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Unilever's beacon, music pilots part of startup fundings program

Unilever has partnered seven of its brands with digital startups, with the list of companies underscoring where big consumer packaged goods companies are placing their bets in mobile, including on beacon services, music streaming and video.

The Go Global program was announced late last year as a way to help Unilever brands such as Vaseline, Hellman?s and Surf engage more meaningfully with consumers while helping digital companies grow their reach. One of the partner companies is NewAer, which bills itself as a next-generation beacon platform that enables sophisticated scripting in the device or on the cloud from any beaconing radio wave so users can have automated control over things in their digital lives.

?For Unilever or any CPG, in-store offer targeting is a potentially huge opportunity to address the challenges of influencing shopper behavior given ideas like Google?s Zero Moment of Truth,? said Gib Bassett, global program director for consumer goods at Teradata, Dayton, OH.

?The challenge will be competition for consumer attention and so only when these communications are informed by strong consumer insight will they break through,? he said.

?With brand reputation on the line, it will be interesting to see how targeted and relevant offers served through beacon-like services really are, as opposed to a new delivery method for generic coupons, promotions and trial offers.?

Mr. Bassett is not affiliated with Unilever or any of the startups and commented based on his experience.

Unilever did not respond to press inquiries.

Customized marketing pilots
Like the other companies to chosen to participate in the program, NewAer will receive $100,000 from Unilever, mentorship and in-kind services in exchange for a customized digital marketing pilot related to content, mobile and/or connected devices.

Beacons have made a big splash over the past nine months because they enable retail establishments to easily engage with in-store shoppers at a hyperlocal level without a lot of cost.

However, CPG brands will need to partner with retailers if they want to take advantage of the access and customer insights delivered by merchants? beacon programs (see story).

At the same time, CPG brands want closer one-on-one relationships with consumers that do not rely on retailers, which could be a focus on the pilot with NewAer.

Native advertising
The full list of brands partnering with the digital startups is: Unilever, Clear, Surf, Magnum, Flora/Becel ProActiv, Hellmann?s and Vaseline.

The seven companies chosen to partner with Unilever brands cut across a variety of new and emerging technologies, including a music app, a beacon and location-based services platform and digital video.

The companies participating in the program includes Songza, a free music streaming service with custom playlists curated music critics, DJs and musicians and musicologists that is available across Apple iOS, Android and Kindle Fire.

?We?re bringing our native advertising platform, which Forbes included as one of five companies that transformed marketing in 2013,? said Elias Roman, CEO and co-founder of Songza. ?Our platform is unique in helping brands be part of their customers' daily routines by creating advertising that feels like an experience, not an ad.

?In the process, the Unilever brand is turning into a curator of the perfect music for the moment a Unilever customer is in right now, bridging the online/offline gap seamlessly.?

Fresh ideas
Additionally, Africori offers digital solutions to record labels and brands in Africa, Lifesum is an app designed to help users control and improve their eating and exercise habits and Thoughtful Media Group, which is part digital agency, part multi-channel YouTube network.

Unilever?s Go Global program is similar to the Mondelez Mobile Futures program, which launched last year and paired mobile startups with various snack brands for eight pilot programs. The programs are continuing this year and several could be launched nationally (see story).

?Startups are great brand partners because they bring new, fresh ideas and approaches for engaging consumers,? Teradata?s Mr. Bassett said.

?The challenge for CPG today is keeping pace with shifting consumer and shopper behavior so it?s worth experimenting but do so with a cautious eye since brand reputation is on the line,? he said.

?CPG marketers should also look to gather any learnings and data from the efforts to see if they can improve the overall picture of consumers.?

Final Take
Chantal Tode is associate editor on Mobile Marketer, New York