning of my journey.

What are the 3 things you wish you knew and why?

  1. It’s never too late. I grew up learning French in school, and when I was 23, I didn’t speak one word of English. And then the head of design at Phillips pushed me to study English. I was 24 then, about to enter the workforce, and I thought it was just too late. But I decided to apply for a scholarship and worked in the cafeteria of the school washing dishes. I learned English and passed the design exams in English. 
  2. It’s important to connect with people and to build bridges. Growing up, I always thought I was going to disrupt things, to change the world. As a youth, you arrive and you think “this is all wrong. I’m going to do it the right way.” And then you make the mistake of doing the right things, but not taking others with you. You need to grow by building bridges with real empathy, real love, real kindness.
  3. Have extreme curiosity, in every situation. Always try to learn, to absorb as much as possible. Learn by reading books, blogs, by listening. Learn as much as possible from other fields.
SodaStream Professional Dispenser

Thank you so much! PepsiCo is shifting to a more design-driven company. Can you let us know more about that and what that looks like?

Sure! There is a big general misunderstanding about design and what design means. A lot of people think the design is about styling, and that it is the shape or packaging of a product. And while yes, that is one dimension of design, design really has three dimensions. One, design is about the human being. You learn about anthropology, ethnography, human science. You learn to observe people and understand their needs and wants. Second, design is about business. So, you learn about macroeconomics, and how to take ideas and commercialize them. Third, design is about technology, mathematics, physics, science. And there you have it, design relies on the pillars of people, business and technology. And this leads to innovation.

Innovation design is innovation with a purpose and focuses on the human being. It is an innovation that puts people before everything else–before technology, before business. It’s both an emotional and rational thing. And then everything else — the business, the technology– is an amplifier, and you will get the results in the long run. And that’s what we’re doing at PepsiCo right now – putting people at the center of all we do and making design an integral part of the innovation process

What is something that you are working on that you are excited about?

We are working on many incredible new innovations! For the UK market, Doritos Stax is one of our newest products. Doritos Stax features a new triangular tube that is recyclable and resealable, bringing a sustainable packaging option to the market and creating a premium product experience.

We’ve also expanded the Sodastream brand commercially to workplaces, college campuses, and airports with the introduction of SodaStream Professional, an eco-friendly hydration platform. The platform offers the ability to personalize your beverage and reduce single-use packaging, and our design team was involved from start to finish. This exciting innovation integrates a focus on the personalization of the human experience, on health and wellness, and on sustainability. The machine is incredibly intelligent, you can use it with the accompanying mobile app, SodaStream Connect, and the machine will recognize you. 

The machine can remember your settings, remember the drinks you prefer or the mixes, and can provide suggestions and tips based on your preferences. On top of that, we are collecting data about the different mixes, which feeds back into our innovation pipeline. 

Lastly, Gatorade Gx. Gatorade introduced a sports fuel customization platform that combines science-backed products with biometric and tracking technologies to provide fueling recommendations specific to you. The platform includes a refillable bottle and concentrated pods with personalized formulas tailored to the athlete’s needs.

Doritos Stax Triangular Packaging Design

Fascinating! Where do you see the future of PepsiCo and design?

The future of design will be centered on the people. In the world of innovation, you have to compete with the human being at the center and create something amazing for them. The practices of sustainability, health, wellness, and technologies will be paramount.

If you think about where innovations come from, it usually starts with one person. That entrepreneur created something for another person in his or her life. As an example, the inventor of PepsiCo, Caleb Bradham, invented soda for a client at his pharmacy. His client gave him feedback on the taste and texture, and from there, the rest is history.

Today, in partnership with our Insights and R&D teams, we have data from technology that’s creating that feedback loop. We have data analysts interpreting data and using that data to help us continue to evolve and innovate. To summarize, everything starts with the people we design for.

What is something inspiring about PepsiCo that you want others to know?

PepsiCo is a company that heavily invests in its people and our consumers and customers. Our company is made of human beings and people like me. We are trying to do the right thing. This is a company of people that are really trying to do the right thing–meaning–creating products that are sustainable, creating products that are more nutritious and creating products that are fun and engaging. We want to offer the full range of what our consumers may want and desire, and we want to change the world and make it a world that is more sustainable, happier, and healthier. We want you to talk to us, to embrace our solutions and share what you like about them so that we can continue to drive innovations forward that speak to people’s preferences.

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