How Unilever and Coca-Cola build brand purpose

Brian Carruthers

When Lord Leverhulme launched Sunlight soap back in 1884, his aim to was to "make cleanliness commonplace". One hundred and thirty two years on, the idea of brand purpose still takes centre stage at the company he founded and in the portfolio of FMCG brands it owns.

At the Guardian Changing Media Summit 2016, an event held in London in March, Keith Weed, chief marketing officer at Unilever, outlined how the business had gone about explaining "the brand behind the brand" as it sought to add value to the Unilever ‘U' and transform it into a seal of approval.

Building on what's there

We had lots of good, isolated initiatives with individual brands, he explained, but there wasn't any overarching, company-wide equivalent. And so was born the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan, launched in 2010 with the aim of "making sustainable living commonplace". The logo itself reflects that commitment, being made up of an assembly of individual icons, each of which represents some aspect of the company's efforts to achieve its goal. The Unilever U now appears on all the company's products and is the most-reproduced company logo in the world.