Unilever looks to the internet in India

09 March 2010

NEW DELHI: Unilever, the consumer goods company, is making heightened use of the internet in India, both to promote its products and as a tool via which to increase its understanding of shoppers.

Rahul Welde, Unilever's vp, media, for Asia, Africa, Middle East & Turkey, said that, of necessity, the organisation is "growing our presence in digital very fast, much faster than any other form of media."

"Consumers do several things in a day and brands also have to adapt to register. Brands also need to be present with syndicated content on the internet wherever the consumer is already active," he added.

While the markets falling under Welde's remit are diverse in many ways, he suggested there are similarities between them which the consumer goods firm can exploit using emerging channels.

"India is not any different from the other Asian markets. For a company like Unilever, digital media is an opportunity for all brands," said Welde.

Within this, however, "youth brands", like Axe deodorant and Lipton tea, may be most at home on this medium, a trend that particularly applies to social networks like Orkut and Facebook.

"It's the youth who are relatively difficult to connect with, because they are more flippant and dynamic than other segments. Good cultural insights then become critical in giving campaigns an edge," Welde said.

Unilever's previous social media campaigns in India have included "Gang of Girls" for its Sunsilk haircare range, which was based around a fictional young female web user and her community of friends.

More recently, it launched "Be Beautiful", a multi-brand effort covering a number of products, such as Ponds, Dove, Lakme and Vaseline.

"Social media offers marketers speed, width, targeting and is potentially a low-cost mechanism," Welde continued.

Equally, this platform can provide a range of real-time insights that can supplement, but are not able to replace, traditional forms of market research.

"We can listen to consumers through social networks," Welde said. "It also allows us to actively manage the space by coming up with great ideas that travel and which people would love to share."

"[However,] it is not getting captured in a precise way, where information is digestible enough to give marketeers clear snapshots of what consumers want, yet."

Equally, when it comes to utilising the web as a promotional tool, Welde asserted that a presence on social networking services alone is not sufficient.

"There isn't a specific website which has a monopoly over consumers … As long as the messages are consistent for a given brand, they can be mounted through different channels even in the digital space," he said.

Data sourced from Economic Times; additional content by Warc staff