Unilever marketing boss: Working with startups eases fear of failure

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Marc Mathieu, global SVP marketing, Unilever.
Marc Mathieu, global SVP marketing, Unilever.

Marc Mathieu described the Unilever Foundry's work with tech startups

LONDON — Speaking at the Marketing Society's annual conference, Marc Mathieu, global SVP for marketing at Unilever, says the company had been developing ways to harness the innovation of tech startups through the company's "Unilever Foundry."

One of the key challenges of the business and one of his "core missions," Mathieu said, is to ensure the business is not in a reactive state but is proactive in responding to new technologies and possibilities.

The business uses the Foundry — a program of advocacy and venture capital investment — to reach out to tech innovators and entrepreneurs and to "raise the floor and the ceiling," Mathieu said.

"One of our core missions is to make sure we experiment new possibilities of how marketing will be done tomorrow," he said.

Businesses needed to "embrace the risk of failure much more than we have in the past if you want to succeed in the future," he said. Working collaboratively enables large business to invest in new ideas without what Mathieu calls the "fear of failure."

Mathieu said Unilever sends its marketers to events such as SXSW and CES to meet startups and gain new ideas, althrough he admitted that, in the beginning, embracing this way of thinking wasn’t easy because it "was not the common practice."

Through the Unilever Foundry, which he described as a "platform for collaboration and also a framework to experiment," the business could reach out to entrepreneurs and startups with briefs for its brands. It cited Magnum’s iBeacon technology pilot as an example of a successful program that Unilever embraced in its early stages.

"The first experiments we did were really an adventure for the startups and us," Mathieu said. "It brought new ideas, and brought new pioneering ideas, and also took the fear of failure away a little bit."

Earlier this month, Mathieu told Marketing one of the main challenges for marketers is that they are scared to fail.

This article first appeared on marketingmagazine.co.uk.

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