Here’s Why Brand Purpose Was The Secret To Keith Weed’s Success

One of the world’s most influential marketing leaders is stepping down after nearly a decade at the helm. In episode 19, we take a look at the accomplishments of Unilever’s Keith Weed and what you can gain by following his advice about building brands with purpose.
12/21/2018

Welcome to Marketing Is Broken where we try to scrub out bad marketing even when the stain has already dried. Let’s go to the news.

Marketing legend Keith Weed is calling it quits at Unilever.

News of Weed’s departure was made public on December 6th after 35 years of working for the world’s second largest CPG advertiser and 9 years as its Chief Marketing and Communications Officer (CMCO).

Now… if you’re like, who’s Keith Weed? Let’s take a look at some of the key things you need to know.

First, he manages a global advertising budget of more than $1.3 billion spread across 400 different brands.

Second, he’s the longest-serving member of Unilever’s executive team

3rd, at 9 years, his tenure as CMCO more than doubles the industry average of 44 months for marketing leaders.

Fourth, his push for sustainability and brand purpose has produced countless examples of how Unilever is trying to change the way the world does business.

And last but not least, Keith Weed deserves recognition because he managed to increase the sales and profit throughout his duration at the company.

Now, we may not all aspire to positions as lofty as the head of Unilever’s marketing, but I think we can all agree that Mr. Weed’s accomplishments are nothing short of remarkable.

So when Weed opened up recently about his biggest successes, regrets, and advice to the next generation of marketers, we thought it would be smart to soak up as much of his wisdom as we possibly could.

Let’s dig in to this week’s topic.

Reflecting on Keith Weed & Brand Purpose

Marketing Week’s Molly Fleming interviewed Keith Weed just days after his decision to leave Unilever was made public.

Maybe it’s just me, but I think there’s something extra special about interviewing someone who is coming to the end of a chapter in their life. There’s just such an extra sense of clarity and depth that comes with the thinking.

And while the discussion covered a wide range of topics, brand purpose seemed to be the common denominator in all his responses. Here are three examples why building a brand that matters is the ultimate lesson.

1. Sales & Revenue

First, when asked about his greatest success, he first responded exactly like you’d expect any marketer who hasn’t been fired yet after 9 years in the job: growing sales and revenue.

But then he went on to add that building and proving a business case for sustainability was the thing that made his tenure special.

The takeaway for marketers here? If you want the permission to do something truly different, make sure you hit your sales numbers first.

2. Digital Responsibility

Second, when asked about his biggest regrets, Weed said the most pressing issue was tackling the challenges of digital media. He said he would have, “preferred to do more in shaping responsibility in the digital world.”

And while he may have been referring specifically to the problem of fake followers and influencers, he was a pioneer in the area in a broader sense.

Just look at Dove. They went from launching as just another soap product to now being what Weed describes as, “the largest educator of self-esteem in the world.”

He went on to say that building brands with purpose can help make marketing noble again. Now that sounds like a hat I’d wear.

Using marketing to generate sales is good, but using marketing for noble purposes is even better. And we have a long ways to go there.

3. Advice for Young Marketers

And third, when asked about his advice for young marketers, Weed had a few thoughts:

Live in the space, be close to the consumer, and constantly upskill.

He added, “Marketing leaders should value curiosity, understanding of consumers and consumer trends, and also ensure they are bringing the outside in and really driving growth.”

His point here? You can’t create a brand with purpose unless you’re committed to understanding the customer first.

So there you have it. If you want to become a marketing legend like Keith Weed, it’s all about building a brand with purpose that serves your customer in more ways than just keeping them clean. Oh… and definitely hit your revenue goals.

And that’s how you can help fix marketing. We’ll see you next time.

Author: Josh Braaten

CEO - Brandish Insights

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