John Sculley Profile

  • One of America's most famous CEOs, he shaped history at Pepsi-Cola and Apple through his innovative executive leadership and a vision that was decades ahead of its time.

  • He originated the sweeping "Pepsi Challenge" marketing campaign that increased the company's market shares against competitor Coca-Cola.

  • He is an accomplished pioneer in user experience marketing, which proved to be vital to Apple's success and ultimately, brand.
  • Since the 1960s, visionary and business legend John Sculley has seen possibilities before they became obvious. The former CEO of Pepsi-Cola and Apple continues to be at the forefront of innovation, collaborating with start-ups to reduce the costs of healthcare in the U.S. through advances in technology.

    Working his way up from “trainee”, he became Pepsi-Cola’s youngest vice president for marketing, applying his ideas about “experience based marketing” to the Pepsi Generation campaign. He initiated the Pepsi Challenge taste tests, and oversaw development and launch of the first plastic soft drink bottle, which together dethroned Coca-Cola. By 1977, Sculley was Pepsi-Cola Company’s youngest President & CEO.

    Wooed away from Pepsi by an offer he couldn’t resist, Sculley moved to Apple where he struck up a partnership with Steve Jobs that has become one of the most documented work relationships in popular culture. As CEO, he laid the foundation for what continues to be a key pillar in Apple’s success to this day: selling an experience.

    Today Sculley is highly sought for his insights on leveraging disruptive innovation, transforming businesses to meet the needs of a changing global marketplace, and identifying future trends. He is currently working with a handful of start-up companies that are using advanced digital technology to produce health-care-related tools – tools that have the potential to decrease dramatically the $2.5 trillion spent annually on health care in the United States.

    • View Extended/Alternate Bio

      As a boy, John Sculley loved to tinker with electronics; when he was five, he asked Santa for a dry-cell battery, a buzzer, and hookup wire. At ten, he was dismantling radios and converting them into intercoms. As a teen, he invented a color cathode-ray tube that, if someone hadn’t beaten him to the patent, would have been the prototype for the Triniton color TV tube.

      It should be no surprise, then, that Sculley is a recognized expert and popular speaker about high-tech tools for tackling such challenges as corporate revitalization and the high cost of health care. What may be surprising is the path that led him here.

      The son of a Wall Street lawyer father and an artistic mother, John Sculley was born in New York City and grew up in Bermuda and on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. As college approached, he was more interested in architecture and industrial design than in marketing or technology. He earned an undergraduate degree from Brown University and enrolled at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Architecture. But a summer internship at a New York industrial design firm convinced Sculley that marketers, not designers, were calling the shots. So he switched to Wharton, Penn’s prestigious graduate school of business.

      After earning his MBA in 1963, and taking advantage of his interest in math and statistical modeling, Sculley worked in market research for a New York advertising agency. Four years later, as big corporations began moving their marketing operations in-house, he joined the Pepsi-Cola Company as a trainee.

      Sculley describes his first few months at Pepsi as a whirlwind of different jobs in different cities as he learned the rules of corporate culture and the ropes of the soft drink industry. By 1970, at age 30, he was Pepsi’s youngest vice president of marketing, managing a staff of 75. In 1977, after heading the company’s International Foods division and then serving as senior vice president for US sales and marketing, he was named the youngest ever President of Pepsi-Cola.

      Sculley credits his years at Pepsi for the evolution of his marketing approach. He says, “My ideas about marketing revolved around building the best possible consumer experiences and then helping find the most creative ways to tease a consumer’s curiosity to become our loyal user.”

      In his 1987 book, Odyssey, Sculley says that it was a speech by anthropologist Margaret Mead that inspired the revitalized Pepsi Generation campaign. Mead noted that the single most important factor for marketers since the end of World War II was the emergence of an affluent middle class. Sculley focused on how Pepsi could tap into the children of this generation by associating Pepsi via television with the Baby Boomers’ lifestyle activities.

      The Pepsi Challenge was another consumer-experience-centered campaign, designed to capture the surprise of Coca-Cola drinkers when they discovered that they had chosen Pepsi over Coke in a blind product taste test. By the time Sculley left Pepsi in 1983, the Pepsi brand had become the largest-selling consumer packaged goods brand in America, surpassing Coca-Cola in market share.

      The partnership of Steve Jobs and John Sculley has been well-documented in Sculley’s own book, in countless interviews, and, most recently, in the biography of Jobs written by Walter Isaacson, published shortly after Jobs’ death in late 2011.

      Why did Jobs hire Sculley? Says Sculley, “Steve wanted to be CEO, but the Apple board felt he wasn’t ready. Steve was still over a year away from launching the Mac and the company needed the aging Apple II to continue to provide cash flow for the next three years.”

      Today, John Sculley is focused on sharing his considerable experience with corporate executives, “serial entrepreneurs,” and third-wave companies that are not afraid to take risks, to adapt to change, or to use technological advances to achieve their goals.

      Sculley has a lot to say about the emergence of third-wave companies – not only high-tech companies, but others with the ability to transform their products and organization in response to changes in the economy, social habits, and customer interests.

      First-wave companies were built in the agricultural age, says Sculley. Second-wave companies were built for growth; hence, their strength lies in stability. In contrast, the strength of third-wave companies lies in change: These are what Sculley calls “the adaptive companies.” He is currently working with a handful of start-up companies that are using advanced digital technology to produce health-care-related tools – tools that have the potential to decrease dramatically the $2.5 trillion spent annually on health care in the United States.

