Unilever, the consumer goods manufacturer, found an innovative way to challenge stereotypes by asking several of its marketers, as well as agency representatives, to take DNA tests and explore their own genetic heritage.

Aline Santos, Unilever’s evp/global marketing and its chief diversity and inclusion officer, discussed this topic at a session held by The Economist magazine at the 2019 Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity.

“We invited a group of marketeers and [representatives from] agencies – people who are normally working together in natural groups – to come to a new marketing experiment,” she said. (For more, read WARC’s in-depth report: Unilever aims to remove stereotypes from its marketing DNA.)

“What it did was to invite those people to do a DNA test. And when the DNA test was ready, we put everybody together, and gave the results to each of the individuals.”

More specifically, over 60 marketing and agency professionals took part in this exercise, which was led by experts from University College London (UCL) and delivered intriguing results across the board.

 “Everyone, without exception, got a huge surprise,” Santos said. “Some people were surprised they… had heritage from Africa, or Jewish heritage – things that were really surprising about themselves.”

Unilever advanced its experiment a step further by putting a control group of participants through a workshop, provided by UCL academics, that aimed to tackle stereotypical mindsets.

It then compared the stereotypical thinking displayed by this group before and after the workshop with a control group that did not take part in this educational session.

The headline finding? The exposed group who perused their personal DNA results and participated in the immersive training recorded a 35% decrease in unconscious stereotyping when measured against the control group.

Similarly, Santos revealed, the exposed group also logged a 27% increase in original thinking measured against their peers in the control group.

Such an insight builds on a growing slate of evidence that the part of the brain associated with stereotyping influences the cognitive activities that are needed for creativity, too.

“The UCL professors told us that the same space where you store the stereotypes in your head is the space where creativity resides,” Santos said. “So, the less you have stereotypes, the more you have creativity. It's a fascinating new subject.”

Sourced from WARC