At the recently held IAA Silver Jubilee Summit at Kochi, Rahul Welde, Vice President - Media at Unilever took the stage to discuss the business of brands and the importance of technology in forward marketing.
“There are extraordinary changes taking place in the world of branding. While this is not new, the pace and the velocity at which it is happening is impressive. And all of this is happening because of two things: digital and technology,” said Welde.
Unilever has over the recent past been investing more in a variety of media, especially in Digital. Welde pointed out the huge shift in media use, based on the engagement of Internet and Mobile in the consumer’s lifestyle. “20 years back there were close to 20,000 odd websites in the world; today there are 634 million. It is predicted that 20 years from now there will be close to 40-50 billion connected devices, on a planet which has approximately 7 billion people. Which means each of us will have at least five to six connected devices. All of this has created an extremely complicated eco-system. And for many of us it’s like being in a maze. We don’t know whether to go left or right.”
According to him, crafting brands for life is Unilever’s approach to marketing which means, putting people first, not simply from a stand point of consumer-centricity. It is about looking at people as individuals and human beings and then possibly, looking at them as customers.
“If you’re in the TV world you think of viewers, in the print world you think of readers and if you’re in an advertising agency you think of clients. But if you are in the business of marketing you have to be people-first,” Welde mentioned.
The second thing Unilever has been working on is building ‘brand love’. “We believe that if we can build brand love then market growth and all the rest will follow. The way to do this is through the media, advertising and marketing space, to bring the magic to the consumer so that they can experience our brands in a very different way.”
Unilever’s marketing structure leans heavily on content. “What you have to say to people is really important and then follows how you say it and what happens around it. Content is exploding around us at a pace that we cannot even imagine.”
This is in keeping with the content surge in the digital world. Welde went on to elucidate, “They say our brains are like super computers. So imagine then, that these super computers have access to all this content that is out there. So this puts a huge degree of pressure, challenges and opportunities on us marketers to play in this space. If this is happening around us then we absolutely have to be at the centre of the content game. And therefore, if you’re a brand or an agency working for a brand, we need to think of brands as publishers, content curators, and big players in the content space and not just companies that buy ads for TV, Print and so on.”
In India, Hindustan Unilever launched the HUL Content Company which will continue to advertise but will also invest time, energy and resources in the space of content.
“There is also a lot of text content that is being put on the web. Once again this is people first content, where the brands actually go after what we are trying to communicate. When we look at content it’s about making sure that it’s firstly multi platform. It should be multi-format and have an ambition and play that delivers content at scale,” pointed out Welde.
“If you’re in the advertising business, get into the content business, advertising will be part of it. If you’re in the media business, get into the brand business. And if you are a brand then don’t be in the brand business when it comes to communication, get into the content business, as if you are a content company,” Welde advised.
Along with content, connection is another key aspect of new age marketing. “Now naturally if you are going to produce great content like movies and apps and channels, but don’t get it distributed and don’t get it connected to the audience then it’s no good. This is where the right connections come into play.”
Welde went on to divide society into the ‘Haves’, ‘Have Nots’ and the ‘Have Lots’. “The reality of today’s world is that each section of society has mobiles. So the Haves Lots have mobiles while even the Have Nots have them. Its often said that today, the mobile has become more necessary than the toothbrush, in many parts of India.”
As an example of consumer connection, Welde mentioned the Kan Khajura Tesan radio station created in India has had half a billion impressions and is one of the most awarded campaigns in the history of Indian media industry.
“We need to move from this connection to a one-to-one basis with people. While people may be similar, no two individuals are alike, so if we can have a direct dialogue with an individual on a mass market scale that would be brilliant,” he said adding, “How no two individuals are alike, neither are societies.”
Through detergent brand Omo, (branded Surf Excel in India) Unilever started a mobile app in Africa, Fast Kids Africa, which would allow mothers to teach their children mathematics in a fun, interesting way.
“In China the same campaign wouldn’t work since mathematics is not a problem for most Chinese children. Here, mothers have a different challenge, which is ‘How do I get my child to go out and play?’ So Unilever came up with Omo Lets Play China in order to cater to this vastly different society and market,” he accounted.
“There are three tips to improve media connection, which is leverage mobile, leverage mobile, leverage mobile. If we singularly focus on this aspect I think we are going to make great progress from a marketing stand point.
“The third aspect of marketing to focus on is culture, which probably might be the most important aspect because if we make the culture work and create things which are transformational within a culture then content and connectivity are easier to get. Collaboration and leveraging partnerships comes into play here,” mentioned Welde.
The process of automation and technology has changed the way Media works. The way Unilever has tried to approach this is by setting up Unilever Media Command Centres across a number of places through which the teams work to develop, deploy, measure and optimise ideas all within a short period of time in a small facility. These command centres have also begun to experiment in a big way with a bulk of the marketing budget being kept to purely experiment.
“Last year we launched Unilever Foundry which is our platform for collaboration and to make sure we are partnering with start-ups and the start-up community which will affect the digital and media space so that we can pioneer and create new products in communication. We continue to advertise in the conventional sense but a large part of our energy and resources is going behind this sort of thinking. Agility is required. We need to shed our skins are work practically each day. Speed is the new currency today. Social media and digital distribution allows things to move at the speed of lightning,” Welde concludes.