Stuart Smith on Unilever’s CMO

Congratulations to Keith Weed, who has just been appointed Simon Clift’s successor as global CMO at Unilever.

In fact, there’s more to it than that. Weed’s actual title is chief marketing and communications officer, which means that in addition to Clift’s former responsibilities Weed will also have PR under his belt.

Paul Polman, the Procter & Gamble-bred chief executive of Unilever, has made no bones about this representing an elevation of the marketing function: “This is the first time Unilever has had a CMO at the top table and it’s a key step to having a sharper consumer focus in the company.” All of which might seem a little hurtful to Clift, whom many of us had supposed was pretty near the top table himself. One thing he did not have, it seems, was the ear of the chief executive.

Weed, 48, is – like Clift – a Unilever lifer. An engineering graduate, he joined Unilever in 1983 as a trainee and is currently executive vice-president of home care, oral care and water. He was president of the Marketing Society for three years from 2003 to 2006. In his spare time he’s also a non-executive director of Sun Products Corporation and Duchy Originals.

The fact that Polman has picked an insider is further proof that the rift between Clift and Polman was personality-driven and not over “strategy”.


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