Unilever, the Brand? Giant Mulls Exploiting its Name

11 June 2002

Unilever, the Anglo-Dutch household products and foods giant, is considering the development of its name as a brand, reveals chief executive Niall FitzGerald.

The time could might now be right to launch Unilever as an ‘umbrella brand’, FitzGerald told the Sunday Times in an interview. Such a strategy would promote the group’s products as, for example, “Persil from Unilever”.

But the group had shied away from such an approach until now, says FitzGerald, because of the danger that a problem with one product might taint another by association.

Persil Power, the ill-fated washing powder launched in 1994 is cited as an example. This was withdrawn only months after its launch when it was proved to cause fabrics to deteriorate in the wash.

Explains Fitzgerald: “Communications had evolved so fast that within seconds this wasn't a brand issue, this was a corporate issue. So, even if we had wanted to ring-fence our products, we couldn't have [done so].”

The benefits of developing a corporate brand are largely financial. As a case in point, FitzGerald referred to establishing the group’s environmental credentials: “The cost of doing that for individual brands is immense,” he said.

Data sourced from multiple publications; additional content by WARC staff