Unilever CMO warns ‘marketers could follow data to destruction’

Unilever’s CMO Keith Weed has given his thoughts on the age old argument over the role of art and science in marketing and come down firmly on the side of art.


Speaking at an event in London this morning (3 July), held by M&C Saatchi to unveil their new think tank the Saatchi Institute, Weed said that the fact there are so many choices over where to advertise nowadays has caused “huge problems” for marketers.

“We can have the perfect social, search or mobile campaign but we mustn’t forget its about serving a single person and building brands. Not just a product to buy but an idea to buy into. That is where the art and science, creative and effectiveness come in. You can follow data to destruction,” he said.

He cited Tesco as an example, pointing out that the supermarket was in data “before it was cool”. However he said that led to the company “maximising in one area when maybe it should have been jumping somewhere else”.

He admitted that data is important to ensure that the right message reaches the right audience, or to enable brands to “do creative brilliant well”. However he believes the most important thing is still the creative.

“What we are talking about is how does art or magic take you to new territories, break through the clutter and get noticed but at the same time how do we use the science and logic to make sure we do it brilliantly well.

“The most important thing is the creative, the magic. We are all bombarded with messages, there is so much noise out there, that if you don’t break through that clutter you don’t get noticed.”

Keith Weed, Unilever CMO

Weed was speaking at the launch of the Saatchi Institute, which claims to have found a formula for the relationship between art and science. It defines art as “maximum differentiation” – what makes a brand stand out – and the science as the “minimum deviation” – how to make sure communication sticks to the brand message.

It conducted research with Nielsen on a range of Unilever brands and found that the higher the “art divided by science score”, the bigger the market share.

This has four implications for how marketing directors do their jobs. The research showed that art and science should be separate and specific roles, that brands need to revive long-running campaigns, that hypertargeting doesn’t mean fragmentation and that marketing directors have to look both at the very short term and the very long term to have the most successful campaigns.

M&C Saatchi chairman Tim Duffy also highlighted where Tesco went wrong in its marketing using these outcomes, saying it dealt too much with science and didn’t focus enough on creating a deep long-lasting relationship with consumers.

He picked out O2 as a brand that has done a very good job of the creative side of its marketing through its “Be more dog” proposition while at the same time applying the science and targeting through its “Priority moments” programme.

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