Unilever CMO Keith Weed took a big swing in Cannes Wednesday, making the case that “size doesn’t matter” anymore in marketing -- and in life -- but that the ability to scale good ideas and meaningful connections that matter does.
To illustrate his point and get the attention of his keynote audience at the 2015 Lions Festival of Creativity, Weed began by showing a "Funny or Die" parody of Unilever’s award-winning “Two Doors” campaign for its Dove brand -- the one showing women confronting and going through two separate doors labeled “Average” or “Beautiful.”
The parody begins with men discussing the same kind of introspective exploration of manliness -- then confronting two doors labeled “Average Dick” and “Big Dick.”
Weed quipped that there is “no better gauge of whether you’ve really started penetrating the culture” then when a “parody arrives.”
He used the humorous setup to demonstrate that brands can tell engaging stories that permeate culture with important messages, even if other people make fun of them afterward.
Citing an increasingly popular stat about human attention spans eroding from an average of 12 seconds 15 years ago to eight seconds today (one second less than a goldfish), Weed told the Cannes creative community: “It’s not what’s your most creative idea. It’s what’s your most creative idea in five seconds.”
And that’s just to get consumers’ attention. The real task, he said, is to get “engagement,” because that’s when people connect with brands so much that they share them with other people.
To do that, he said, brands must focus on three things: “The idea. Trust. And transformation.”
Referring to video clips from an elite focus group of other big brands, agencies and media execs, Weed punctuated his talk with examples illustrating great ideas, trust and transformation, all of which reinforced his setup that it’s not about size -- in the case of marketing, budgets -- but how you leverage ideas to create scale.
To do that, he implied, brands need to build trust -- not just with consumers, but across an industry that itself is undergoing transformation. He rattled off stats on technological change -- especially the obligatory mobile, social and new as-yet-unclassified silos of digital media -- asserting that Madison Avenue’s silo mentality of specialty AORs needs to change in favor of a “110%” view of an overall brand. Or what Y&R used to call the “whole egg” in the old days.
On the issue of trust, he provided an obligatory rant on “viewability” and “fraud,” but quickly moved on to “transformation,” showing some compelling cases of innovative approaches to branding created in partnership with startups supported by Unilever’s Foundry initiative, which backs start-ups with $50,000 brands to go from “pitch to pilot” in hopes of creating new branding ideas that can “scale.”
In fact, he said Unilever brought 50 of its start-up collaborators to Cannes this year, noting: “We need to know how we’re going to transform the brand in this ever-changing world. If you want to get engagement -- if you want to get deep engagement -- Brands need to have more dimensions. It’s not just about a product to buy. You need an idea to buy into. You need brands that matter. You need brands that have substance. Brands that people trust to really do the right thing.”
On that note, he showed examples of Unilever’s “Bright Future” initiative, which showcases big ideas being developed by the world’s youth, and said Unilever is backing all this transformation with one purpose in mind: “Purpose.”
He said “brands with purpose” will build greater trust with consumers and will lead to a better world. He said the notion has evolved from corporate social responsibility “sitting in one corner” while marketing was sitting in another pushing products at people to a world in which marketing is integrated with “sustainable” models that ideally will contribute to making a “better world.”
“We can create a new future from the ground up,” he said, and then cited Unilever examples that were sure to resonate in the minds of other like-minded brand marketers for bottom line reasons.
He noted that Unilever’s top “sustainable living brands” -- brands like Dove, Lifeboy and Ben & Jerry’s -- “accounted for half our growth” last year. “More importantly, they grew at twice the rate as our other brands.”