How Unilever took control of its content costs

Consistent, efficient and effective content marketing is a universal challenge for brands and their agencies. For Unilever, the world’s second-largest advertiser and parent of Axe, Dove, Hellmann’s, Knorr and Lipton, this difficulty is compounded by the company’s size and global diversity.

When Unilever’s SVP of Global Media, Luis Di Como, set out at the start of 2013 to accelerate his brands’ transition toward “always on” marketing, Di Como and his leadership team wanted to test new approaches for delivering content more efficiently to Unilever’s digital audience of more than 100 million Facebook fans. Achieving this meant Unilever needed to standardize visual guidelines and reduce content costs for dozens of brands and their agencies in different parts of the world. The challenge was sizable — but so was Di Como’s commitment to solve it.

“One of the things that we needed to do was to bring together all of the communications, breaking down silos within the company. Breaking those silos internally was the biggest challenge. We needed to bring everything together and make it a part of the overall marketing strategy.”

Today, only 18 months later, Unilever’s marketing teams are generating more content and have still reduced their average cost per social post by an estimated 20 percent. How did Unilever successfully scale its marketing so quickly? Here are the three steps the company took:

To address varying regional budgets, resources and marketing experience across the 1,000-plus content creators it employs, Unilever set out to identify and implement software that could standardize logos, fonts, color palettes, identity themes, posting guidelines and branded imagery. Ultimately, Unilever selected Percolate as the right technology partner to encode and automate elements of its digital branding, deploying the software to over 30 brands and 40 agencies worldwide. By using a single, integrated technology for asset management, image editing and content approval, Unilever has captured major efficiencies and economies of scale in its marketing operations.


In addition to standardizing software, Unilever invested in making employee-training programs more thorough and consistent. “Brand calibration” sessions were organized for each market to ensure that the content teams were producing was locally relevant, on-brand, and in line with global standards for image quality. Internal Unilever and local agency teams completed integrated training curriculums on Percolate and other key marketing processes, then the results were measured with tests, surveys and quarterly check-in meetings.

Another key step Unilever took was streamlining how its teams communicated and managed content. Previously, Unilever teams and agencies would collaborate and share files via email, FTP, Dropbox and several other tools. By consolidating communication into a single, regimented process for managing and versioning image files, Unilever’s social teams were able to reduce their email volume and cut their average time per social post.

For Unilever, building and differentiating 14 separate billion-euro brands requires major investment, including the production of more than 360 social posts each day. But by upgrading and standardizing content technology, investing in employee education and simplifying how its teams collaborate, Unilever has taken meaningful first steps to more closely control its content costs.

Image via Shutterstock.

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