What Unilever stands for (Part 1)

Continuing our exploration of purpose-driven brands, this week we take a look at Unilever, the global consumer goods company that’s winning with millennials and generation z.

What Unilever stands for

Purpose

Unilever has been a purpose-driven company from its origins. Today, our purpose is simple but clear – to make sustainable living commonplace.

Strategy

At the core of their strategy to animate their purpose is the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan (USLP), what they refer to as the blueprint for sustainable growth. Learn more about USLP here.

This diagram from their website gives us a high level view of their strategy. Notice in the right column of Value We Create, the initiatives are tied directly to the sustainable development goals set by the UN in 2015.

As of 2017 Unilever revealed that they had 26 sustainable living brands and delivered 70 percent of its turnover growth and grew 46 percent faster than the rest of the business. The brands include its top six brands (Dove, Lipton, Dirt Is Good, Rexona, Hellmann’s and Knorr) and its B-Corp certified brands including Ben and Jerry’s and Seventh Generation.

In 2016 Unilever launched a campaign called “Bright Future” that highlights some of the social impact they have been making with their brands. This article from The Drum gives a good summary along with the video. The article also features a quote from the CMO which sets their stance on brands with purpose:

Brands with a purpose are at the heart of Unilever and we believe that the small choices we all make every day can make a big difference to the world we live in.

Building trust
At the opening session Cannes Lions Festival in 2018 Keith Weed, Unilever’s CMO, said:

Unilever has always kept brand purpose at the core of its business since its inception and a brand without trust is just a product.

To regain consumer trust in the era of fake news and toxic content, as Weed puts it, Unilever has three key commitments:responsible platforms, responsible content, and responsible infrastructure.

Next, I’d like to take a look at a few purpose brands in their portfolio.


Love, Beauty, and Planet

Launched in the end of 2017 Love Beauty and Planet (LBP) is a “demonstration project for the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan” as AdAge puts it. LBP is a new line of neutral shampoos and soaps targeted at millennials. As Alan Jope, president of Unilever’s personal care business, explains in this Fortune article, LBP is going after two growth vectors that are attractive to the millennials: brands with purpose and the natural segment. The products are formulated and sourced in as sustainable a way was possible. Piyush Jain, VP of haircare at Unilever, explains:

Our philosophy is that we will obviously not change the world overnight, so we are working toward small acts, which together with our consumers over a period of time will make a big impact on the planet we live in.

Why are brands and projects like LBP important?
Unilever claims:

[B]rands that fall under what Unilever identifies as “Sustainable Living” grew more than 50% faster than the rest of the company’s business last year, and also delivered more than 60% of the Unilever’s 2016 growth.

Marketing Strategy
The target market for LBP is one that desires “a sense of discovery and finding it for herself.” Aligning to this, LBP’s marketing investment are not allocated for TV, but rather digital and social media as well as store placement and merchandising (source: AdAge).

Lifebuoy is a soap brand with the mission of changing the hygiene behavior of 1 billion consumers across Asia, Africa and Latin America. The brand has a strong presence in India and other emerging countries.

The brand’s key social program is Help A Child Reach 5 and is acclaimed by the brand expert David Aaker. As Aaker explains, this program saves lives by spreading the importance of good handwashing habits around the world. Aaker further explains the program is driven by two key facts:

  1. Every year, 2 million children fail to reach their fifth birthday because of diseases like diarrhea and pneumonia.

  2. Handwashing with soap at key occasions can reduce diarrhea by 45% and pneumonia by 23% worldwide, thus reducing infant deaths substantially.

This campaign was holistic in nature in that it encompassed the following.

Communications

Education
In India employees volunteered to teach children about the importance of hand washing.

Enabling Handwashing
To allow the children put what they learned in action, Unilever retrofitted water pumps. Ultimately, this enabled children to form habits of washing their hands.

Creating engagement
In 2012 their Dubai office set a Guinness World Record by getting people from 72 countries to wash their hands at the same time.

Lifebuoy’s social program has been regarded as the most impactful program in terms of number of people reached.


Lipton

Chances are that you know this leading global tea brand. Lipton’s purpose as stated on their website is:

Since 1880, nature has been our tea factory. Every cup of Lipton tea is grown using natural rain, wind and sunshine to give you our signature rich taste and aroma. What’s more we believe that every cup of our tea should not only help brighten your day but help brighten the future of all our tea farmers and their families, and of course, our planet too.

Taking the idea of brighten further, their big idea in their recent brand communications is optimism as can be seen from their brand video.


To be continued...

Whew, covered quite a bit in this post, but there’s more to come. In a future post we’ll continue to take a look at a few more of Unilever’s brands as well a quick recap of their approach to building a purpose-led brand portfolio. Thanks for reading.