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Unilever's path to innovative insights

News, 14 June 2016

MARINA DEL REY, CA: Unilever, the FMCG group, is gaining deeper customer insights by using innovative research techniques and tools, such as wearable tech, to understand consumer behaviour.

Marie Wolfe, Consumer & Markets Insights Director of Research Innovation at Unilever, discussed this subject at the 2016 New Face of Consumer Insights conference held by the Institute for International Research (IIR).

"For [Unilever], 'method innovation' is all about getting different insights that lead to breakthrough business ideas, so that we can win in the market," she said. (For more, including further details of the company's strategy, read Warc's exclusive report: Unilever's eight tips for "method innovation".)

Wolfe provided the example of utilising wearable tech which was developed by market-research firm weseethrough, and that captures videos of consumers using products in real time.

"There's a great video of someone in Brazil who said they used [only] a little bit of bleach, and we have video of them throwing undiluted bleach over their entire house," Wolfe said. "Those are things that were just not captured with the old methods."

Unilever's partnership with this innovative research company covered several programs in different countries, and was facilitated by the Unilever Foundry – a unit of the organisation that specialises in working with startups.

And leveraging such pioneering research techniques, Wolfe continued, can deliver a truly alternative slate of insights about customer habits.

"We've been using Likert scales, focus groups, and many of the same methodologies for 40 years now," she told the IIR assembly.

"If you use the same methods over and over – even if they're fantastic methods – you're going to get similar insights."

By attempting to innovate in a consistent and structured way, added Wolfe, brands can keep pace with the preferences of their target audience.

"Standing still is now the fastest way to move backwards," she said. "Every day that we don't move, we're getting exponentially further and further behind our consumers."

Data sourced from Warc