The Player: Shattock earned biz chops driving tanks for U.K. army

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It was an unusual initiation for a marketer, but Matt Shattock's three years driving tanks in the British Army prepared him for the battle that lies ahead as the chief operating officer for the newly merged Unilever Bestfoods North America. After all, he said, the military training brought leadership skills imperative to business in general and, more specifically, to his task at hand: overseeing the significant ramp-up of marketing to turn the food marketer into a more "brand-centric" company.

"Whatever we do, we have to get people united to an idea and bring it forward," Mr. Shattock said.

This go-round, though, the artillery has changed. Advertising will be the linchpin of Unilever Bestfoods' plan to grow its eight leading brands, among them Hellmann's, Lipton and Ragu. Under the watchful eye of Mr. Shattock, a 15-year-marketing veteran at Unilever, the company plans to increase ad spending by at least $50 million this year, a 50% rise over 2001 spending. That advertising will be centered on driving fewer, bigger, better brand equities that are meaningful to consumers. "Focus," Mr. Shattock said, "is the name of the game."

Pushing for growth during a recession is nothing new for Mr. Shattock, who helped Unilever navigate its way into the frozen poultry market successfully for its Bird's Eye brand in England in the `80s. "You have to make sure you look forward and see the operating environment and respond to consumer needs," he said. He attributes the successful launch of a premium product during a time of economic hardship to what he called the "sheer power of innovation." Then, like now, he said, "you have to get the consumer insight right and get a little creative."

Tapping into consumers' psyche is a top priority for Mr. Shattock, who has already undertaken a variety of initiatives to connect marketing, research and development and sales directly to end users.

"You can find our people spending more time sitting in people's kitchens watching them cook and observing the real-life context in which our products and our brands fit," he said. Such research helps in understanding both consumers' rational needs and their emotional ones, especially important given the current climate.

Innovation will play an important role in how Unilever Bestfoods appeals to consumer needs, but advertising is the real opportunity for what Mr. Shattock called "creative bravery."

"In a relevant and daring way, we have to entertain and connect with consumers rather than just telling them about our products," he said.

Bruce Winterton, group business director at Bartle Bogle Hegarty, a Unilever roster agency partly owned by Bcom3 Group, said "Unilever in general is trying to become more innovative in their communications and Matt is one of the change-agents helping to push that [strategy] through."

Fast Facts

Name: Matt Shattock

Age: 39

Title: Chief operating officer

Company: Unilever Bestfoods North America

Challenge: Focus on fewer, bigger, better brands with emotionally resonant advertising

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