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    John Sculley's Speech Descriptions

    John Sculley shares his wealth of business experience, providing priceless lessons on how to create transformational companies.
    He focuses on taking his message and insights to corporate executives, “serial entrepreneurs,” and third-wave companies that are ready to take risks, adapt to change, or use technological advances to achieve their goals.

    In this day of free products and services, user experience is everything. Sculley was a pioneer in experience marketing well before the term “UX” even existed so the opportunity to share in the wisdom and thoughts of this accomplished pioneer is nothing short of once-in-a-lifetime.

    Power Shifts: Getting Used to the New Normal

    Audiences learn about the power shifts that are transforming business and why we are only at the beginning. When you look around at today's business world, what new ground rules do you see? How is the power in the marketplace shifting, and what do these shifts mean to your business? Just as importantly, how can you not simply respond, but take advantage of them?

    Why Big Ideas Happen in Small Companies

    Virtualization of project teams and a shift to innovation through collaboration are changing the ground rules for how companies, big and small, are learning to adapt to a world where business transformation has become the norm. Few executives have the global reach of experience in so many major industries as John Sculley, who explores these themes drawing from his own experience as a public company CEO, as a marketing innovator, high technology visionary, global financial services leader, and successful private equity investor.

    Customers-in-Control vs. Producers-in-Control

    Enabling customers to not just expect, but demand the best products, best services, customized, at the lowest price and ASAP.

    Commoditization of Almost Everything

    Not only is this a reality, but it is a power shift that some companies, such as Dell and Wal-Mart, are using to their competitive advantage.

    The Reinvention of Work

    The shift from internal hierarchical structures to project-centric virtual models is creating whole new sets of metrics for success around such things as productivity, customers, and enterprise value. Hear one of the world's top business leaders as he describes what's shifting, why, and the inescapable link to a new normal.

    Game Changing Innovations

    From his experience as a big brand marketer and high technology venture capitalist, John Sculley talks about "game changing" innovations that are transforming our global economy and successfully disrupting old business models (telecommunications, brand building, online business productivity, and digital life style).

    What People are Saying about Seeing John Speak

    Rating Entries

    “Sculley was everyone’s favorite CEO before he even spoke. The time he spent with clients had them endeared to his low.”

    – Adam Hartung, CSC Consulting

    “John Sculley was a huge success atINFO@Trends 2012 and his speech was cutting edge.He offered us insights to become a innovative manager and an entrepreneur with chances of success.He talked about his experience with the most influential names in the digital world. He was very inspiring.”

    — INFO@Trends2012

    “Your insights were fascinating and intrigued our audience members, and our sponsors especially enjoyed having breakfast with you. I know your speech will long be remembered as the ‘Communications Revolution’ continues to evolve. “

    –Stewart M. Dansby, Chair of Annual Retreat Society of International Business Fellows

    “The event was an unqualified success, thanks in no small part to your perspectives and participation. It is clear that your comments were among the most thought provoking and highly regarded.”

    -Bob Cerasoli, INSIGHTS Co-Chairman, Executive Producer Greater San Diego Chamber of Commerce

    “John Sculley was a hit. As our keynote speaker, he provided a perfectly-tailored presentation, embracing the theme of innovation and sharing his personal experiences revolutionizing industries—from soft drinks to personal computers, and beyond. We are still receiving raves about he demonstration he provided of his Live Picture! Imaging technology. –Robbie Vorhaus, President & Chief Executive Officer Vorhaus Having worked with Mr. Sculley in other business endeavors, we knew he would be a powerful addition to our program, but we are pleased to say his presentation exceeded our highest expectations.”

    -Robbie Vorhaus, President & Chief Executive Officer Vorhaus

    “Having worked with Mr. Sculley in other business endeavors, we knew he would be a powerful addition to our program, but we are pleased to say his presentation exceeded our highest expectations.
    “We would like to thank Mr. Sculley for his recent commencement address to our 2001 graduates. His vision into the future and his entrepreneurial spirit gave our students a greater appreciation for life-long learning and seizing opportunities.”
    –Marvalene Hughes, President, California State University, Stanislaus

    “I was particularly impressed with Mr. Sculley’s caution to our graduates that life is a series of challenges, and it is education and one’s own perspectives that change those challenges into opportunities.”

    -Marvalene Hughes, President, California State University

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    Books by John Sculley:

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    Moonshot!: Game-Changing Strategies to Build Billion-Dollar Businesses

    Throughout history, there are some events that stand out as so groundbreaking that they completely change life as we know it. The Apollo moon landing of 1969 was one of those events―the invention of the Apple personal computer was another. The time is ripe for a new breed of innovative entrepreneurs to build businesses across industries that will bring in billions of dollars―while changing people’s lives for the better. In this book, John Sculley will show you how to do it.

    Former CEO of both PepsiCo and Apple, John Sculley lays out a roadmap for building a truly transformative business. Beginning with a can’t-fail concept and inspired by smart data, Moonshot! reveals the core concepts for a twenty-first century business. Producer-in-Control models are a thing of the past, but the Customer-in-Control future is bright for those that know how to use it. With technology at your back, now might be the best time in history to start a business―but the future belongs to those who see the possibilities before they become obvious. Moonshot! will teach you to have the upper hand in any business.

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