The below paper is designed to develop a marketing plan for Unilever for the period 2016 to 2020. The period – as the research paper created by ESPN, Mindshare and Unilever (Hofman et al 1) describes – is not without challenges. The way people consume media is changing and is likely to change at a greater extent in the five years covered in the paper. The way people engage with brands, develop preferences and interact with companies is changing, too. Companies like Unilever can and should take advantage of the technological developments and create a media and marketing communication plan that makes them successful in the marketplace, through proactive approaches. The paper will analyze the report, the trends and possible outcomes in order to develop a framework that covers the future media strategy of the firm. In order to find a feasible solution, however, there will be a need for analyzing not only trends, but media consumption patterns, developments for the future, as well as the effectiveness of the emerging communication channels.
Case Question: What should Unilever’s Integrated Marketing Communication Goals and Media Strategy be for 2016 – 2020 Also create a marketing plan outline for their media strategy.
As the below paper will show, the challenges of the future marketing channels are numerous, and there are several certainties and uncertainties that will determine the success of marketing related to technological advancements, customer behavior. Due to the impact of globalization and postmodern socialization patterns, it is likely that people’s buying habits, preferences and motivators will be different 2-8 years from now. The main forces that will have an effect on media communication and marketing of Unilever’s products are: social, economic, technological and regulatory. These forces and their most likely changes will also be included in the case study, with a special focus on social and technological forces, determining the media communication of the 21st Century.
The scenario matrix of the Media 2015 Study (4) determines two main forces influencing consumer behavior: attention and access. While it is harder to get the attention of consumers to listen to media advertising the traditional way (media and street advertising), new channels, like online media, mobile and search marketing are emerging. One of the most effective ways of communicating mission, company vision and values is likely to be social media. This aspect of marketing communication will also be detailed in the study.
Konsbruck (5) details the constraints of new media communication patterns, related to the development of information technology. The author states that one of the main constraints of “getting the message through” online channels is that people already suffer from information overload. The internet is an endless source of information, media and advertisement, therefore, it is hard to “get the message through the noise”. However, there are also risks associated with the technological development of recent years. Information can be shared easily, accessed for free, and the credibility of online sources varies. While people are using review sites to decide which product to purchase, the credibility of some of these portals can be questionable. Reputation management, therefore, needs to be implemented into Unilever’s media communication plan, in order to ensure that reliable, positive messages get through to customers, which are not only able to perform marketing functions, but also communicate the brand’s values, vision and engage interaction with existing and potential buyers.
The key influences of consumer behavior in the 21st Century, as previously mentioned is globalization and the change in shopping habits. The increase of number of people shopping online is likely to move shopping channels from large hypermarkets like WalMart to convenient online channels.
As the risks and constraints associated with technological development have already been partly covered in the previous part of the case study, there is a need to summarize them and add some more findings from the Media 2015 Study. (7) As previously mentioned, the customer-perceived credibility of information available through the internet is currently declining. At the same time, trust in the media today has hit its all-time low. On the top of information overload, the study also mentions attention deficit, which means that getting messages through is becoming harder.
The creation of brand communities, emotions marketing and communication patterns aiming to strengthen customer-brand relationships are today’s fastest growing trends, according to Hudson et al. (15). Reviewing the current publications of Unilever, it is evident that the corporation is building upon communicating its vision and mission online. Focusing on sustainable living, the company’s vision states that “We work to create a better future every day.” (Unilever Website) Further, the company already features events, Twitter feeds on the main website and has a brand page on Facebook. Focusing on families’ concern for the environment and life quality of future generations, the marketing and media messages of Unilever are currently effectively communicating the brand vision. The new approach of the company strengthening the features of corporate social responsibility within the organization and creating a clear direction does engage both shareholders and customers.
The way companies are going to market their products is going to change in the future. According to Google, video advertising, increased use of review and comparison sites have changed customer behavior. For example, Google’s Think Inside website states that eighty percent of customers shopping for a new mobile phone visit review sites and compare features, as well as prices. This also indicates that there are some sociological patterns that need to be addressed by the company, in order to understand, meet the expectations of, and engage customers.
