Team Unilever

The ultimate shopper insight is that sales and marketing need to think as one.

You’d never guess that Unilever’s Lisa Klauser has one of the toughest jobs in marketing because she sounds so doggone cheerful about it. “Unilever put capabilities across sales and marketing in one place and they reside with me now,” she says, as if that were nothing  It’s not nothing. Getting sales and marketing to work together is pretty much the business equivalent of getting Sunnis and Shiites to love one another.

But to Lisa, it’s a fairly straightforward proposition: “It means getting everybody aligned around common objectives,” she says. In no small part, those objectives center on a universal understanding of how and why consumers behave the way they do when they’re in the store — that is, shopper insights.

Lisa arrived at Unilever from Kraft some 15 years ago, and assumed this awesome responsibility this past January, when she was named vice president of consumer and customer solutions.

When asked how her background prepared her for her latest challenge, Lisa takes an unexpected turn. She starts out talking about the work ethic instilled in her by her parents, and how she was the first person in her family to go to college. She then credits her days as a competitive figure-skater for giving her the kind of discipline it takes to succeed in business. “I was on the ice at five in the morning and back on the ice after school,” she recalls.

It’s precisely that kind of discipline that has helped propel Unilever to the upper echelon of The Hub Top 10 of Shopper Marketing Excellence (see page six). But as Lisa proudly points out, she’s deeply indebted to the team at Unilever.

 “I’ve been very blessed to have worked with some of the best people in the industry,” says Lisa. “They are just really bright, really savvy, and really committed to the business.”

What constitutes a shopper insight?

Sometimes people get confused about that and confuse insights with observations or information. Information is really important in running a business, but having truly differentiated insights can take your business to the next level.

At Unilever, an insight is a penetrating understanding that can lead to a business-building opportunity. A shopper insight focuses on the process that takes place between that first thought the consumer has about purchasing an item, all the way through the selection of that item.

How is that different from a consumer insight?

A consumer insight refers to all the other aspects that define the relationship between a brand and the consumer. That is, a penetrating understanding of how people are using products and understanding the “need gaps” amongst consumers.

How do shopper insights lead to business growth?

To give you an example, right now we’re working with a leading food retailer, and what we learned was that people really, really love shopping at this particular store. They especially love shopping for produce and meat. But they weren’t really thinking about buying their health and beauty aids at this particular store.

What we learned was that there was a perception amongst these shoppers that, number one, the value proposition wasn’t right, and number two, the assortment was limited. It turns out, when we dug into it, that both of those perceptions actually were wrong — which immediately represented an opportunity for the retailer.

So you say, okay, the shopper is thinking one thing and the truth is something different. We have an opportunity to work with the retailer to educate these shoppers and really drive conversion from the food section where the shoppers are loving the experience, over into the home and personal care section.

Can shopper insights lead to new products?

Yes. We have good mechanisms to get those insights back to our brand developers. In a more immediate sense it can turn into business-building opportunities that are more short-term. But there are insights we’ve been able to garner and feed back into our brand development organization, particularly around the area of packaging.

How has that manifested itself?

Packaging is extremely important. First, it has to keep up with the ever growing and changing consumer need. Second, it has to be more environmentally friendly. One example of that is our launch of ALL Small & Mighty, where we led the industry in the move toward concentrates in the laundry category. That launch in October of 2005, when we went to 3x concentrate, meant we were using a lot less packaging, and a lot less liquid.

From a shopper’s perspective, you don’t have to lug that big old container of laundry detergent around. But it’s also about what we’ve done for the environment — saving ten million pounds of plastic resin, 81.6 million square feet of paperboard, reducing water usage by 70 percent, making 1.4 million fewer cases and 350,000 fewer palettes.

It’s a great example of something that works for the consumer and that also helps the environment. Those are really the two frames of reference that we like to think about when it comes to packaging.

Can that kind of approachwork across all categories?

Yes. Another great example is in the hair-care category, with the Suave brand, where we reduced the pack resin by about 16 percent across the hair-care line. So, you do that, and then you say, okay, what does that yield? We eliminated 16 million bottles from going into the trash. It’s also nine percent more efficient on the shelf from a merchandising perspective.

