LONDON: Unilever, the FMCG giant, is transforming its relationships with ad agencies and media owners, reflecting a process the company describes as "evolution by consumer selection".
Keith Weed, Unilever's chief marketing officer, told Marketing Magazine that new structures and strategies are required to meet the growing challenge of reaching and engaging shoppers.
"We need to look at different models that can help us adapt to the change that consumers are driving - something I call 'evolution by consumer selection,'" he said. "Success will come to those that are most adaptable and stay indispensable to consumers' lives."
Among the main trends demanding a response are the shift of "economic power" to the East and South, incorporating sustainability into all business activities and the rise of numerous digital technologies.
Finding the right balance between "paid", "owned" and "earned" media, as well as leveraging the broad range of content creation and distribution platforms, also necessitates a radical rethink.
"Developments in ambient technology mean that computing won't be locked up in devices: it will be everywhere and in everything. By 2020, as much as two-thirds of digital data will pass through the cloud; all devices will be connected," Weed said.
"The roles of the advertisers, agencies and media-owners are evolving. We need new industry models that truly integrate all our communications to ensure that consumers engage with brands that offer a consistent message and brand experience."
Within this, social media is "empowering" individuals, reshaping approaches to marketing and revolutionising the way that advertisers can, and should, work with media owners.
"This trend is set to accelerate rapidly in 2012. We should embrace it by moving from creating brands to curating them - developing an environment so consumers can truly 'live' these brands," said Weed.
"This is a different type of consumer engagement and requires different ways of working. We now have global, direct relationships with media companies like Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter and Apple in a way not possible with national media companies."
In recognising the increasingly central positions shoppers have in generating content and word of mouth, Unilever has also fostered a "creating brands for life" model, mixing "logic and magic".
"It's about creating a strategy that puts people's lives at the centre. If they drive the agenda, we must learn from them. Only by truly knowing them can we do what's right for them," said Weed.
Data sourced from Marketing Magazine; additional content by Warc staff