In the age of viral videos, advertisers sometimes call what they create “content.” That may be justified in the case of Unilever, the London-based consumer products giant. A few years back, “Evolution,” a one-minute video by Dove fast-forwarding the transformation of a girl into a model, became one of the first ads to spread to tens of millions of people through social media. A recent consumer survey from ExactTarget named Dove and its Campaign for Real Beauty among the five favorite brands on Facebook (along with iTunes, Oreo, Victoria’s Secret, and Wal-Mart). Meanwhile, Unilever’s Axe brand has a decidedly different message. Most famously, when its “Chocolate Man” video for body spray went viral, it promised to convince millions of guys that using the spray would make them as irresistible to women as a fudge sundae. Earlier this year, Unilever revealed that it is doubling its spending on digital marketing globally. To find out more about its digital media strategy, Technology Review spoke with Rob Master, Unilever’s North American media director.
TR: You’re stepping up your spending on digital media. What’s driving your efforts?
RM: Consumers are going through a radical transformation in how they interact with media and how they connect with brands and advertising. We look through the eyes of the consumer. The consumer doesn’t think about having a viewing strategy for traditional, offline media and a viewing strategy for online media. They view the world in a certain way, and what we’re trying to do is mirror that.
TR: What is your strategy for reaching consumers via social media? For instance, what accounts for Dove’s popularity on Facebook?
RM: We don’t have eight million fans on Dove’s Facebook page. What we do have is really engaged and passionate fans, and that’s really the focus of our strategy in the social space. It’s about providing an enriching experience with our content, not about getting as many people as possible to sign up so we can give away coupons.
TR: When you look at a brand like Dove, how important is it to create a brand personality?
RM: The Campaign for Real Beauty embodies what the brand stands for. That’s the core focus of the brand. It’s about self-esteem, about having conversations among mothers and fathers and daughters, and having conversations about the [advertising] industry itself and how it depicts women.
TR: Let’s jump to another one of your brands, Axe. That has a completely different message and personality. How would you describe it?
RM: Axe is all about helping guys in the mating game, bringing that vitality to life with a wink and a smile. We launched the brand in North America as a body spray. If you think about it, growing up, there was no body spray. We created an entire new category.
TR: If you look at Axe versus Dove, they seem to be saying different things about women.
RM: Each brand has its own audience.