It takes a certain kind of person with a special personality to be able to keep a positive attitude while navigating the murky waters of the land of “it’s never been done before.” It is especially true when you’re leading a global brand’s marketing team into the “darkness,” and the path is dimly illuminated by bright ideas and gut instincts – trust being the only guide.

Luckily, for the Dr Pepper, Schweppes, and Crush brands, Sharon Leath, Director of Integrated Marketing Content, is the epitome of a fearless leader and she is thriving in the land of opportunity where her newly created team has the chance to do great things and ultimately, things that have never been done before.

sharon leath dr pepper content marketing

We had the chance to chat with Sharon and pick her brain about what she is pioneering in the content marketing space and how her team is creating their own path and writing a new story.

NewsCred: Can you briefly explain your role at Dr Pepper and highlight your current marketing goals?

Sharon: I have been with the company for over eight years and my role has changed as the industry has evolved. Most recently, a year and a half ago, I became the Director of Integrated Marketing Content and I am responsible for the digital content for the Dr Pepper, Schweppes, and Crush brands.

Currently, we are focused on driving brand relevance with consumers. We are working to create content that drives a deeper level of social engagement and we are targeting our content based on customer personas and staying true to our brand voice.

NewsCred: During your time at Dr Pepper how has the role of content marketing evolved?

Sharon: It’s interesting because the team I lead is completely new. We focus on creating sound content strategies and letting content be the driver – not the activation. This is a somewhat new strategy, but the fact that we’ve internally changed our infrastructure to support this strategy shows our commitment to content marketing becoming the foundation for our campaigns – not just a part of the campaigns.

The challenging part of my new role is that my team doesn’t always have the answers. We are trying to build a newer initiative and we are trying new things everyday, so we have to trust our gut when we think things will work.

It’s exciting because we have to get comfortable with being uncomfortable and at the same time, we have this amazing opportunity to create our own path and tell our story by building our brands in ways that have never been done in marketing.

NewsCred: What is a recent Dr Pepper campaign that required content marketing strategies? Was it successful?

Sharon: Funny that you ask, because for Dr Pepper, we do a lot around college football and we are just getting into it for this season. As a sponsor, Dr Pepper offers a tuition giveaway contest and this year, we are the first-ever sponsor of the College Football Playoff National Championship trophy. This year’s activation however, is driven by content. This will be our first, official, true content campaign and we can’t wait to determine the results at the end of the season. Our overall strategy this season is to create contagious, interrelated football and tuition stories tied to the umbrella theme “One of a Kind Season.” Through our tuition giveaway program we really want to give students a platform to tell us their one-of-a-kind story. What better way to do that than to reach them on the channels they’re using? The Dr Pepper Tuition Giveaway is one part of this strategy – user generated video as well as real time periodic Twitter tuition giveaways is another.

NewsCred: As you look into your crystal ball, what do you see as the future of content marketing?

Sharon: You know, I see the structure of companies changing. I see companies building a more solid infrastructure that supports content. Tomorrow’s digital marketing team will be a company necessity, not just the oddity it is today.

NewsCred: What can we expect from your session at the Content Marketing Summit?

Sharon: Thrills, chills, drama! No really, I will be discussing storytelling and its reliance on authenticity. For Dr Pepper, our target market is mainly millennials and if we aren’t authentic and truthful when engaging with that group, then our marketing will never work. We find that we have to be truthful 100 percent of the time and can’t stray from the core voice. It’s not always easy to understand and form the voice of the brand, but once you do, it just feels right and resonates with all the right people. In the session, I will also discuss how to integrate all the pieces of storytelling across channels by using different approaches.

Hear more from Sharon about the content less traveled at the 2014 Content Marketing Summit on September 18.