Unilever sees ‘significant step up’ in effectiveness in shift to data-driven marketing

The FMCG giant says a greater focus on data-driven marketing and a programmatic approach to media buying is helping improve ROI, but admits it is struggling to hire enough people to run these more complex digital campaigns.

unilever brandsUnilever has credited its shift to a more data-driven marketing approach for a “significant step up” it has seen in marketing effectiveness and ROI.

Speaking on a call with analysts this morning following its Q2 results, CEO Alan Jope said its brand comms are now driven by data and programmatic, with its 24 digital hubs responsible for more than 600 data-driven marketing campaigns and 1.5 billion consumer connections.

That focus, he said, had helped Unilever decrease brand and marketing investment by 30 basis points while maintaining effectiveness through “new disciplines” including digital advertising and real-time spend optimisation.

“[We are] shifting to a data-driven marketing approach,” he added. “Our brand communications are led by a deliberate and data-driven audience segmentation and programmatic approach to media buying.”

Unilever has found that audience segments identified by its digital teams are relevant across multiple categories and brands, helping to improve efficiency. These include “super segments” such as vegans and fashionistas that can be leveraged across all three of its divisions.

Jope pointed to its deodorant brand Axe (Lynx in the UK) and its tie-up with the DJ Martin Garrix as an example. Here, he explained, Unilever is creating content that “interrupts less and converses more” with its target audience of young consumers.

Unilever is planning to get more digital hubs up and running this year as it looks to apply their knowledge and learnings across the business. However, Jope admitted that hiring people able to run “complex” digital campaigns remains a challenge and is adding to costs.

“The bottleneck on great work is having warm bodies to run digital campaigns, rather than absolute digital spend,” he said. “[We need to get] people in place to run more complex digital campaigns.”

He also highlighted issues such as ad fraud as a concern as it shifts more spend and focus into digital. But he claimed Unilever is ahead of industry benchmarks and that fraud levels for its marketing are in the low single digits, compared to up to 30% in some markets.

“We are sure our investment is effective. We have strong safeguards on fraudulent media activities and believe we are ahead [of the industry] in terms of managing and mitigating against this,” Jope said.