- Unilever created a new top marketing role, the chief digital & marketing officer, according to news shared with Marketing Dive. Conny Braams, EVP of the packaged goods company’s Middle Europe operations, will fill the appointment starting Jan. 1.
- Braams has been with Unilever since 1990 and previously spearheaded digital marketing and transformation initiatives during her time as EVP of its Benelux and Home Care Europe divisions. The executive has held additional marketing leadership and general management roles in key European and Asian markets, according to the press release.
- Other changes to Unilever's C-suite include the departure North America President Amanda Sourry, who will help guide the transition process into early 2020. Fabian Garcia, who recently served as president and CEO of Revlon, will replace Sourry starting next year.
Unilever's revamp of the CMO title is one of the strongest signals yet that the owner of brands like Dove and Ben & Jerry's ice cream will prioritize digital with its marketing moving forward. There have been rumblings that such an executive change could occur since Keith Weed stepped down as the CPG giant's chief marketing and communications officer in May after nearly a decade in the role.
Around that time, The Drum reported that Unilever could potentially sunset the traditional CMO position entirely following the departure of Weed, a highly decorated marketer credited with helping center more of the company's core brands around purpose and sustainability. Braams has large shoes to fill, but also an extensive background in the types of transformation efforts Unilever appears to be putting at the top of the agenda.
"Conny Braams is one of our most successful and talented leaders, as well as a highly effective driver of change," CEO Alan Jope said in a press statement. "As our new Chief Digital & Marketing Officer, her experience will be critical to the transformation of Unilever into a future-fit, fully digitised organisation at the leading edge of consumer marketing."
Unilever has made several moves this year that show how it is modernizing its marketing strategy beyond executive title tweaks. In March, it introduced the ambitious Unilever Trusted Publishers network intended to better combat online ad fraud and ensure advertising for its brands only runs on strictly vetted publishers that reach internal benchmarks around viewability, verification and brand value. Unilever's internal marketing procurement teams have reportedly been reworked as well, swapping from a two-tiered model into three separate units dedicated to its beauty and personal care, home care and food and refreshment segments, respectively.
Centering more business around e-commerce has become another priority for Unilever in the Amazon era — a shift that's had a heavy impact on its marketing. On a call discussing Q2 results with analysts in July, Jope cited online retail as Unilever's "most important growth channel" and a large factor motivating its focus on "a data-driven marketing approach."
With the prominence of "digital" in her title, Braams will likely steer some of these initiatives at a time when marketers are feeling greater pressure to not only generate creative ideas, but also steward growth and technological innovation for their brands. CMO and equivalent roles have experienced churn and several high-profile departures this year, and in some cases have been eliminated entirely to be replaced by executives focused on digital, data and growth.
A C-Suite retooling comes as Unilever has lagged behind some of its chief rivals on the performance front. The company posted 2.9% organic sales growth in Q3 earnings reported in October, falling short of analyst expectations, the Financial Times reported.