Interview with Unilever's Digital Planning Manager Alex Dinsdale

I recently caught up with Alexandra Dinsdale, a Digital Planning Manager for Unilever, who is currently a mentor for Collider. We discussed the Collider experience, top tips for startups, and the wider startup community which is blossoming in the UK.  1. Hi Alex, thank you so much for taking the time to have this chat. To start off, please can you explain what you do on a daily basis as Digital Planning Manager for Unilever?

I partner our global brand development teams helping plan strategic marketing programs across digital channels. This includes selecting technology solutions, services and partners, as well as enabling the brands and categories to surface and share best practices.

2. What are your favourite websites or apps at the moment?

I’m a big fan of TheFancy.com, a website and app that brings together crowd-curated fashion, gadgets and places. Like Pinterest, it’s really visual and imagery-based, and I’m continually discovering weird and wonderful things that I want to buy, (but don’t necessarily need!). I also spend a lot of time using Flipboard on my iPad. The variety of stories, news, and content all brought together in a beautiful magazine format makes it very easy to become immersed.

3. What exciting ideas/prospects keep you awake at night?

Unilever’s ambition is to grow the business while reducing our environmental footprint and increase the positive contribution we make to society. For me, the opportunity to make Sustainable Living the centre of a brand’s proposition and find innovative ways to get these messages to our consumers is an incredibly exciting challenge. As technologies rapidly evolve, and consumption of media changes, there’s always a new opportunity to pilot something that’s not been done before.

4. What things might be a clincher when considering a deal with startups?

BRING MAGIC! Seeing real passion, energy and focus in the team. Also to keep it simple. Work out what the company stands for, and stick to this with a clear, targeted proposal.

5. Do you have any major no-nos in terms of pitches?

Do not baffle the audience with figures and science. Understand why your proposition would benefit the recipient in a clear, transparent approach.

6.  Accordingly, any things that you like to see during pitches?

To hear why the proposition is new and unique and how it could grow. Startups have the luxury of being able to adapt and change quickly. It would be great to see hunger, passion and agility come through during the pitch.

7. What are your opinions on startups knowing their figures and how exact they should be?

It’s important to have considered the revenue model so they are aware of their base costs, how they are able to monetize, and to be very aware of their audience. Ultimately who the proposition will appeal to. Firm figures aren’t completely necessary as they may change depending on the customer. Being open to further guidance is good.

8. What are your views on the UK startup scene, especially when compared with America?

The UK startup scene is very fresh and exciting. We worked with Betapond on our Waterworks initiative and were really impressed by their work, knowledge and ethos. For certain projects, the flexibility and new thinking startups offer is a great asset, as well as the ability to run fast and respond quickly. The US scene is more mature and better established. There is a huge amount to learn from the US globally.

9. What experience and feedback from mentoring process at Collider?

It has been a tremendously interesting experience. I am relatively new to ventures and startups, so it has been eye-opening in many ways. The startups I’ve mentored have asked great questions and are very receptive to feedback. I’ve loved seeing the updates and progress made between sessions. The video introductions were a great way to meet the startups initially and quickly gain a clear idea of who the team are and their business.

Thank you so much Alex, and we look forward to continuing to work with you. 

Are Product Days Productive?

Sometimes you just need to knuckle down and get some work done. But what's the best way to do this? And what about all the other stuff you need to do before you can even start? Well, yesterday Seeker had a Product Day, and so I decided to catch up with the Founder and CEO, Daniel Wilson, to see how (and whether) it works.


1.       What is a product day ?

A product day is a full day when we step out of our regular roles to understand what we’ve got in the product, where we are as a business, and what we want to do over the next 3-6 months.  It gives us a chance to think about our tech and our customers at a higher level.

2.       Why did you arrange it?

The main point was to stop any silos of purpose and knowledge building up, as we’re all working semi-independently because there aren’t many of us.  We need to all be working on the same plan, or we won’t make the right sort of progress.


3.       What did you want to achieve from it ?

We took an inventory of features built, we planned the next 3 months major features to build (develop, or dev), everyone knows our goals around sales and investment

4.       What methods did you use and which ones work best?

We used lots of brainstorming, and we had bits of cardboard and sticky notes, which allowed us to move our ideas around afterwards into more logical groupings.  We used the important/urgent matrix (which is one of my very favourite things) to prioritise our work.

5.       What did you actually achieve?

A sense of purpose and a to do list.

6.       What's the next step?

Today the tech guys are sizing the dev work and planning iterations, and I’m starting to work on more heavily on our sales website, because we realised it was a major blocker to a lot of other work we wanted to do.

7.       Any advice you'd give to startups now in hindsight?

Do more prep than you were going to (My section on “state of the nation” was harder to talk through off the cuff than I had thought), and expect to go through fewer items in the agenda: This is really the time to have those discussions that normally get glossed over, e.g. what’s more important, a new feature or fixed bugs, or sales collateral.

New Language for New Startups

"Words, words, words" spoke Hamlet, and even over 400 years later, he's still got a good point. To state the obvious, words are pretty important. Of course I would say this, given that it's my job to write, but words are also crucial for startup businesses too, for which language can be a barrier or a booster. In order to get beyond the bedroom and into the boardroom, you need to have your idea clearly defined to accurately communicate it to friends, mentors, and brands. But with new technologies, how do you describe your ideas with words which are outdated, irrelevant, or confused?

One answer is to simply create new words which adequately describe your product and message. We have seen it happen almost inadvertently as internet giants secure themselves as a firm fixture in our daily lives. We tell each other to 'Google something', are encouraged to 'like' a page, or read a news report about trolls (please, do not feed them).

Of course, creating new words can be a tricky business. Sure, Shakespeare made it look easy by inventing over 1,700, but there are a few things to be clear on, so check out our tips below.

  1. Experiment

It is a developing process to define your word or words, so don't be afraid to test them out to see what sticks. Share your thoughts with friends, at networking events, and on social media channels to see what generates the best response. You'll soon realise which terms flow and which don't quite make the cut.

2. Embrace the challenge

There's no denying that it is tricky and may feel like a never-ending struggle. But the hard work could make you a wordsmith pioneer of the social internet age, so always have the challenge at the back of your mind while you're eating lunch or commuting.

3. Don't push it

The internet is a fickle place where memes can be created in hours, forgotten in a day, and ridiculed in a week. Terms cannot be forced onto the general public, but rest assured that if it resonates with them it will stick.

4. Protection

Once you're sure that your invented word is uniquely perfect, look into to patenting it for protection from envious others.

For more top tips and discussion, you can follow me at @ColliderMindy or @Collider12.