Unilever Deploys Engagement Project on Facebook to Gain Consumer Insights

Since October 26th the marketers of the Savoury-cluster (Unox, Knorr, Bertolli, Conimex and Cup-a-Soup) are interacting on Facebook with hundred consumers for three months. Unilever’s marketers talk about consumer eating habits, cooking- and buying behavior. They also research what consumers think of their products, brands and advertising.

The aim is that the thirty Unilever marketers will gain a better understanding and a sense of what consumers really like. For three months the marketers will have weekly contact with the consumers, ultimately they will meet them in real life as well.

Willeke Brokking , CMI Manager Foods at Unilever explains to a Dutch magazine:

“We expect it will lead to more insight on what consumers really moves.  This can lead to change and improvement of our products and provides a wealth of ideas.”

Brokking emphasized that such a consumer-engagement project has not been deployed yet. For instance, Lays and Fanta are also engaged in online activities, but there are differences. Fanta does online research where participants receive money, and Lays crowdsources ideas. The Unilever project differs because the marketers will interact with each one of the the community members on Facebook.

Bottom-up innovation

It’s an interesting project by Unilever that leverages social technologies and their data for the purpose of engagement, insights and possible co-creation. This bottom-up innovation exercise will broaden Unilever’s understanding of its consumers, because it breaks with the past. It enables to go beyond validation of existing perceptions and find new and relevant ones. Having periodic contact with consumers enables open marketing and communication planning, informed by these insights.

The engagement part is equally important, because that what people create or participate in, is embraced and talked about. Even if people can’t participate themselves, knowing that a specific brand is open to participation is in favor of the brand perception.

One of the reasons for the success of Lays’ crowdsourcing project of a new chip flavor was the intrinsic motivation for the crowd, the Dutch found it fun to think about a new flavor. The reasons why people participate –as described in Kotler’s Marketing 3.0, are:

  • They enjoy demonstrating abilities.
  • They can tailor a specific product/service to their specific needs.
  • They have the possibility to target reward money.
  • They have the opportunity to secure employment.
  • They do it just for fun.

Open business

The project by Unilever is an example of Open Business. An organization that is open to external participation in its processes for competitive advantages in communications, product- and service innovation. By scaling participation the organization will be able to:

  • Extend innovation to all departments;
  • Scale the range and relevance of its research;
  • Embed the customer throughout their business processes.

The Open Business process invites the organization to shift from thinking about consumers to working with partners, takes the second-guessing out of business planning, delivers bottom-up innovation and means that the organization markets with the people for whom the products and services are intended – rather than at them.

By Gianluigi Cuccureddu

About the author:


Gianluigi CuccuredduGianluigi Cuccureddu, contributing editor, is an experienced writer specializing in innovation, open business, new media and marketing. He is also Managing Partner of the 90:10 Group, a global Open Business consultancy, which helps clients open their activity directly and indirectly to external stakeholders through the use of social media, its data and technologies for the purpose of competitive advantages in marketing, service- and product innovation.

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