Samsung in Talks With Unilever's Marc Mathieu to Replace Outgoing Mobile CMO

CPG Giant's No. 2 Marketer Would Fill Vacancy Left by Todd Pendleton

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As Samsung revamps, it's pilfering talent from major consumer products companies. The Korean conglomerate is in talks with Marc Mathieu, the number two marketer at Unilever, to become its top creative officer, according to executives familiar with the decision.

Mr. Mathieu would replace Todd Pendleton, the CMO of Samsung's U.S. mobile division. In early March, Mr. Pendleton told employees he would be exiting by April. He is temporarily staying on as a consultant with Samsung, according to executives familiar with the matter.

Marc Mathieu
Marc Mathieu

Mr. Mathieu did not respond to email requests for comment. A Unilever spokeswoman said the company hadn't been informed of any move involving Mr. Mathieu. Representatives from Samsung did not return requests for comment.

The electronics giant is in the midst of a significant overhaul of its U.S. business. It consolidated its three businesses last year and shifted focus from the fledgling mobile unit to home appliances and connected devices. Its marketing offices, previously split between Dallas and New Jersey, are moving to a new Manhattan office in the coming months under the leadership of president Gregory Lee, a former marketer with P&G, Kellogg's and Johnson & Johnson.

For his team, Mr. Lee is scouring top talent from his former industry. He poached Jay Altschuler from Unilever in January to run U.S. media, and hired Vince Hudson from P&G, in March 2014, for branding strategy.

In 2014, Mr. Pendleton, the driving force behind Samsung's big-spending challenge to Apple, was given additional oversight of broadcast work for Samsung's TVs and appliances. But some of his media planning and brand work were assigned to Messrs. Hudson and Altschuler, according to Samsung.

His potential replacement, Mr. Mathieu, joined Unilever in 2011, after 12 years as a marketing VP at Coca-Cola. He would arrive at Samsung as the company confronts challenges in the smartphone market from Apple and Chinese rivals.

He would also be leaving Unilever after a rocky patch. The company, which markets Hellmann's, late last year sued Hampton Creek, which markets the Just Mayo egg-free alternative spread, alleging false advertising. At that point, Hampton Creek CEO Josh Tetrick on his blog and Facebook posted an email from Mr. Mathieu sent after the suit was filed but before it was publicized praising the startup for its innovation and commitment to sustainability. Unilever later dropped the lawsuit.

Mr. Mathieu came to Unilever in 2011 as the first key outside hire for the global marketing team assembled by Global Marketing and Communications Officer Keith Weed. He helped lead the recent global corporate branding effort. And he's been a key player in developing Unilever's "Crafting Brands for Life" strategy focused on sustainability and balancing creativity with accountability.

In a 2012 interview, Mr. Mathieu said: "If you want to do magic, the first time you're not going to get it right. You need to rehearse, repeat, learn and get it right. Then you go and show it first to someone you trust, a friend, not someone who will judge you and say it's stupid. And then when you're ready, you do your trick in front of 50 people. That's why we used the imagery of craftsmanship, so people understand that magic doesn't happen by accident. We should do magic that works."

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