Consumer products conglomerate Sara Lee Corp has been criticised by analysts, who believe that its bid to streamline operations is failing to identify the need for a centralised marketing strategy and higher advertising budget.

Chicago-based Sara Lee rings up annual sales of around US$18bn, on a broad range of goods that include brands such as Kiwi shoe polish, Playtex underwear and Douwe Egberts coffee. Unlike other similarly diversified manufacturers however, it lacks unification within its marketing strategy. Its numerous campaigns run independently without being overseen by a senior marketing officer.
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Jack Neff, an editor with Advertising Age commented to Business Line: "It's very unusual compared to the rest of the packaged goods world today, where everybody has some kind of centralised agency relations management.

"You don't really get an economies of scale if you manage them separately. I can't think of anyone else that is quite that decentralised."

Analysts argue that Sara Lee should organise its interests into three predominant groups; food and beverage, underwear, and household goods. It is taking some early steps towards this goal, with last week's announcement that its ten separate meat businesses would be brought into a centralised operation. Company spokesperson Ms Julie Ketay stressed however that it is still too early to discuss any moves toward consolidating marketing initiatives.

For the meantime however, Sara Lee is sticking to a policy of giving managers free reign in promoting and marketing their own lines, with separate advertising agencies and budgets.