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Unilever chief Alan Jope: the marketers of the future will be specialists


By Stephen Lepitak, -

July 19, 2019 | 4 min read

Unilever chief executive Alan Jope has predicted that the marketer of the future will move to become more specialized in their focus across a number of roles.

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Unilever chief Alan Jope believes the marketers of the future will be specialists

Speaking to The Drum, Jope offered his view on how the role of the marketer will develop in the face of changes to technology and society, saying there will be “a shift” at lower-level positions in the marketing departments from generalist to specialist.

“If you look at our brand team, we used to have a group product manager, marketing manager, brand manager, associate brand manager – all generalists. Nowadays we will increasingly specialize on business management experts, communications experts, and innovation experts, and within communications expertise you will have audience segmentation analysts, pure data analysts, programmatic media people," he said.

"There will be even further specializations, in particular within the communications’ space. That’s to say the roles will be specialized, not necessarily the people. In other words in a person will move around in their marketing career to prepare them for the bigger jobs where you have to pull all of that together. That’s the direction of travel – from generalists to specialists.”

Unilever is transitioning in how it works with its agency networks, rather than through individual agency brands. Jope has previously explained his expectations of working with the very best talent from across the networks, relinquishing his concern about competitive clashes to an extent.

“Where we are at right now is not about increasing or reducing the number of agencies on our roster – we have structured our relationships much more with the holding companies than with the individual agencies underneath. I know WPP has all the talent that we need to solve our brand problems, and so do Omnicom and IPG, but want I don’t want to do is to just have a relationship within one vertical of them – I want them to take a problem and then go find the expertise and talent to solve our problems.

"That’s a programme that we are two-thirds of the way through, shifting our brand relationships to the holding company-level rather than the sub-brands below.”

This expectation will be the new normal from Unilever’s stable of brands and he dmits that there is less concern over competitive conflicts across each network-owned agency.

“We don’t want the same people working with competitors at the same time but the holding companies will have to work on our competitors as well as our business – that is fine," he said.

"We do ask that the holding company create some internal barriers to prevent the flow of sensitive or confidential information between teams and our tech partners, we also have a great partnership with Facebook which is also working with P&G and L’Oreal."

Meanwhile, Unilever has yet to announce who will replace Keith Weed, its former chief marketing officer, now president of the Advertising Association. He has revealed that the role will be a slightly altered one, with the successful applicant having experience of purpose-driven brand marketing to tie in with his own intentions to see the company make a difference to the world.

"It will still be a CMO at the core and then we will bolt on a few different things,” he hinted.

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