Unilever's Rahul Welde on how to build brands for life

By Saumya Tewari , afaqs!, Kochi | In Advertising | September 11, 2015
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At the Indian Advertising Association India Chapter's Silver Jubilee Summit in Kochi, Unilever's Rahul Welde spoke on how companies can build brands in a connected world.

Building brands is a task and doing it in an ever-connected world is a herculean one. Sharing marketing mantras at the recently held International Advertising Association (IAA) India Chapter's Silver Jubilee Summit in Kochi was Rahul Welde, VP - media, Unilever Asia, Africa, Middle East, Turkey and Russia.

Rahul Welde speaking at the IAA Silver Jubilee Summit in Kochi

Addressing the advertising community, Welde said that digital and technology are accelerating the pace of change resulting in a 'super connected' world. In 1995, he stated, there were 20, 000 odd websites and today that number is 634 million. It has been predicted that 20 years from now, there will be close to 40-50 billion connected devices.

"From a marketing perspective, it has resulted in an extremely complicated world. Those days are gone when a brand needed to shoot a TV commercial, put it on a DVD and send it to a TV station. Now, with the advent of digital, as advertisers or marketers, we are dealing with social media, data, mobile, analytics and 20 different people handling these," he noted.

In his opinion, brands must always 'put people first'; not translating into consumer centricity, but treating consumers as individuals. The second approach he suggested was 'building brand love' - making consumers fall in love with brands. Once that is achieved, market share, business and sales growth will follow, he assured.

Quoting Unilever's approach 'crafting brands for life', he explained the company's three-pronged approach to marketing - content, connection and culture.

Content: The centre of marketing communication which is exploding around us at an unbelievable pace. He pointed out that there are 400 hours of videos uploaded on YouTube every minute, while Facebook records four billion daily views on different forms of content.

In such a scenario, brands need to take on the role of publishers, curators and content creators, he said. So, while Unilever continues to advertise in TV and print, it has launched a Hindustan Unilever (HUL) content company to remain active in the content space. "Content must be multi-platform, multi-format and, most importantly, have scale," he said.

Welde clarified that content is not just audio-visual (TVC or video series); it is about owning channels and properties. 'All Things Hair' is a YouTube channel which talks to women about hair and Unilever has collaborated with it. The company plans to launch its own YouTube channel in a number of countries, talking about hair care, styling tips and, in that process, touch upon some of the hair care brands.

Connection: Welde stated that brands must aspire to build connections with consumers and talk to them on a one-on-one basis. Talking about the popularity of the mobile medium, he cited the example of HUL's 'Kan Khajura Tesan' campaign. It used the mobile medium to reach out to consumers in media-dark regions with a subscriber base of 37 million, across nine states. The campaign created around half a billion impressions.

Unilever Ventures, the venture capital arm of Unilever, has invested in a company called Brandtone which is helping build connections with its consumers. "It helps us with data analytics identifying our consumers and their preferences, so that we can create deep personal engagements with them," Welde said.

Culture: The key is collaboration and leveraging partnerships. As brands, it is beneficial to collaborate with big players because of the sheer scale they provide. Brands must also be experimental and collaborate with an array of small companies, he added. Unilever recently launched Unilever Foundry, a platform that helps the company partner with startups in tech, digital and media space.

Welde advised that brands must be agile and listen to what consumers are saying over the digital medium and act on it. Speed, he hailed, is the new currency. He cited the example of a consumer who posted on Facebook about how an e-commerce site delivered to him a Vim bar, instead of a Samsung smartphone. HUL's brand team instantly responded and sent him a Samsung phone. The elated customer posted about the development, tagging the brand. While he did not have a huge social media following, the post was shared and the world was talking about it. The smart response by Vim's brand team earned the company a month's worth of TV advertising, at the cost of a phone.

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