Conny Braams named WFA Global Marketer of the Year 2021

Unilever’s Chief Digital and Marketing Officer, Conny Braams, has been named WFA Global Marketer of the Year 2021.

She was awarded this recognition following a combined vote from an expert jury and the industry at large, including WFA members, with each accounting for a half of the final score.

As Unilever’s first-ever Chief Digital and Marketing Officer, Braams is responsible for Unilever’s end-to-end Digital transformation and Marketing worldwide, to maximise opportunities for growth. She was appointed to her current position in January 2020, following a broad international career at Unilever spanning more than three decades, with a track-record in driving change at scale.

Under Conny’s leadership, the company has invested heavily in AI and machine learning as well as evolving its ‘Digital Hubs’ to ‘Digital Marketing and Commerce Hubs’ to benefit from the increasing convergence of media, entertainment and commerce.  It cemented trusted partnerships and created new ones through a global media agency review to ensure future-fit, best-in-class support in the dynamic media landscape. Unilever’s digital spend is now more than 40% with parts of the world, such as China, significantly higher as Unilever increases spend in areas such as gaming, influencer marketing, entertainment, new digital business models and digital commerce.  Conny is also on a mission to make sustainable choices simple and preferred for consumers and champions the role that marketers can play in driving responsible growth.

Conny Braams, Chief Digital and Marketing Officer, Unilever said: “It was an honour to be included amongst a line up of heavy weights in the WFA’s Global Marketer of the Year shortlist, and it’s a fantastic acknowledgement to win! Of course, this award is not about me, it recognises the outstanding marketing community at Unilever who grow our brands, powered by purpose, innovation and creativity. Thank you.”

“Conny has made a rapid impact at Unilever in very challenging circumstances. She has demonstrated how marketing, when done with empathy, can help solve consumer challenges, ensure brands are focused on providing not just value but also values, and stand out in culture. She has shown true leadership and is a worthy winner of this award,” said Raja Rajamannar, WFA President & Chief Marketing and Communications Officer of Mastercard, who headed up the expert jury.

WFA Global Marketer of the Year 2021, which has been run in partnership with The Drum, is designed to celebrate the role that global and regional marketers play in changing their businesses, the industry and society for the better.

Braams was one of seven global marketers to be shortlisted for the award, the others were:

  • Andrea Álvares, Chief Brand, Innovation, International and Sustainability Officer, Natura: Andrea has helped empower the company’s consultants’ network, providing representatives with new digital tools, extending payment terms and supporting them during the pandemic. She has also played a strong role in helping Natura drive up its innovation index, which has risen nearly 10 percentage points in the last two years.
  • Rupen Desai, Global CMO, Dole Sunshine Company: Rupen has developed a new business model for Dole – driven by a clear purpose that good nutrition is a human right – that is delivering sustainable growth. He has worked with Piñatex to turn pineapple leaves into vegan leather, resulting in a new series of Nike shoes, and helped set up the Sunshine for All Fund, which allows start-ups to evaluate and test new technology within the business.
  • Cristina Diezhandino, CMO, Diageo: Cristina has re-imagined how the company’s 1,200-strong marketing team works. She and her team have introduced quarterly plans and small challenge teams to address specific short-term problems. During the pandemic she focused on enabling consumers to recreate that bar feeling at home, growing the ecommerce business, while also supporting bars and bar staff.
  • Julia Goldin, EVP, Chief Product and Marketing Officer, LEGO Group: Julia’s remit covers product development, licensing and partnerships as well as marketing, research and the company’s in-house creative agency. During the pandemic she and her team devised the #letsbuildtogether campaign to support isolated children and their parents in just two weeks.
  • Pratik Thakar, Head of Global Creative Strategy and Content, Coca-Cola at The Coca-Cola Company: Pratik has led structural changes that have allowed Coca-Cola’s marketing teams and agency partners to collaborate even more closely during the pandemic. He has created new merchandising partnerships and launched the company’s game-themed “One Coke Away from Each Other” campaign.
  • Jane Wakely, Lead CMO, Mars, Incorporated: Jane has driven the transformation of Mars’ marketing function, delivering a new mandate – building brands for mutual value – to create a roadmap for sustainable growth. Recent campaigns include Sheba’s Hope Reef product, where the brand partnered with National Geographic to help regrow coral at the site in Indonesia.

The shortlist was selected by an expert jury from across the industry, following nominations from the marketing industry.

Braams and the other global marketers on the shortlist demonstrated outstanding leadership in four key areas:

  1. Driving initiatives which contribute towards sustainable business growth;
  2. Optimising their global marketing organisation, including working more effectively with partners;
  3. Delivering stand-out innovation and creativity;
  4. Playing an industry leadership role, for example, around furthering the Diversity & Inclusion agenda.

Stephan Loerke, CEO of the WFA, said: “All seven of our shortlisted candidates have made a huge impact on the businesses they work for and demonstrated the diversity of talent in leadership positions across our industry. They have all delivered the full power of marketing for their companies as brands have been challenged to adapt to rapid changes in consumer purchasing behaviour and media consumption.”

This is the fifth year that the WFA has run its Global Marketer of the Year Award. Last year it was won by Marc Pritchard from Procter & Gamble, who followed Lubomira Rochet from L’Oréal, Mastercard’s Raja Rajamannar and Unilever’s Keith Weed.

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