Further, according to Kotler (375), Unilever’s current approach towards balancing traditional and digital media is something they call “superdistribution”. This means that there is a strong link between viral videos, online campaigns created and their coverage in traditional media: newspaper and TV ads. This multiplies the result and creates a greater traction on the marketplace for Unilever. Unilever does not move towards simply digital ads, even though there is a shift in marketing. The management understands that the combination of the two advertising methods creates better results than either one of them alone. Digital advertising is used to enhance the effect of TV and printed ads. Subsequently, Unilever does not have a dedicated digital marketing team, still all managers are fluent in online advertising. A good example for this type of “superdistribution” is the Evolution campaign that started with a viral video, got extensive media coverage, and worked successfully integrated into a broader marketing campaign. Still, it would not be fair to call the “Digital Marketer of the Year” a company that misses out on the opportunities provided by digital marketing. However, – unlike other firms stepping into the world of online advertising – they understand that abandoning traditional marketing methods would take away some of the results provided by online ads and viral campaign. Combining the two, on the other hand, can multiply results. Focusing on strong brands that people can relate to, such as Dove as a part of the “Real Beauty” campaign has resulted in greater brand awareness, a more successful communication of the image of the brand and consequently more sales. The campaign also provided the company with invaluable free media coverage based on the campaign’s success, further communicating a positive company image.
The main certainties of the market and communication are determined by the report determine the following predictions:
- greater bandwidth, resulting in greater reach and exposure
- older age of the digital generation resulting in different consumer behavior in digital media communication
- democratization of communication: information becomes more widely available
- device functionality is likely to develop even further
There are several risks and opportunities that lie within the above certainties. Konsbruck (2) states that market structures are likely to be redrawn, as well as commerce approaches. Hudson et al. (1) describe a new era of marketing communications. Greater bandwidth, the widened availability and functions of communication technology indicate that there will be new channels of two-way interactive communication methods developed between customer and companies. The communication methods should be utilized in order to increase customer engagement. The prediction quoted by the authors indicates that by 2015, in the United States, the internet users per capita will reach 85 percent, compared to 66 percent in 2005. (3) The U.S growth of wireless internet use is also going to grow to above 70 percent. (4) Smart phone functionality use trends also indicate that mobile devices are going to be used to a greater extent in online shopping, such as price comparison, taking a picture of a code and watching a commercial.
The Media 2015 report (3) features some uncertainties in the development of media communication, regarding consumer behavior, technological advancements and communication methods. In order to successfully create a framework for Unilever’s brand marketing, it is important to review these in detail.
- social networking’s direction and shape for the future is not determined yet
- it is impossible to predict the speed of technological advancements
- the ability to access and analyze digital data is not determined
- the future of mobile communication is not clear
- media fragmentation uncertainties
- customization abilities in media by 2015
- privacy and regulatory issues
It is clearly visible that some of the uncertainties above also fit into the category of the four forces determined before. Social forces include social networking uncertainties, segmentation, data analysis, speed of development and mobile communication can be considered as technological forces, privacy and regulatory issues are related to the marketing environment’s regulatory forces. It is also important to note that economic trends would influence all the above uncertainties.
Of the above uncertainties, there are a few that are more predictable than others. It is impossible to predict the direction of privacy regulation in the global world, however, some studies exist that try to determine the rate of technological changes. It is, therefore, advised that the future marketing plan of Unilever will use most of the known trends and analyze the current effectiveness of emerging marketing channels, constantly monitoring performance and trends.
DISCUSSION OF ALTERNATIVES
Taking into consideration the trends analyzed above, as well as the market position and current media communication approach of Unilever, it is clearly visible that the main focus of the company should be communicating brand vision and achieving a high level of customer engagement.
1. Tons of Twitter
The benefit of Twitter advertising is that messages can be short, down to the point and would not require a long-term attention of consumers. It is suitable for communicating achievement, brand ideas and interacting with customers at multiple locations. This method is successfully used by big brands, like i Phone. Unilever already uses Twitter feeds on its website, and linking the feeds with the Facebook brand page would multiple results. Twitter company pages are popular, used for promotions effectively, as they do not require a lot of reading. The Tons of Twitter campaign can be successful and generate a higher level of brand awareness among customers, while engaging new shoppers. It would also be suitable for communicating sustainable living tips, gathering like-minded people into a micro-community.
