Brand giants raise profile

22 April 2011

NEW YORK: Major marketers including Unilever, Procter & Gamble and Nestlé are heightening their focus on corporate branding.

Unilever, the FMCG giant, has featured its logo in TV spots for products ranges like Knorr and Hellmann's, as part of a broader approach seeking to boost popular awareness.

"From our consumer research we know that people's number one priority when choosing brands is, and always will be, to choose brands that are best for themselves and their families," Paul Nevett, global vp, Unilever Brand, told the Financial Times.

"Consumers don't compromise on functionality. However, people increasingly want to know that the brands they choose are not only good for them but also good for others and good for the planet."

"Consumers prefer to buy products from a company that they know and trust. Employees want to feel proud of what they do and talented people prefer to work for companies that are respected and trusted."

In an example of how umbrella strategies yield dividends, Unilever's recently-released Sustainable Living Plan delivered significant buzz across the web, despite not constituting a "sexy" topic.

"This shows the engagement that one can generate with increased corporate visibility," said Nevett.

Petraea Heynike, Nestlé's head, marketing and sales, suggested securing official support for such a "seal of guarantee" was far from automatic.

"We had to explain that it's not about a brand's one-to-one relationship with the consumer, but about who is making the product," she said. "In today's world of social media, you cannot hide."

Reassuring inexperienced shoppers is especially beneficial in fast-growth economies, not least due to food safety scares in countries like China, and growing concerns regarding health and wellness.

"If anything, in the emerging markets where they have less money, they need to have that faith and trust to an even greater degree," Heynike said.

"For example, in China, you need to really believe you can trust the company."

"More than 1bn Nestlé packs a day are being picked up, and if consumers flick to the back of the pack they get to Nestlé's nutritional compass, with tips on healthy living."

Procter & Gamble, the owner of Tide and Pampers, moved into the corporate branding arena through the "Thanks, Mom" campaign run in the US during last year's Winter Olympics.

This multi-brand platform was extended to the UK in March 2011, and aims to "recognise, celebrate and thank" mothers, alongside promoting the organisation's stable of products.

"In the past it has been all about our brands and we have been happy for the company name to be behind the scenes," said Irwin Lee, P&G's UK general manager.

"That kind of mindset has led to defensive thinking before but in this new online world you can't really hide. If people want to find out who is behind the brands, they will find out," he said.

"Now is a good time to do corporate branding because people are more interested in where brands come from, who is behind them, and if the company is an upstanding one."

Household goods group Reckitt Benckiser (RB), which makes Clearasil, Lysol and Woolite, has also introduced an internet game targeting potential employees.

Based on the sport of "free running", this effort purports to replicate the distinct business model Reckitt operates.

"RB has a unique culture that's most suitable for adventurous young professionals who enjoy freedom to act," Rob de Groot, Reckitt Benckiser's evp, North America and Australia, said.

Data sourced from Financial Times/Reckitt Benckiser; additional content by Warc staff