Why Unilever's CMO Keith Weed raids his friends' bathroom cabinets

The marketing boss in charge of the world's second largest ad spend turns anthropologist to find out what consumers really think.

by Stephen Jones
Last Updated: 11 Apr 2019

Natural curiosity is a good trait if you’re in charge of the world’s second largest advertising spend, and Keith Weed, Unilever’s chief marketing and communications officer, appears to have it in abundance.

After a 35 year career at the FTSE 100 FMCG giant, which has included stints as SVP of hair and oral care and global director homecare and hygiene, the man responsible for the Anglo-Dutch firm's award-winning Sustainable Living Plan is stepping down in May. But he's still understandably interested in gaining an insight into how consumers are using his products.

Typically the company relies on the usual modus operandi of surveys and focus groups, but Weed prefers to conduct his own, much noisier market research.

"When I go to someone's house, after a period of time I will ask to go the loo. I'll lock the bathroom door and I'll open their cabinets. I want to find out what they’re buying, what they use and more importantly what they don't use - which is usually at the back of the cabinet. You get a pretty good sense from that.

"Then the joy of the job for me is finding innovative ways to serve them with products that make their life a little bit easier. In the Western world our products aren't that transformational, but they form a major part of people’s daily preparation.

"But in other parts of the world that we operate they can be quite transformational to people's lives. So I get energy from spending time out in the market and understanding how people shop and how their habits change."

Further reading

Image credits: tifonimages/gettyimages


Find this article useful?

Get more great articles like this in your inbox every lunchtime

Want to encourage more female leaders? Openly highlight their achievements

A study shows that publicly praising women not only increases their willingness to lead, their...

Message to Davos: Don't blame lack of trust on 'society'

The reason people don't trust you is probably much closer to home, says public relations...

Dame Cilla Snowball: Life after being CEO

One year on from stepping back as boss of Britain's largest advertising agency, Dame Cilla...

How to change people's minds when they refuse to listen

Research into climate change deniers shows how behavioural science can break down intransigence.

"Paying women equally would cripple our economy"

The brutal fact: underpaid women sustain British business, says HR chief Helen Jamieson.

Why you're terrible at recruitment (and can AI help?)

The short version is you're full of biases and your hiring processes are badly designed....