Με τρόπο εμπειρικό ή και αυθαίρετο, σημειώθηκε σε ανάρτησή μου ότι το 2012 θα έχουν χαθεί οι μισές -από τις σημερινές- θέσεις στο marketing αρκετών brands, λόγω του paradigm shift που φέρνει ο καλπασμός του Online Ecosystem και των social media. O Simon Clift, υπό αποχώρηση marketing chief της Unilever, αναφέρεται στο ίδιο θέμα από μια διαφορετική γωνία, προφανώς έχοντας και στοιχεία και εμπειρία, όπως απαιτεί η θέση του.
Ανάμεσα στα άλλα που δηλώνει στο παρακάτω άρθρο των "Financial Times", είναι και η άποψή του για το ποιος τομέας της επικοινωνίας έχει κατακτήσει την ηγετική θέση στην κούρσα προς τον digital κόσμο, καθώς και πώς διατάσσει η Unilever τις δυνάμεις της για να αντιμετωπίσει τις νέες προκλήσεις.
Warning over "lost generation" of marketeers
By Tim Bradshaw
Published: April 5 2010
The outgoing marketing chief of Unilever has warned of a “lost generation” of brand managers who do not understand the web and social networks.
In his final interview before retiring, Simon Clift said he believed public relations agencies were best placed to profit from the rise of Facebook and Twitter, as traditional advertising agencies struggle to adapt to the digital world.
Mr Clift, 52, has been at the company for 28 years, much of it in the consumer-goods group’s personal care division. He has held a senior marketing role for the past decade, overseeing award-winning campaigns such as Dove’s Real Beauty and Persil’s Dirt is Good. That time has also seen traditional marketing techniques revolutionised by the web and consumers empowered by the ability to research and publish their views online.
Unilever, which commands one of the world’s largest advertising budgets, itself felt this most acutely when Greenpeace accused it of using palm oil from unsustainable sources with a YouTube spoof of a Dove ad. Mr Clift said: "There is a lost generation of marketeers. If you are 25 or 20, you know this stuff – you are brought up with Facebook and YouTube. If you are 50, you see your kids do it. Most of our brands are managed by people who have had to learn it".
Unilever has encouraged its staff to use sites such as Twitter and Facebook themselves, to understand them better and help them "live the space". Mr Clift said: "The people who have most needed it are the people aged between 30 and 45, running global brands because they grew up after it and haven’t seen their kids doing it. We are all learning. Unilever is ahead of much of the competition but behind consumers, which for marketers is not a comfortable place to be".
The agencies that work for Unilever, creating and planning its campaigns, are also involved in this "really rapid catch-up", he said. "We built our business on brilliant use of television. You can’t immediately change your competence".
PR agencies are taking an early lead in the social-media world, Mr Clift said. "PR used to be considered the poor relation of advertising. I think you could argue that word of mouth has always been the most effective form of communication. Digital PR is like word of mouth on steroids".
Keith Weed, Mr Clift’s successor as chief marketing officer, will also be in charge of communications at Unilever, reflecting the blurred lines between PR and traditional advertising.
Consumer goods companies have been slower than other industries, such as automotive and telecoms, to understand the importance of the web as a marketing tool. It does not reveal the proportion of its €5.3bn (£4.7bn) marketing budget that is spent online, Unilever doubled its digital investment in 2009 over the prior year and intends to double it again in 2010.
"We are closing the gap", said Mr Clift. But advertisers of all stripes are still experimenting with how best to position their brands on sites such as Facebook, where people are more used to chatting to friends than receiving commercial messages. Mr Clift said: "We are finding social media the biggest challenge of all because there is a question to be raised about whether you have any right to be there".
Brands such as Ben & Jerry’s ice-cream have run successful campaigns on Facebook, and he has worked closely with the site’s senior management, but Mr Clift admits Unilever has "no idea about the value of paid advertising on Facebook at the moment".
He said: "What is fascinating and scary is the nature of brands is changing. That requires a cultural change for companies like Unilever. We have to listen to genuine customer concerns. Companies aren’t set up for that".