- Unilever reported 30% growth in e-commerce during its Thursday call with analysts following the release of its Q2 results. The consumer packaged goods (CPG) giant described e-commerce as its "most important growth channel."
- E-commerce is part of the company's shift to "a data-driven marketing approach," CEO Alan Jope said on the call. That approach is propelled by two dozen digital hubs the company has established, with Jope saying that more such hubs are in the works. The hubs have delivered over 600 data-driven campaigns this year and helped generate 1.5 billion consumer connections, the company said.
- Jope also reported that a digital campaign from Unilever brand Axe to support a music video with well-known DJ Martin Garrix "massively amplified viewership for the video." The second video collaboration between the personal grooming brand and the DJ dropped this week in Europe and The Americas.
Unilever's overall Q2 results were disappointing, with the CPG's sales rising 3.5% during the quarter, missing analysts' forecasts. The company blamed rainy weather during the quarter for slow ice cream sales. However, e-commerce and data-driven marketing were clear bright spots for the company.
The emphasis on data-based digital marketing campaigns has helped Unilever decrease brand and marketing investment through a new effectiveness achieved by digital ads and data targeting, Jope said. In particular, the exec called out the use of data-driven audience segmentation to support media buys across categories and brands. The segments that have been identified include vegans and fashionistas.
While Unilever is bullish on digital marketing, one challenge it face in this area is the need for skilled individuals to support the execution of these efforts. The Axe campaign is an example of the conversations Unilever is now having with its target audiences, Jope said, and shows why the company wants more digital hubs. The key holdup, he said, is not actual digital budgets, but finding the "warm bodies to run digital campaigns."
The music partnership between Unilever's grooming brand Axe brand and Dutch celebrity DJ Martin Garrix is part of the new Axe Music platform that was launched last year. The digital campaign supporting the collaboration was developed with Axe's global creative agency 72andSunny Amsterdam and includes a new music video that features a limited edition Martin Garrix body spray.
Axe also recently partnered with Marvel on a web comic series, in another indication of the importance the brand is putting on digital content.
Unilever's marketing department is in a transitional period following the departure this year of longtime CMO Keith Weed. Digital is clearly at the top of the CPG marketer's list of future bets, with recent moves including investing in influencer marketing platform CreatorIQ and the creation of a strictly vetted digital publisher network to support media placements that are high-quality and brand safe.