The Player - Quinn-tessential marketer: exec plots Unilever's course

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He may be in a mature industry, but Randy Quinn finds himself steering Unilever Home and Personal Care in North America through major changes.

The Unilever personal-care division is only three years old, forged from the once-independent Lever Bros., Chesebrough-Pond's and Helene Curtis units. The position he assumed in January as senior VP-brand development, overseeing both marketing and research and development, has only been around for a year. And Mr. Quinn, 45, is helping steer Unilever from focusing on categories to multicategory brands and from a media mix heavy on 30-second TV spots to an integrated, one-to-one approach.

He's also a chief marketing officer at a time when the job is changing at Unilever and elsewhere. Rather than the rule maker and enforcer role that top marketing officers played when Mr. Quinn started his career at Procter & Gamble Co. in the early 1980s, he sees his duties as more consultative.

"Given the breadth of responsibility spanning five or six categories and [17 brands], to get into the details of every brand's activities, I wouldn't be able to add a lot of value," he said. "My key role is going to be improving the process of how we innovate and communicate." He wants to transfer best practices from brand to brand and use Unilever HPC's scale to create teams that focus on such specialties as one-to-one marketing, which he says "will be a key theme of mine."

Unilever's shift from concentrating on category share to building such brands as Dove and Suave across categories favors that approach, he said. "Clearly what's happening in the marketplace is that [brand] size is being rewarded. ... When you have brands that are $500 million to $1 billion, you have an ability to do customized programs that are hard to do when you have a $100 million brand."

Mr. Quinn has worked with both types. After leaving P&G in 1993, he was VP-marketing at Dial, where total sales are only about 20% higher than Dove's global business alone.

Unlike other top marketing officers, Mr. Quinn's duties also include oversight of research and development. "We've created an integrated team as opposed to a `we' and `they,"' he said. "Having one leader really helps as opposed to two people, who, by human nature, will always have slight differences of views."

The job is new, but the approach really isn't for Mr. Quinn. As marketing director at P&G in the early 1990s, he was ahead of his time in making multidisciplinary teams work, said Burt Flickinger, a marketing consultant and fellow P&G alum. "Randy was terrific at using all the weapons at his disposal," he said. "He would spend a lot of time with R&D and manufacturing and marketing and [retail] customers to really build the business. Where people were looking to streamline and cut costs, Randy was more of a brand builder."

Name: Randy Quinn

Age: 45

Now: Senior VP-brand development, Unilever Home and Personal Care North America

Challenge: To take Unilever Home and Personal Care products from mass marketing to one-to-one communications.

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