What are the best ways to get at the insights that can build the business?

There are a lot of ways to do that. But the broad classes basically are that we have the retailer’s frequent-shopper card data, syndicated data, and custom research. What we try to do is use a combination of those three things.

For example, we might use custom research and do things like in-store shop-alongs or observation. We might use virtual shopping tools to understand some things and focus groups for other things.

What are some of the changes you’ve seen in shopper behavior recently?

There are some big shifts that are taking place. What we’ve seen historically is that, for the most part, shoppers are balancing two priorities — they’re balancing saving time with saving money. If you look back, there was a huge push over the past three- to five-years towards saving time.

Shoppers were planning their shopping a little bit less and relying more on frequent, quick trips to get what they needed. Now, what’s happening with the currently tightening economic conditions, is that the balance is starting to shift back to saving money. The implications are that we’re seeing a reduction in the overall number of trips and an increase in the amount of planning before a trip. So, shoppers are trying to save gas by combining more errands into a single trip.

And they’re thinking things through to make sure they’re getting the best pricing and deals on every one of the items.

Those are the two big drivers — time and money. Over time you’re going to see some teetering back and forth between the two. But at least for the short term you’re going to see an emphasis around trying to think and really trying to save money.

Is it enough to understand how women shop?

Absolutely not. Women are a critical component of our world and we have deep, deep understanding there. But there is a strong emergence of men who are beginning to do much more shopping. It’s very important to understand the key drivers for men.

We’re doing a lot work in this area across our food and personal-care business so that we really understand what is driving trips — how they are shopping, and the key things that differentiate men from women as shoppers. It’s going to be very important to keep our fingers on the pulse of that trend.

What have you learned about the way men shop?

I’m actually pretty fascinated by this topic. We like to call men “commando” shoppers, because they just want to go into the store, find what they’re looking for, and get out of there. But they’re often confused because they don’t always know what’s for them and what isn’t.

That’s particularly true in the home and personal-care aisles. The exception is when you get into fun areas like shopping for electronics or sporting goods. They’re definitely spending a little more time in those areas than they are in some of the traditional food sections or home and personal care sections.

We have to be very clear at the shelf to make sure we have the right product offering, and that the shelf is laid out so it’s very clear what offerings are for men, what are for all families and what are for women. We’re able to leverage a lot of those insights into the work that we’re doing with our retail customers.

How do you stay relevant as retailers develop their own brands?

At Unilever, we have a very clearly defined vitality mission that is about helping people look good, feel good and get more out of life.

We are applying this offering to our consumers in a couple of ways. First of all, you’ve got to be a continuous innovator. This means providing consumers with a continuous stream of value-added innovation.

For Unilever, that would be things like Bertolli frozen dinners, which are like restaurant-quality Italian meals, that you can make in ten minutes. We see value-added items like Bertolli as being great differentiators.

Also, things such as Promise activ SuperShots, a drink containing plant sterols that is proven to lower cholesterol. It’s basically about living the vitality mission — developing truly differentiated breakthrough innovation.

It’s also staying relevant through the work we do in communication with our consumers by going beyond the 30-second spot; and understanding how to penetrate pop culture.

How are you penetrating pop culture?

Look at the work we’ve done with the Dove brand in the Campaign for Real Beauty, especially online (see sidebar). Look at the work that we’ve done on Bertolli with Rocco DiSpirito and product integrations, and our viral work on Axe. It’s not just online and it’s not just in a 30-second spot: it’s really activating in a number of different types of media.

How about in stores?

Our philosophy, as we’re developing big-idea campaigns, is that in-store is a media channel. So, for the Campaign for Real Beauty, in-store is a very important part of a much larger campaign, consisting of online efforts, television efforts, and so forth.

We did a lot around sampling programs, displays, signage — we offered a lot of information supporting young girls and supporting self-esteem. If you’re in-store or watching television or see it online, there’s a consistent look-and-feel message that we are communicating to our consumers.

How do you get shoppers to shop more parts of the store?

Unilever is uniquely poised to do that because of the portfolio that we have; it is a big area of focus for us. When you look at Unilever versus many of our competitors, we are the only ones who have the food and home and personal care portfolios covered.

