In his trademark green jacket, Keith Weed, chief marketing and communications officer, Unilever took centrestage at at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity.
On day three of the five-day festival, Weed spoke about the ‘founder’s formula’ and how that mindset was alive in Unilever.
“That formula has been prevalent since the company was founded and we ask marketers to continue that. There’s one secret we follow, and that is – they are pioneers for purposeful growth. We at Unilever, since the company was born, wanted to make cleanliness a common place. Unilever wanted to lessen the work for women and we launched Sunlight detergent. Prior to this, surnames were used as brand names."
“Sunlight was the first brand and was exported to the world. We have always worked on ‘the power of trust’ formula. A brand without trust is just a product. That’s shown with our asset value around 30 billion euros, but our brand value is 130 billion euros,” said Weed.
He then spoke about the three commitments Unilever took up in February 2018 in a bid to re-create the trust.
Responsible platforms: Unilever will not invest in platforms or environments that do not protect our children or which create division in society, and promote anger or hate.
Responsible content: Unilever is committed to creating responsible content, initially tackling gender stereotypes in advertising through #Unstereotype and championing this across the industry through the #Unstereotype alliance.
Responsible infrastructure: Unilever will only partner with organisations which are committed to creating better digital infrastructure, such as aligning around one measurement system and improving its consumer experience.
He then spoke about another commitment the company took up earlier this week.
“There’s been terrific progress to the commitment we made in February. On Monday, we spoke about brands and influencers. Two years ago I had spoken about this in Cannes and we have seen ‘influencers’ exponentially grown since then. However, there are dark sides within this too like bot retweets and fake retweets,” said Weed.
He then explained this commitment.
“We will not work with influencers who buy followers. Our brands will never buy followers too. And finally we will prioritise partners who increase transparency and help eradicate bad practices throughout the whole ecosystem. We’re doing all this because we want to drive responsibility in the digital supply chain.”
He then gave an update on the sustainable living brands under the Unilever portfolio.
“They are growing 46 per cent faster than other brands. They deliver 70 per cent of our growth and are a total of 26 brands. There’s an enormous case for sustainability. You can either look at your current portfolio and look to make them sustainable brands, or launch new ones, or even go out and bring other sustainable brands under your portfolio.”
He gave an example of Vaseline’s tie-up with Direct Relief, the Vaseline Healing Project as an example of a brand from the current portfolio looking at sustainability.
Coming back to the founders mentality within Unilever, we launched nine purposeful brands. We also brought in sustainable brands like Tazo, Seventh Generation, Hourglass and Sundial among others.”
He then asked Jane Wurwand, co-founder, chief visionary, Dermalogica, Guido Martinetti, founder, CEO, Grom and Richelieu Dennis, founder, CEO, executive chairman, Sundial Brands to join him on the stage. All three of these brands were taken over by Unilever in the last three years.
He asked the founders the reason for launching those brands.
Wurwand stated, “As a start-up entrepreneur, you look for the pain in the market. I saw a lack of education in the salon industry that made them less successful. I saw that gap. It was an industry that was increasingly regressing. We wanted skin therapists to learn and then gave them the product that could solve the needs. The product didn’t look ‘cool’ or packaged in a ‘cool manner’. We had 90 per cent women and wanted to make women financially independent.”
Dennis then revealed his experience. “I became a refugee in New York and started to sell soap for African-American skin. It was a recipe of my grandmother. My mother and I did this first as a means to support us and go back home. This was in 1991. There weren’t any brands focused on needs of women with colour. We also wanted to benefit the women on the supply chain and 10 per cent of our revenue went to them”
Guido Martinetti, the founder of gelato brand, Grom, added, “It started post my experience of working in a winery. I was working with grapes to get grape wine. I was studying that. In Italy, gelato companies existed in plenty, but I wanted to roll one out with preservatives. I learnt the concept during my time at the vineyard and used that for gelato. We had no money and started with a small shop. I worked on trust. The farmers trusted me. And I have always worked on the principle of ‘no lies’.