Marketers must follow the ‘5Cs’ to connect with today’s consumers

In order to navigate the new connected landscape marketers must follow the ‘5Cs Framework’, which focuses on consumers, connecting, content, commerce and community.

In 2012, I took to the stage at the Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity to talk about our new marketing strategy, ‘Crafting Brands for Life’. Five years on, and those principles of putting people first, building brand love and unlocking the magic are still at the heart of everything Unilever marketers do.

Those fundamental principles for marketing were designed to transcend the choice of channels, to provide an absolute constant for all our 400-plus brands.

But with the digital eco-sphere expanding as fast as it is, it can be very tempting to always keep going after the latest and shiniest format, sometimes getting lost in the complexity of the ever-changing connected landscape.

So several years ago we set out to articulate the Unilever way for building our brands in the digital world.

We had three main aims. Firstly, to help our marketers simplify the complex digital landscape. Secondly, to firmly put the consumer at the heart of the strategy, as opposed to the communication platform. And thirdly, to shift us as an organisation to a more holistic marketing mindset – one with a digital strategy baked into our core brand strategy and not sitting in the peripheries as ‘someone else’s job’.

The 5C Framework

The result was the ‘5C Framework’ – a compass to help us navigate the connected world, anchored to our ‘Crafting Brands for Life’ strategy. The beauty is in its simplicity.

Of course, like with ‘Crafting Brands for Life’, it starts with putting people first. So as the starting point the first C is our consumer, the true north. As the consumer journey becomes more complex, understanding where our brands should be present for the optimal engagement is critical.

Once we have that understanding of the consumer, we then move to thinking about how we connect with them. This sits squarely in the media space, focusing on how we personalise and optimise our reach and engagement.

This is absolutely run with a mobile-first lens, planning to ensure that our creative reaches the consumer at the right time and at right place. It also considers our approach to search, and how we can ensure we show up in the most relevant places when a consumer raises their hand with a query.

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Once the connection piece is in place we move to content. We all know that the battle for attention has never been greater. So this is about developing a more sophisticated approach to how we think about our content. In this hyper-segmented world, increasingly that means building one-to-one brand experiences, making content speak to a personalised journey.

We divide this across ‘interruption’ – the more traditional types of advertising that the FMCG sector is built on, and ‘seek-out’ – content that provides solutions to the questions consumers are actively asking, or appeals to their passion points. Cleanipedia and All Things Hair are great examples of our brands working in this newer seek-out space.

The fourth element is commerce. In a mobile-first world, people are browsing, researching, shopping, receiving, rating and reviewing 24/7. This gives brands huge opportunities for conversion – if you can be the brand that provides a seamless and friction-free user experience.

We’ve all abandoned baskets at the check-out when something got a bit too complicated or took a bit too long. So this element is absolutely about building the optimal experience, which facilitates the purchase decision on ecommerce and direct-to-consumer platforms.

And finally, community. This focuses on using data to listen and engage with the communities our consumers are active in. But far more than just communication, this approach is actually driving innovation and business growth.

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For example, through social listening our brand Lipton noticed a growing trend for matcha products. They moved quickly from the idea of a Lipton matcha tea to launch, becoming market leader in just five months and doubling the size of the matcha category. And of course, all Rainforest Alliance-certified, in the Unilever way.

I often say we are no longer doing digital marketing, but marketing in a digital world. As marketers we should always remember that digital is a platform, not a way of doing marketing.

The core principles of marketing hold true irrespective of platforms, online or offline. Consumers are still the true north. As marketers in the connected world our job is to figure out how we leverage the platform nuances to engage with consumers better and build stronger brands.