Unilever’s top marketer Conny Braams to step down

Unilever chief digital and commercial officer Conny Braams will leave after over three years leading marketing at the company, in a tenure which saw an increased focus on digital and breaking down “silos” between sales and marketing.

unileverUnilever’s chief digital and commercial officer Conny Braams will be stepping down from her role in August after three and a half years leading marketing at the business.

The company, which owns brands such as Dove, Ben and Jerry’s and Hellmann’s, is yet to announce its successor.

In April 2022, Braams became Unilever’s first-ever chief digital and commercial officer. When she began as the company’s top marketer in January 2020, her title had been chief digital and marketing officer.

This change reflected the need to remove “silos” between marketing and sales, Braams told Marketing Week at the time, and to ensure there was “a consistent consumer experience”.

Today (30 May), in announcing her departure from Unilever, she hailed the success of this.

“In the most dynamic of times, together with a very talented team we have ensured that Unilever is at the leading edge of marketing and sales; and – critically – the convergence of the two,” she said.

Current CEO Alan Jope praised Braams’ “excellent leadership” as chief digital and commercial officer.

“She has helped to transform our company into a future-fit, fully digitized organization,” he said.

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When Braams took over as Unilever’s top marketer in 2020, the addition of “digital” was added to her job title. Predecessor Keith Weed, who spent over nine years in his role, was chief marketing and communications officer.

The top marketer job at Unilever remained vacant for over a year between Weed’s departure and the appointment of Braams.

While she spent just over three years leading marketing at the company, Braams’ departure from Unilever comes after 33 years at the FMCG giant. She joined the company in 1990 as a product manager in the Netherlands, before rising to the ranks, latterly holding the role of executive vice president for Middle Europe in 2019, before being elevated to the company’s top marketer in 2020.

Braams’ departure comes just over a month before a change of CEO at Unilever. Current CEO Jope will leave the company on July 1, to be succeeded by former Heinz finance boss Hein Schumacher.

Under Jope’s leadership, Unilever had come under criticism from investors for its focus on brand purposes, as well as its failed attempt to acquire GSK’s consumer healthcare division.

Last year, activist investor and founder of the Fundsmith Equity Fund Terry Smith branded Unilever’s focus on sustainability and brand purpose “ludicrous”, claiming the strategy led to the FMCG giant’s underwhelming performance in 2021. He renewed his attack this year, accusing the business of “virtue signalling”.

In another change to its leadership team, Unilever also announced today that its chief financial officer Graeme Pitkethly is retiring from the company in May 2024. The company said it will now begin a formal internal and external search for a successor.

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