Unilever's Marc Mathieu on empowering consumers

Unilever's senior vice-president of marketing on how the democratisation of marketing has taken power from brands and handed it to the consumer.

It may sound like a cliché, but we do live in a global village. Over the past few weeks, I've experienced it first hand, from São Paulo to Hanoi, Istanbul to LA, Paris to Tokyo.

Everywhere I go, I encounter a world of differences – in lifestyles, cultures, beliefs – but I also see amazing similarities, convergences and common underlying trends. Of these, democratisation is one of the greatest forces. Of course, we see a trend toward democratisation as the form of government that Churchill once cited as "the worst one, except for all the others that have been tried". But, as a marketer, the democratisation that interests me most is the democratisation of marketing.

More and more, consumers, real people with real lives, are stepping into our "sacred space". People want to play the role of marketer, "tastemaker" and cheerleader for our brands – their brands. They want to like them, endorse them, spread the word for them; they go out of their way to create new content for them, instantaneously shared across the web, always keen on new ideas, new reasons to believe and new points of views – effectively taking the place of the work we once did as marketers.

The reason people are increasingly able to create and communicate at scale is the social platforms they have at their fingertips. The social web gives power to the people: they are now ready to share their point of view with anyone who will listen, powered by their social network, the friends of friends, the anonymous viewer of a YouTube channel, a tweet or a retweet.

A young Brazilian girl pushes the "like" button on her friend’s Facebook feed to reinforce how great the new TRESemmé Platinum Strength Shampoo feels… a French pleasure-hunter posts his delight after creating a custom-made Magnum in a pop-up "Pleasure Lounge"… a proud Turkish mother cheers for her dirt-covered son whose football team just scored in the local Persil "dirt is good" challenge.

But more is yet to come. Silicon Valley was one of my latest stops, where I went with Unilever colleagues to meet with the big players you would expect – and also with many smaller, but all the more creative, disruptive and fascinating start-ups (or recently started-up-and-growing companies). There, I experienced the next chapter of the Democratisation of Marketing: an inspiring photograph of Toni & Guy’s new Hair Wardrobe collection discovered on Pinterest; a timely Hellmann’s recipe that was peer-sourced from StumbleUpon; and a powerful report on Dove’s purposeful self-esteem pursuit included in one of the almost 1m Flipboard-enabled social magazines. Of these, 100,000 were created within only 24 hours of the release of Flipboard’s 2.0 version, empowering 50,000 of its users to suddenly become publishers, curating their own content, sharing their views, their fears and their life.

No more content-rights issue for that pirate-generated YouTube clip, posted by a Lynx fan or a Ben & Jerry activist. Thanks to premium-content network Zefr, user-generated content outnumbers original brand content. And the Dove product placement in your favourite TV show can now make it straight into the social graph on campus, powered by Tivli!, the new social TV.

Even as I arrived at my home in Los Angeles, I could see the "scary" signs of change as my digital-native son marketed his found-footage horror feature film-project for funding… on kickstarter.com.

Our brands and our products are all over these posts, these images, these socially enabled feeds and magazines, these films. But on people’s terms, no longer on ours. This is the Global Village of Marketing, the new age of Marketing Democracy.

Discussion

Before commenting please read our rules for commenting on articles.

If you see a comment you find offensive, you can flag it as inappropriate. In the top right-hand corner of an individual comment, you will see 'flag as inappropriate'. Clicking this prompts us to review the comment. For further information see our rules for commenting on articles.

comments powered by Disqus
Brand Republic Jobs

subscribe now

Latest

John Lewis walks consumers through its history to celebrate 150 years of business
Waitrose boosts content strategy with 'Weekend Kitchen with Waitrose' C4 tie-up
Hottest virals: Cute puppies star in Pedigree ad, plus Idris Elba and Fruyo
Amnesty International burns candles to illuminate new hope
Toyota achieves the impossible by calming angry Roman drivers
Tom of Finland's 'homoerotic' drawings made into stamps
YouTube reveals user habits to appeal to 'older' marketers
Ex-M&S marketing chief Steven Sharp consulting at WPP
Wolff Olins reveals new CEO after Apple poaches Karl Heiselman
Glasgow offers £30,000 prize to best digital idea for 2014 Commonwealth Games
Google's revenues surge but shares drop as it grapples with transition to mobile
Facebook beats Twitter to most 'marketing friendly' social media site crown, says DMA
Fableists believe children like Finn should be outdoors enjoying life
Homebase, Baileys and Camelot join the line-up at Media360
MasterCard renews Rugby World Cup sponsorship to push cashless message
Lynx unleashes £9m 'Peace invasion' campaign
Social Brands 100 Youth: Pizza Hut most social youth brand in UK
Cheryl Cole is wild and arresting in new L'Oreal work
Morrisons told not to show alcohol ads during YouTube nursery rhymes
O2 head of brand Shadi Halliwell departs after 23 years at company in restructure
Tesco hit by further sales decline as it turns to digital Clubcard and social network
Branding guru Wally Olins dies aged 83
Duracell short film captures epic Transatlantic voyage
Ash runs Tinder experiment to show smokers are less desirable to opposite sex
British Airways teams up with Gerry Cottle Jnr for summer of rooftop film screenings
Arklu says 'girls can be superheroes too' with doll design competition
Coke enters squash market with Oasis Mighty Drops
Virgin Galactic signs up Land Rover as space flight sponsor
Motorola marketer Andrew Morley departs as Google gears up for sale to Lenovo
US Airways apologises after tweeting obscene image at a customer