Unilever takes a page from the indie beauty playbook

By Deanna Utroske contact

- Last updated on GMT

Unilever North American president Kees Kruythoff and executive vice president of personal care, USA Tamara Rogers
Unilever North American president Kees Kruythoff and executive vice president of personal care, USA Tamara Rogers

Related tags: Indie beauty brands, Personal care brands, Brand, Vice president, Brand management

At a CEW event last week in New York City, executives from the multinational personal care company spoke about how Unilever is leveraging the stories behind its core brands to premiumize its products.

Successful indie beauty brands use story very effectively. It conveys the benefits, values, and reasons behind the product. It credentials the brand founder and imbues product efficacy claims with (beyond the clinical testing) a you-can-take-my-word-for-it pledge.  

Consumers appreciate compelling stories of entrepreneurship, triumphs of health and wellness, cause-driven manufacturing / sales, etc.

Unilever is now using this approach for consumer-facing messaging; and not just for the indie brands it’s acquired recently but also for its legacy brands like Vaseline.

Business and purpose

It’s not uncommon for consumers to believe that big brands are out of touch with social issues and the practicalities of daily life. So, the Unilever strategy is wise given that 92% of people want to spend money with companies that “share their values,”​ as Tamara Rogers executive vice president of personal care for Unilever in the States noted.

“Having each of our Personal Care brands stand for something bigger and more meaningful beyond the product is important to us,” ​she said during the CEW News Maker event. “Dove has always been the case study – but expect to see that from more of Unilever’s brands in the future, including Vaseline and AXE, both of whom launched [meaningful campaigns] this year.”  

Luxury product

The company’s larger objective is to “premiumize their core…and leverage well-established brand building expertise,” ​according to the event press materials from Kaplow Communications.

Unilever is essentially moving into luxury product with its acquisitions and with existing brands. Through small changes in formulation and packaging, the company can command a premium price for well-trusted products. For example, a 0.6oz tin of the Vaseline Rosy Lips (formulated with a bit of aroma and color) retails for nearly the same price as a 13oz container of the brand’s basic petroleum jelly.

And, while Unilever has made some impressive acquisitions in the prestige skin care category—Dermalogica, Murad, Kate Somerville, and Ren—the company’s growth will come out of brand-story marketing and premium pricing: “through strengthening Unilever’s core businesses via innovation, capitalizing on its brand’s histories, premiumizing mass offerings and ensuring that a brand’s purpose is a key part of its platform,” ​according the press release.

Related topics: Market Trends, Packaging, Skin Care

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