Unilever shifts focus to customer-owned data in bid to boost trust

Unilever says it is adapting to the “titanic shift” towards people owning their own data by adapting its approach to marketing to drive trust, relevance and added value for consumers.

unilever brands

Shawn O’Neal, vice-president of global data and marketing analytics at Unilever highlighted three trends that are going to change marketing and its relationship with data during the CtrlShift Personal Information Economy conference yesterday (8 December).

First is the introduction of the EU’s long awaited General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which becomes law in early 2016. Second is the impact this will have on “anxiety and people’s desire to have their own data and their own way”.

Thirdly he highlighted the rise of ad blocking, “which on top of the other two trends completely shifts the way in which media works”. These trends are having a profound effect on the business’s long-term outlook.

“The economy for media [and everything attached to it] is about $4 trillion, that makes it the fifth largest economy in the world. We’re about to change all the rules and all the ways in which marketing is done in a matter of years through legislation, trends and fundamental tools that are going to come around.

“If that’s not a reason for us to pay attention I don’t think I can come up with one,” he said.

Levelling the playing field

O’Neal admits he is envious of today’s data-rich businesses such as Google and Facebook, as well as insurers and banks, but reckons the shift towards customers owning data will level the playing field.

“We’re literally out casting the line every day just to get limited amounts of information,” he said. “In my opinion the three trends are resetting the playing field and the robustness and accessibility [of personal data] across the entire population of the world.

“When the individual owns it and can monetise it for their own gain it changes the way in which we have access as a corporation, a government entity or any acting group of people. That’s a humungous benefit and we’re all going to benefit from that as human beings and as organisations.”

O’Neal doesn’t have any interest in using data to sell direct to consumers, however.

“If you look at the next generation of competition in FMCG it isn’t the product. The product is extremely important, don’t get me wrong, it’s important that it works, it smells right and is well packaged but today that is not competitive advantage. Any guy with a garage can go out and get distribution, advertising, products made – he can do all the things an FMCG does,” he added.

“The next level of competition in the universe of FMCG is the relationships we have with consumers. Relevance, trust and on-going value add to their lives beyond the product itself.”

Shawn O’Neal, vice-president of global data and marketing analytics, Unilever

Consumers want control

Considering 89% of people think they should be in control of the way companies collect and use data about them, according to a YouGov survey for BCS, the Chartered Institute for IT, it’s a move that other businesses would be wise to review.

Some 64% of adults are not happy about the way their data is handled but don’t feel there is anything they can do about it. By contrast just 26% say they understand that companies need to collect data about them in order to provide them with services, and are generally happy with how it works.

Indeed, just 19% would be happy for a company to collect personal data without their full knowledge in return for discounts or a more personalised service.

Hide Comments1 Show Comment
Comments
  • Darryl Antonio 4 Apr 2016 at 12:49 pm

    It’s good to hear that businesses like Unilever are taking note of the shifting trends in online consumer behaviour. Consumers definitely want more control over how their data is being used and businesses typically have been sluggish to accept this fact but the rise in ad blockers shows that they must adapt their marketing strategies quickly or risk alienating their user base potentially forever.

  • Post a comment

Latest from Marketing Week

NOT REGISTERED? IT'S FREE, QUICK AND EASY!

Access Marketing Week’s wealth of insight, analysis and opinion that will help you do your job better.

Register and receive the best content from the only UK title 100% dedicated to serving marketers' needs.

We’ll ask you just a few questions about what you do and where you work. The more we know about our visitors, the better and more relevant content we can provide for them. And, yes, knowing our audience better helps us find commercial partners too. Don't worry, we won't share your information with other parties, unless you give us permission to do so.

Register now

THE BEST CONTENT

Our award winning editorial team (PPA Digital Brand of the Year) ask the big questions about the biggest issues on everything from strategy through to execution to help you navigate the fast moving modern marketing landscape.

THE BIGGEST ISSUES

From the opportunities and challenges of emerging technology to the need for greater effectiveness, from the challenge of measurement to building a marketing team fit for the future, we are your guide.

PERSONAL AND PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT

Information, inspiration and advice from the marketing world and beyond that will help you develop as a marketer and as a leader.

Having problems?

Contact us on +44 (0)20 7292 3711 or email subscriptions@marketingweek.com

If you are looking for our Jobs site, please click here