The Drum’s Lifetime Achievement Award winner Keith Weed on why brand success comes down to trust

Unilever’s chief marketing and communications officer Keith Weed was recently revealed as the recipient of The Drum’s Marketing Awards' Lifetime Achievement Award for 2018. Here, he talks about why marketing’s dark days of just being about selling stuff are over, and why the CMOs role today is to build trust in their brands.

It's Weed's belief that there has never been a more exciting time to be in marketing, or a more challenging one.

According to a recent report, brands are facing their biggest trust crisis since the global recession hit in 2008.

"One of the things we see across the world is the decline in trust and trust is incredibly important for building brands. In fact, a brand without trust is just a product. And rebuilding that trust is one of the key roles for a marketer right now,” Weed says.

“Marketing lost its way in the 80s when it became about selling stuff. There’s an opportunity now to be noble again, to really serve consumers, identify what their needs are and create products that help them in everyday life.”

Weed was awarded the coveted accolade following a year which saw him set out a mandate for change, both within his own company and the ad industry as a whole.

To build trust in Unilever's brands, in the past year along he has promised to sever ties with digital platforms it deems unethical while simultaneously urging digital media landscape to clean up its act.

His work to promote diversity has saw him, alongside colleague Aline Santos – Global EVP marketing and head of diversity & inclusion. – vow to stamp out any stereotyping in its ads. He has also supported Santos in her push to ensure Unilever increases the number of female-founded startups it invests in.

Beyond marketing, Weed has led the company's global sustainability agenda, setting out goals such as improving the health and wellbeing of more than one billion people and reducing the company’s environmental impact by half.

“When we do [brand purpose] well the business sings. And if all of us do that well, I think it’s a great role for marketing, serving consumer better and it’s what the world needs right now – that little bit more trust to make the world a better place.”

Watch Weed's full speech in the video above on why he believes marketing can change the world.

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