SINGAPORE: Unilever, the consumer goods group, expects market development to fuel a majority of its growth in emerging markets going forward, with innovation playing a key supporting role.

Rohit Jawa, Unilever's senior vice president, global marketing, told Campaign Asia that developing categories would be a key goal for the company, which owns brands like Lipton, Axe and Dove.

"We believe that 70% of our future growth will be driven by market development, and it's our ability to grow those markets as leaders that is going to define our success," he said.

He also sketched out the firm's broader approach, which depends on reaching consumers with varying needs. "We cannot operate to a niche or a sector; we have to operate across the board," he said.

Last year, Unilever's emerging markets business grew by 11.5% — driven by markets like India, China, Turkey and South Africa — and it now accounts for 54% of the group's total turnover.

Referring to the recent slowdown in growth in some developing nations, Jawa remained unruffled: "The big point is that in the longer-term perspective, five to ten years, it is undeniable that the macro trends will continue to be in favour of growth in the developing markets," he added. 

On the agency side, Jawa observed that the media space is getting considerably more complicated: "The roles between the publisher, the advertiser, the media are getting mixed up," he said. 

In reflection of this, Unilever is currently looking outside its core roster of agencies when working on projects, particularly in the digital space.

"We use agencies in the PR space that are unique to a particular field and these are chosen for principles of strong credentials, high-quality work and strong ability to prove and deliver great creative ideas at competitive cost," said Jawa.

He added that while creative ideas and ROI are key factors in the selection process, neither should be looked at in isolation.

"How do we operate in this world in the most relevant fashion where we can create creative impact, build brand preference and a good ROI?" he asked. "That's the challenge we need to answer."

Data sourced from Campaign Asia; additional content by Warc staff