Unilever marketing shake-up as long-serving Santos leaves

Unilever’s Aline Santos (below), chief brand officer (and chief equity, diversity and inclusion officer to boot) at Unilever, is leaving after 35 years. She was instrumental in various Dove campaigns and ‘Dirt is Good’ for OMO/Persil.

Chief growth and marketing officer Esi Eggleston Bracey (some might wonder how the two formerly co-existing jobs differed) will take over her marketing responsibilities while the global equity, diversity and inclusion team goes to HR, which some might see as the corporate equivalent of Siberia.

All of which is a pretty dramatic sign of the change at the consumer goods giant with new CEO Hein Schumacher a former Dutch dairy executive, in charge and shareholder value veteran Nelson Peltz now ensconced on the board.

Santos says; “I am leaving Unilever at the end of March to embark on a whole new adventure (details of which are unknown even to me). Am I nervous? Yes! But I am also so ready to embrace the unknown.” She paid tribute to her many colleagues in a long career.

Not many doubt that Unilever needed to get its act into gear after careering off down the purpose route but it would be a pity if its many successful and creative marketing initiatives became a thing of the past under the new, more hard-nosed regime. It would be no surprise if ad budgets are cut (Unilever is currently reviewing its media accounts.)

Santos added her diversity and inclusivity responsibilities in 2016 so in some ways she had quite a good innings. Diversity and inclusivity execs were all the rage, in agency holding companies particularly, in and around lockdown but many of them seem to have quietly departed. Possibly when they actually tried to do something rather than keep the troops quiet and under the radar.

Top managers probably receive more scrutiny than ever before in today’s landscape but the more light shined on their doings makes you wonder: why? The smorgasbord of chief this and thats populating the higher reaches of today’s big companies (including, as well, even modest-sized agencies) tells its own story.

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