Rob Kitchen, Research Director & Keith Allen, Senior Analyst,
Hotspex UK

Powerful messages for brand builders from one of the world’s top marketers

Hotspex recently had the privilege of attending an audience with WFA’s Global Marketer of the Year and sustainability trailblazer Keith Weed (former Unilever CMO). Chaired by BBC News Editorial Director Kamal Ahmed, what followed was an inspirational insight and perspective on the challenges facing brand builders today. Reflecting on his extensive 35-year experience in the marketing sphere, Keith Weed observes a degree of industry change that has been greater over the last 5 years than it was in the preceding 30.  He spoke passionately about the need to drive trust and sustainability.  

Here are 3 powerful take-aways…


Through its Sustainable Living Program, Keith Weed explained how Unilever are seeking to reinvent themselves with sustainability at the heart. Engaging the Unilever global workforce with the sustainability agenda was a key foundation, and with 90% of employees saying they are proud to work for Unilever, it seems to have worked.

This sense of pride is influenced by the range of Unilever-backed campaigns aimed at improving lives such as the Lifebuoy campaign which aims to educate and facilitate disadvantaged communities towards more regular handwashing. Having a cause-oriented brand persona helps build relevance and a stronger human connection among an increasingly ‘cause-conscious’ public.

At Hotspex, we have observed that consumers have a growing intolerance toward waste, in any form.  This is evidenced by a growing focus on sustainably sourced ingredients, eco-friendly packaging and brands increasingly stepping into community and environmental causes;

The sharing economy, peer-to-peer consumerism and the
rise of access-over-ownership business models have radically
recalibrated consumer expectations around utilization and waste


Both Keith Weed and Kamal Ahmed spoke passionately about rebuilding trust as a vital focus and challenge in their respective spheres (broadcasting and marketing). Living a genuine ‘Brand Do, Brand Say’ philosophy (‘walking the walk’ as well as ‘talking the talk’) to build trust is a central element of brand strategies across the Unilever Group.

A brand without trust is just a product.

An advert without trust is just noise.

Keith Weed

Putting the ‘Brand Do, Brand Say’ principles into practice, Unilever’s Dove brand backed up its campaign messaging on building personal self esteem by taking action through running free seminars and workshops for young people as part of the Dove Self-Esteem project – another great example of a brand standing for more than just a functional product sale.

Conversely, trumpeting an ethical stance for your brand without first living those values throughout the organisation risks being called out by consumers who are quick to call foul if they sense duplicity, as McDonald’s found to their cost following their international women’s day campaign;

The pursuit of brand coherence

Observing a growing drift towards brand fragmentaion, Keith also spoke to the dangers of “optimising by channel instead of optimising by brand”. As brand presence proliferates across mediums and channels, it becomes increasingly difficult to maintain a consistent approach and message, preventing the establishment of a strong, unified brand message with consumers.

In the face of this challenge, lies a great opportunity to differentiate by working towards brand coherence across touchpoints, by pursuing relentless consistency and clarity of message. This is a guiding principle of our own brand building advisory work and in order marry brand coherence to brand salience in our crowded world, our closing word on this topic is this shrewd quote from Keith Weed himself;

Whatever you do, be creative and brave or the industry is all over. The worst thing to do is safe advertising because it disappears. Balance bravery against recklessness, take calculated risks, react quickly

Keith Weed

If you are interested in learning more about how we can help build brands through instilling the principles of sustainability, trust and coherence, please get in touch at

Hotspex’s purpose is to Help our Clients’ Brands Grow.  We accomplish this via our emotional measurement platform, behavioural sciences expertise combined with leading-edge in-context Brand Building tools.   With offices in Toronto, New York and London, Hotspex partners with the top global brands, spanning 30+ global markets.  Hotspex was voted #1 Most Innovative Insights Firm in North America.