Unilever has appointed Conny Braams to lead its global marketing, bringing to a close an almost year-long search to fill the role left vacant by Keith Weed.
Braams, who was previously executive vice-president for Unilever Middle Europe, will take on the newly created position of chief digital and marketing officer. It was reported that Unilever planned to retire the chief marketing officer position entirely, but Braams has instead been handed a retuned remit that reflects the company's commitment to digital marketing.
Unilever's chief executive Alan Jope described Braams as one of the FMCG giant's "most successful and talented leaders, as well as a highly effective driver of change."
He added: "As our new chief digital and marketing officer, her experience will be critical to the transformation of Unilever into a future-fit, fully digitised organisation at the leading edge of consumer marketing.”
Reporting into Jope, the marketer will be charged with oversight of Unilever's 400-strong brand roster; which the chief exec is looking to shrink as part of his purporse-driven vision for the Dove owner.
On the digital front, she joins Unilever on the back of long-term efforts from Weed to galvanise industry-wide action to clean up “opaque” digital media practices and take control over its own media supply chain.
Her predecessor, who was with Unilever for 35 years, worked on an efficiency drive that has resulted in the group cutting its agency roster in half; brought some production in-house and built out the business’ internal digital know-how — all themes she will likely build on in her new position.
Braams will start on 1 January and a direct replacement for her previous role will be announced "in due course". Her appointment also dovetails with another big change at the top for the business in the US.
Amanda Sourry, president, Unilever North America, has decided to retire from the company after more than 30 years of service to pursue new opportunities. She is to be replaced by Fabian Garcia, former president and chief executive of Revlon.
Fabian will also join at the start of 2020, reporting into chief operating officer Nitin Paranjpe. Sourry will support the leadership transition into early 2020.
"Her strategic clarity, operational experience and passion for developing talent have made her one of the company’s best leaders of recent times. We wish her all the best for the future."
“I would also like to extend a warm welcome to Fabian, a truly global and purpose-driven business leader, who brings to Unilever deep experience of the consumer goods industry in North America and many other markets, as well as an impressive track record of high performance.”
Who is Conny Braams?
Braams is a long-serving Unilever exec.
She joined immediately after graduating in 1990 as a product manager where she oversaw the marketing for brands like Unox and Cup-a-soup before becoming international and national marketing manager for Unilever in the Netherlands a few years later.
She then continued to lead various business units in different roles at Unilever Netherlands until 2006 when she moved to Barcelona to take up the role of vice-president of brand building for foods, refreshment, home and personal care for Unilever Spain.
Five years later she departed for Singapore to lead the Unilever Food Solutions business for Asia, Africa, Middle East before finally returning to the Netherlands in 2016 as general manager for Middle Europe.
In 2017, Braams played a leading role in Unilever's decision to forge a strategic partnership with the Zwanenberg Food Group, which saw the FMCG-giant sell a factory in exchange for a 50% uptick in the production of smoked meat, sauces and canned soup for the Unox brand.
The marketer has also held a variety of external board positions, the most notable of which was a six-year stint as non-executive board member at Heineken.
Braams has also previously sat on the board of the Rijks Museum and Kröller-Müller Museum and continues to advise organisations including the RSM Erasmus University, Dutch business body VNO-NCW and FNLI, the Dutch Food Industry Federation.
Additional reporting by Jen Faull