So, retailers like to work with us to help drive conversion from one side of the store to the other. And depending on who the customer is, we may want to drive some food to home and personal care or home and personal care to food, depending on which class of trade we’re working with.

We work to understand shopper behavior within that retailer. We look at which categories are drivers, at what we believe are opportunity categories, and then we put solution bundles in place.

We did some work with Ahold on this very topic, which was basically about helping them drive conversion. We created solutions bundles across the store, based on what we learned from shopper data, to try to drive people to and through the store, and we were able to drive some impressive results with that.

What does shopper marketing mean to you?

My definition of shopper marketing is really the ability to mine insights and then translate those insights into actionable programs or solutions with our retail customers that are going to drive our business.

There are a lot of brands that provide good insight and that come to retailers with programs. But for Unilever it’s really about marrying those two things together, making sure that what we do is rooted in insight and then is translated into actionable programs with our customers.

How has Unilever had to change to pursue shopper marketing?

Unilever was an early adopter of shopper marketing. Long ago, even before people were talking about shopper marketing, we were making organizational changes to really try to be leaders in the space. That organizational construct will continue to evolve.

I have people on my team who are dedicated to the shopper insight function, to shopper marketing, who play a very important role with retailers in helping us to partner with them to drive mutual profitable growth.

We have built an organization around this space because we know how important it is, and we continue to evolve that as changes take place in the marketplace.

Who drives shopper marketing at Unilever?

Shopper marketing is, obviously, a really important capability for Unilever. We have a director within my organization who runs a very large field base team.

But the brand groups are also involved in shopper marketing because we see the store as an increasingly important way to reach our consumers.

Just as the brand teams are thinking about television, print, and online, we’re really encouraging them to think about in-store.

Our brand managers really do need to think about in-store when they’re thinking about how they’re bringing their plans to life. So, it’s a company effort, but we do have a dedicated shopper marketing team.

Shopper marketing is a unique way for us to drive our business and drive competitive advantage. Our retail customers are so important to us and our ability to work with them collaboratively is so important. This is what they require, so we are right there and committed and passionate to be the best that we can be.

Doesn’t everybody say that?

They do, but it’s at different levels. There’s a lot of talk about shopper insights and shopper marketing. But when you really look under the hood, there’s not a lot of delivery happening.

How do you make it happen?

Most important, it requires getting everybody aligned around common objectives. Once you do that and everybody is going after the same things, it’s much easier to gain alignment across the functions.

That’s why we’ve had a lot of success with it. We have a very well-aligned organization and we’re feeling very positive about the ability to build our capabilities across both sales and marketing.

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LISA KLAUSER, as consumer and customer solutions for Unilever North America, manages over 200 employees in public relations, multi-cultural marketing, consumer & shopper insights, shopper marketing, category management and visual branding.

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SIDEBAR

Dove Dot-Com

You can have extremely relevant information and content but if no one is seeing it, what’s the point?” says Unilever’s marketing director, Kathy O’Brien.

Kathy is explaining why Unilever’s Dove brand is rolling out its new online community for women, Dove.com, on Microsoft’s portal, MSN.com. She hopes that the MSN connection will give the brand “accelerated access” to its target audience.

But the larger goal is to do for Dove what its wildly successful, Campaign for Real Beauty hasn’t yet totally achieved through ads and viral marketing alone — connect the brand itself to its mission “to promote self-esteem in younger women.”

In other words, even though Dove’s campaign was the subject of discussion on shows including Ellen and The View, that exposure didn’t necessarily “incorporate actual Dove items.”

And even though tens of millions of people viewed Dove’s Evolution video online, “the video wasn’t surrounded by any product mentions.”

So, the hope is that this new site will bridge the gap between marketing and sales on Dove.com with a mix of “entertainment, blogs, advice and advertising.” Content includes “Fresh Takes,” a Dove-produced mini-series of three-minute episodes starring Alicia Keys, “that follow the lives of three young women.”

Also featured is “advice from a doctor on skin care and even chitchat about how beauty is portrayed in today’s popular culture,” in many cases with “some type of Dove ad message surrounding the content.”

[ Source: The Wall Street Journal, Suzanne Vranica, 4/10/08 ]

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