Case Study - Unilever

The brand house that helped create the Jigsaw Consortium by ditching the DM rule book is now moving its data into the digital age. Holly Wright tracks Unilever's innovative engagement.

When Unilever, Kimberly-Clark, Cadbury Trebor Bassett and Bass came together in 1997 to create the Jigsaw Consortium, they rewrote the rules of FMCG direct marketing. Data-driven relationship marketing programmes were not thought to be the preserve of low-margin products. How could a shampoo brand, detergent or chocolate bar support a direct relationship with the consumer?

Ten years on, and minus Bass, which lacked synergy with the other partners and bowed out, there can be no doubting the success of this ground-breaking initiative. The Jigsaw Consortium database now boasts around 16 million individuals, 11 million households and in-depth attitudinal, demographic and behavioural insight across hundreds of brands.

But there was a problem, and one that Unilever was quick to recognise. This fantastic data asset at its disposal was primarily postal. Although Unilever was increasingly using digital marketing channels and collecting data through its websites for brands such as Dove, Peperami and Lynx, this information did not feed back and integrate with the Consortium database.

So last year Unilever turned to OgilvyOne, appointed as the Consortium's managed service provider in 2003, with one clear objective in mind. Amanda Smith, senior direct-to-consumer manager at Unilever UK, explains: "The scale of Unilever's activity and number of brands meant that creating a single multi-channel digital platform was a no-brainer - both in terms of achieving best-in-class digital marketing and lowering costs."

It may well have been a no-brainer, but the process of sourcing and implementing such a platform was no mean feat. "What Unilever wanted to achieve was a single customer view across all channels," says Paul King, marketing enablement director at OgilvyOne. "But at the time there were very few tools that would do email and SMS, integrate with the web and feed back directly into a central database."

Yet a solution was found, provided by MassMedia Studios and implemented by marketing technology company Alchemetrics. It had been appointed in 2004 to build and manage a customer relationship management platform for Consortium. This followed a review by OgilvyOne of the existing platform, which was found wanting. "The CRM space was changing rapidly and the system wasn't scalable or flexible enough to keep moving the way we needed it to," says King, adding that Alchemetrics was "head and shoulders above the rest in terms of the technology and service".

Alchemetrics was given the task of integrating the new digital solution from MassMedia, called Traction, into the existing CRM platform it had developed back in 2004. The integration project finished in March this year - giving Unilever total control over its communications across the web, via mobile phones, and through email and interactive TV. Vitally, the new system fed directly into the central database, meaning the company had indeed achieved its single customer view. "We provided the technical implementation and enablement, allowing Unilever to branch into digital and making it as smooth and simple a process as possible," comments Emma Thwaites, account director at Alchemetrics.

So, how has Traction affected the way Unilever runs its digital relationship marketing activity? The most obvious benefit has been the ease with which it can now conduct multi-channel campaigns, taking advantage of all customer touchpoints. A good example is the current Magnum "Winning Moments" campaign. Thirty-six million Magnums carry a text-to-win code on the stick of the ice-cream, inviting consumers to text in or go online for the chance to win a luxury break. The campaign aims to drive sales across the Magnum range - but another benefit is data capture. Customers entering online are asked to give their email address and can opt in to receive email news, offers and competitions.

This data is fed directly into the Unilever database, via Traction, enabling Unilever to begin an email-based relationship marketing programme with Magnum lovers.

Another brand to have benefited from the capabilities of Traction is Dove. Earlier this year, Dove conducted an online survey of "real women", driving people to the site through a high-profile campaign including TV, press, online media, direct mail, doordrops and email. The response was massive. "We got over 128,000 completed surveys - 28,000 more than our objective - making this the biggest online survey in Unilever UK's history," says Smith. "Plus, we've increased our database and are now communicating with opted-in respondents to keep them engaged with the brand over the long term."

Improved levels of customer engagement and an enhanced brand experience are two of the clear benefits of Traction. But that's not all. Prior to its launch, Unilever's 20-plus agencies conducted digital campaigns across the brand portfolio but using different email providers, reporting formats and response mechanisms. This meant there was no consistency, making it difficult to feed the results and learnings back into the central data hub.

Now a slimmed-down agency roster is in place, and all have been fully briefed on Traction. "It was really important that we had the strongest agencies in the UK on our roster first so that we could work with them to stretch the tool and come up with some innovative and engaging campaigns," says Smith. "We held rollout sessions with MassMedia so that our agencies built their knowledge of the tool and knew its capabilities."

Now there is one consistent reporting template; permission opt-ins, opt-outs and unsubscribes are managed centrally; pre-testing techniques are standardised (see box); and fresh data is fed seamlessly back into the central database. "The consistency and control that Unilever now has is amazing," says King. What's more amazing is that this has been achieved across a portfolio of 44 brands in the UK, ranging from face cream and toothpaste to mayonnaise and teabags.


Unilever's mantra of "test and learn" has been greatly aided by Traction. Every campaign should build on the learnings from previous activity across all brands - and the results should improve accordingly.

"With Traction we can do this really easily," explains Unilever senior direct-to-consumer manager Amanda Smith. "For example, our email campaigns contain a pre-test element where we deploy a number of small but statistically valid cells to test different elements and then roll out the bulk of the campaign with the optimum."

This testing process has been applied to subject lines, timings, creatives, incentives and online coupon values. "You name it, we've tested it," says Smith.

Recently, Unilever pre-tested different incentives for consumers to complete the Dove online survey.

"We wanted to maximise our responses and 'sanity check' our response estimates," explains Smith.

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