2. Portal of Me
The main benefits of this marketing communication method is that it provides customization options for customers. The negative impact of information overload has already been discussed, ant this channel would successfully deal with the problem. Customers would be able to filter information based on their preferences. Therefore, a young mother would get information about baby products, while sustainable living -conscious customers would get news about green living. While the idea of the Portal of Me is promising great results, the regulatory and technological factors need to be considered before implementation.
MEDIA COMPOSITION SELECTION
While Twitter and Facebook brand pages of the company already show engagement, they are not tested for profitability yet. While it is true that social media can create brand loyalty and therefore increase sales, the integration of video marketing, Twitter, Facebook, competitions and the main website would be required. Google is a powerful source of information, and creating a Google Plus page linked to a YouTube account that has information on the latest products and features the company’s mission, promotions and marketing messages would be an effective way of marketing communication. Social media accounts linked would multiple the efforts of using only one channel. While planning the integration and implementation would require advanced technological and marketing skills, once this step is completed, all the channels could be used to monitor the market, customer behavior, create surveys and gain insight into the mind of potential and existing customers. It would also be expanding the marketing opportunities, as customers have a well outlined social media preference: some use Twitter more, others prefer Facebook.
MARKETING PLAN OUTLINE FOR IMPLEMENTATION
The company would need to gain an insight into the online shopping and content consumption preferences of existing customers. This also means that surveys and market research projects need to be created before the company would start the new, integrated social media campaign.
Next, reviewing the existing strengths of the Unilever website, as well as the trends determined in the Marketing 2015 report and market research, the main communication messages, proven to create brand awareness, loyalty and sales will be determined.
The privacy policies and regulatory issues would be reviewed before the social media campaign integration is planned out.
The next phase would be creating different channels within the company’s campaign: “value communication”, related to sustainable living, corporate social responsibility, “marketing communication”, offering promotions and marketing new and existing products and “engagement messages” that increase customer engagement in product development, innovation, social and environmental projects.
Once these messages are well outlined, the company would roll out the new company pages, create content including videos about products, advice for sustainable living and environment-friendly products, linking these pieces of content to the company site, as well as social media accounts.
The expected results include increase of brand-awareness, reputation, customer engagement and sales online and offline.
ISSUES MOVING FORWARD
The company is likely to encounter several technological, social and economic challenges in the future. The increase of prices due to investments made into sustainable projects, patents to create greener products will need to be justified. Thanks to the emerging social media and online media communication channels, this task can be completed while engaging customers in the brand’s vision. All pages and sites need to be optimized for mobile devices, while monitoring their performance constantly.
Further, privacy issues will play a significant role in the marketing plan of Unilever as well. Achieving maximum compliance, while ensuring that all communication is as customizable as possible to customers’ needs and market is constantly monitored is a challenging task. Through the integration of the campaign, built upon the current brand vision of “building a better future”, the company will ensure that social responsibility, ethical behavior guidelines are followed within the campaign.
While Unilever has a clear vision and mission and the company has created campaigns to successfully communicate these towards customers, there is a need for utilizing emerging online marketing methods, suitable for customer engagement campaigns and reputation management. By combining individual company social media pages’ effort and linking them together, the company will not only be able to multiply the results, but get more media exposure, achieve a greater level of brand awareness and get the message through more effectively. This method – the authors of the current study believe – will successfully deal with the technological, economic, regulatory and social challenges of the next eight years. While the study is not comprehensive, the creators have attempted to address all the challenges within the marketing industry to provide a cost-effective, result-oriented framework for Unilever.
- Armstrong, G., Kotler, P. Unilever: Crossing the Divide between digital and Traditional Media in: Marketing: An Introduction. p. 375-376. Prentice Hall. 10th Edition. 2011. Print.
- Google Think Insides. Website. Web.
- Hudson, S., Roth, M., Madden, T. Customer Communications Management in the New Digital Era. January 2012. Web.
- Konsbruck, R. L. Impacts of Information Technology on Society in the new Century. n.d. Web, Lee, K. Impacts of Information Technology on Society in the new Century. 2010. Web. Media 2015 The future of Media. Web. Unilever Website. (n. d.) Web.