Unilever ‘social experiment’ to shape marketing

Unilever is launching what it calls a “live social experiment” to better understand consumer attitudes to sustainable living and improve its behaviour change marketing efforts.

‘Dirt is good’ ad from Unilever brand Persil

The FMCG giant has enlisted 12 UK families to take part in the ‘Sustain Ability Challenge’ – a series of monthly challenges which it claims will help them save 15 per cent off their monthly food budget at the same time as reducing household rubbish by 25 per cent.

The first phase of the project will address consumer attitudes towards food waste. Unilever will later switch focus to other aspects of its business such as health and wellness and household products.

Families will test practical ways to adapt their daily routines and adopt more sustainable behaviour, for example, not throwing away food and not over buying. Families’ behaviour will be recorded using video diaries and diaries.

Meal planning and recipe tips will be provided thorough brands including Knorr and Hellmann’s.

It is hoped the initiative will help it understand the triggers and barriers to changing consumer behaviour towards more sustainable choices. The challenge combines a money-saving message with a sustainability message after a Unilever poll found almost 70 per cent of consumers claim that the main barrier to adopting more sustainable behaviours is because it is too expensive.

Unilever wants to “bust the myth” that sustainable living is more expensive and make consumers aware that it can also save money.

Speaking to Marketing Week ahead of the launch, Nora Costello, brand building director of Unilever’s savoury, dressings and snacking, says the learnings from the challenge will help shape Unilever’s brand marketing, and product and packaging design in the short term. Over the longer term Unilever plans to use the research to shape its conversations with Government and other commercial firms to address broader issues of consumer behaviour change.

Nora adds the initiative, which is part of Unilever’s Sustainable Living Plan, is important because more than two thirds of the environmental impact of its products comes from consumer use and disposal.

“If we only approach the back end of our supply chain we can’t make an impact,” she says.

Unilever has partnered with The Futures Company to launch the UK pilot scheme, which could go on to be replicated in other regions.

It will publish a report of the findings in 2013 that it will share with Government and retailer partners.



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