Unilever Uses 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. Such a consumer-engagement project has not been deployed yet. Lays and Fanta also engage 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.

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 puts it as following:

“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.”

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.

Bottom-up innovation

Unilever 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.