Unilever's insights into new kinds of affordable "luxury"

Geoffrey Precourt

Marie-Agnes Beetchen, Unilever R&D's senior director/global head of consumer insights, want to draw a distinct line between insights and marketing claims.

The time has passed, she told a session at the Market Research Event in Boca Raton, Florida for whiter-than-white laundry claims.

"Innovation always has been a transition," she offered. But "it's difficult for R&D when the people in marketing say we need to have a face cream that makes you look 10 years younger. What that tells me is that they want a cream that physically changes the nature of skin." By contrast, she continued, "What the consumer buys is a more holistic experience with a brand. And it's important to translate those insights into specific [new-product] trials."

Consumers in different parts of the world face different kinds of economic circumstances and, for a global marketer such as Unilever, what works in Brazil won't necessarily appeal to shoppers in China. "We need to support our innovation team with relevant insights on a market by market basis," Beetchen said. And that knowledge must be used carefully when it's translated into marketing messages: "when you claim something, if there's a dichotomy with the product, your chances of repurchase are drastically reduced."