Unilever’s Keith Weed: ‘Brand integration keeps me up at night’

Unilever’s marketing boss Keith Weed says fragmentation is a “massive risk” to brands as it lessens their power and consistency.


unilever brands

Unilever’s chief marketing and communications officer Keith Weed says ensuring the group’s brands show up consistently on different channels “keeps him up at night”. He sees the fragmentation of brands as “a massive risk for marketers”.

Speaking on a CNBC panel at the World Economic Forum this week alongside Publicis CEO Maurice Lévy and Salesforce CMO Lynn Vojvodich, Weed says the array of digital platforms has given brands the opportunity to use location data and target different audience segments, but has also led to increased brand fragmentation.

“People sometimes say, ‘What keeps you awake at night?’, and it’s the integration of brand. That choice is fantastic but on the other side, it’s also fragmenting our brands. I don’t want to actually optimise it for any one channel; I want to optimise the brand experience. So even if it’s 85% optimised for mobile, if it’s 110% optimised for my brand, that’s great,” he said.

“The fragmentation of brands is a massive risk, and you see it all as consumers. You see in different places that the brand isn’t quite the brand, and that is a real challenge for marketers. How do you create the power of a brand, the consistency and integration across all these different voices?”

The fragmentation of brands is a massive risk. You see in different places that the brand isn’t quite the brand, and that is a real challenge for marketers.

Keith Weed, Unilever

Combining AI and physical spaces

During the panel Weed also spoke about the company’s potential plans for combining artificial intelligence (AI) in retail outlets and admitted the FMCG giant has “a few experiments” on-the-go by partnering with startups through  the Unilever Foundry.

For its Knorr brand Unilever created an AI bot called ‘Chef Wendy’, which can send recipes to hungry consumers based on what ingredients they have at home. It also launched an in-store virtual assistant for its Signal toothpaste brand that looks to make cleaning your teeth more fun.

“When you speak to Chef Wendy, you wouldn’t know you’re speaking to a bot. It’s freaky. It’s still early days in AI, but you just go backward and forward [in terms of progress],” he explained.

READ MORE: Rise of the machines – Are robots after your job?

Unilever says over 11 million people a year use its helplines to ask about product availability or specifications, and so Weed believes that data could also be used for further AI opportunities.

He concludes: “Being able to use that data and give people assistance, but also being able to put consumers through artificial intelligence to give them great support as well is a huge opportunity.”