Wendy Aitken
Wendy Aitken

Marketing capability expert, global FMCG 

Wendy has over 20 years’ marketing experience working on global brands and leading marketing capability. As Unilever’s global marketing excellence director Wendy instigated and designed the Connected World Programme to support the global brand’s digital transformation and step up the digital skills of their 5,500 marketers worldwide.

She also applies her tremendous skills to organising a micro music festival for 500 adults and kids.  
Digital transformation: a story of building skills at scale

Global FMCG expert Wendy Aitken told Dots about the key to digital transformation – having the right people and the right learning at the right time.

As the self styled ‘queen of Hellmann’s mayonnaise’, Wendy Aitken spent 18 years at Unilever. Leading the Connected World programme, her goal was to ‘raise the floor’ by investing in capability and employee training.

With over 500 products in four categories – and in eight geographical clusters – any change was going to be a challenge. Wendy spoke about the three key elements needed to create company wide change.

The right time
In 2015, Unilever started to focus on transformational challenge – it wanted to enable and upskill its marketers in a consumer-focused, data-led atmosphere.

It didn’t want an average training and capability programme.

Inspired by Chip and Dan Heath’s book ‘Switch’, it worked to define where the business was and where it wanted it to go, discovering the ‘bright sparks’ in the company – those that were already working in the way it wanted.

Wendy drove a programme that created stories about how the company had got there, as well as discovering the barriers it was facing.

The right people
Having obtained the insights she needed from this early stage, Wendy realised what the barriers to running a successful digital marketing campaign were. Unilever needed to train and enable people.

The brand’s CEO, Keith Weed said: “A lost generation of marketers are bluffing about digital.” These were the people acting as barriers to new ideas, which made the team step back and look at how to ‘raise the floor’ – from trainees and graduates to the boardroom.

The right learning
The programme had to balance theory, inspiration and practicality and used 70/20/10 learning.

In order for there to be foundational knowledge and understanding, Unilever worked with Circus Street to personalise the e-learning within the business. This helped the company recognise that it’s the day-to-day change you need to focus on.

Wendy finished by talking about the ‘the foolish wait’ – expressing the importance of acting in the moment and investing in both specialists and generalists, as they’re both building blocks in digital transformation