Reinvention, not cost cutting, should be the stimulus for reorganisation

It takes an accomplished marketer to argue that a 12 per cent reduction in headcount in the marketing department is a positive step. So congratulations to Unilever’s global marketing chief Keith Weed, who presented his brand’s marketing vision for the future this week, promising to create such a streamlined, effective marketing machine that an estimated 840 people will no longer be necessary. 


His vision for the future focuses on quicker innovation with more investment; a move away from “traditional and digital media” to “paid, owned, earned media”; using the same creative in more markets for efficiency; and concentrating on projects over €3m (£2.5m).

I don’t think anyone would argue that there is little money available for marketers to waste. Using the same creative execution in multiple markets may save money as long as global campaigns can be tailored successfully for regional cultures.

Thinking about media in terms of paid, owned and earned is also sensible and a step change from thinking only of booking media space through an agency. And it makes sense to concentrate on fewer, larger projects that will really make an impact. Weed sees the number of billion euro brands at Unilever rising from 11 to 15.

Unilever is not the only global brand to carry out a reorganisation. Procter & Gamble carried out a similar programme a year ago, while Heinz carried out a business-wide restructure this summer, including a reshuffle of the marketing and management teams.

So should marketers expect more reorganisations and cuts in 2014? Yes. It is not just products that are ‘in beta’; organisations need to be agile and responsive to change.

The skill for brands in 2014 will be balancing reorganisations with building real value within their businesses. Reorganising takes a great deal of time, energy and effort. Or as one marketer from a global drinks business put it: you finish reorganising, sit down at your desk to begin your job and discover that it’s time for another restructure.

Reorganisations that work in 2014 will be those that genuinely allow marketers to be more nimble. New real-time tools arrive for marketers daily. This week, Google launched +Post, which enables brands to repurpose content across 2 million sites in the Google Display Network. Messages can be made more contextual and immediate than before.

The days of sitting around a table spending months and all your budget on a 30-second TV campaign are gone. If you’re following Unilever’s path and reorganising in 2014, make sure that it’s about genuine business reinvention and not simply cost reduction.

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