News & Views

Cannes Lions / Keith Weed - Future of Brands

by Chloe Markowicz


Keith Weed took to the stage at the Cannes Lions Festival today to discuss the Future of Brands.

The chief marketing and communication officer at Unilever spoke about the importance of embracing influencers, championing sustainable brands and challenging stereotypes of women in advertising.

Weed discussed how the data and creativity sides of marketing are coming together and introduced a concept he called In. In Weed’s marketing equation, the letter I stands for individuals, influencers and impacts. He brought this strategy to life by showing campaign videos from Unilever brands including Axe/Lynx, Magnum and Ben & Jerry’s.

Individuals /

First, he argued that marketers need to explore the concept of ‘individuals’ in more depth. ‘With technology we can market to a single person,’ he said. ‘We’ve gone from mass marketing to massive customisation.’

He then explained that the role of the chief marketing officer has changed immensely and the CMO now needs to work on the ‘micro’ level to understand individuals around the world. However, he was emphatic that this wasn’t a simple shift from macro to micro and instead suggested that technology is now enabling marketers to operate at both a macro and a micro level simultaneously. The brand Axe embodies this strategy. On the one hand, the brand took a broadcast approach through ads like Find Your Magic, while on the other hand, Romeo Reboot, a film that can be personalised according to the viewer’s profile works on a much more individual level.

Influencers /

Second, Weed talked about influencers and described how marketers can now use influencers to ‘engage at scale’. He spoke about the effectiveness of using influencers in marketing and shared Unilever research that found purchase intent goes up by 5.2% if a campaign uses an influencer strategy. While 56% of people are likely to accept advice from their friends, 49% of them are likely to listen to influencers, only a few percentage points behind.

Impact /

Finally, Weed spoke about the importance of impact. He discussed the importance of purposeful brands and argued that there has been a shift in this respect with Unilever’s sustainable living brands moving faster in 2015 than they did in 2014. These brands, said Weed, grow 30% faster than the rest of Unilever’s portfolio and deliver half of the FMCG giant’s growth. ‘Our top five brands are sustainable living brands,’ said Weed. ‘These are brands with purpose, brands with real meaning. People are engaging with them and engaging at scale. This is the sort of impact that consumers want to see.’ Weed cited that 54% of people would buy a product if it was socially and environmentally sustainable, as long as there is parity of price and performance.


Next, he talked about the role that the advertising industry can play in challenging stereotypes, particularly when it comes to the way that women are portrayed. Unilever analysed 1,000 ads and found that 50% of them portrayed women in a stereotypical way: 1% showed women as funny, 2% showed women as intelligent, 3% depicted women as leaders and 12% as non-conformists. The company’s research also found that 40% of women do not identify with the women they see in adverts.


Looking at its own output, Unilever found that its progressive ads were 12% more effective. ‘This is not a moral issue, it’s an economic issue,’ argued Weed. ‘We can create better advertising if we create advertising that is more progressive and that challenges stereotypes.’ He then explained that Unilever aims to portray women in a more authentic manner.

Weed ended his talk by calling for marketers to build their brands in whole new ways. He said: ‘We marketers used to pride ourselves on being ahead of consumers, but now, with technology, consumers are ahead of marketers.’

Cannes Deconstructed