Unilever reframes marketing

08 February 2012

LONDON: Unilever, the FMCG giant, is attempting to reframe its approach to marketing, and to alter widespread perceptions of this activity as simply being "selling for the sake of selling".

The company has developed a model called "crafting brands for life", a strategy it hopes will offer clear benefits for consumers and help motivate staff.

"We want to make people believe that marketing is a wonderful profession again and make it noble as a way of serving the progress of people's lives in a good way", Marc Mathieu, Unilever's senior vice president, marketing, told Marketing Week.

"I really believe that marketing is a wonderful profession and necessary tool of the way the world needs to work in the future ... If we really believe that corporations have a key role to play in driving social, economic and environmental progress, marketing has a big role to play."

More specifically, Mathieu suggested a return to the values that embodied many major companies when they were first founded would constitute an extremely positive move in this direction.

He said: "In the last few decades of the 20th century marketing has become selling for the sake of selling, but at its inception, marketing was inspired by the Henry Fords, the William Levers of the world - people with a vision to bring products to people that could create progress and improve lives."

Unilever has been a pioneer in areas such as sustainability, as the owner of Marmite and Hellmann's pursues the dual goals of halving its ecological output while doubling revenues.

Its advertising and marketing teams are seeking to find the right mix of "logic and magic", and giving each brand a purpose, which can be social, but may encompass providing pleasure or enjoyment.

"I believe that marketing done well is an amazing profession. Some people do it more as a job, and some people do it more as a craft," said Mathieu.

Corporate branding is also playing an increasingly central role in Unilever's thinking, based on the notion that shoppers are placing a heightened scrutiny on the manufacturers behind the brands they purchase.

"Marketing can be seen as a process but brands are the reason we do it, what people buy and buy into - that's where thinking about marketing brings us on the path of the process, but when you think about brands you elevate the vision of marketing to a higher level," Mathieu added.

"It's not just a process or succession of steps … marketing is at its best and much more interesting when you are thinking about real people you can improve the lives of."

Data sourced from Marketing Week; additional content by Warc staff