When Paul Polman became the CEO of Unilever he placed sustainable living at the core of the company’s growth ambition. Paul outlined that business growth should benefit all people, and the next generation of people too – not just shareholders. He understood that business and brands have a powerful role to play in creating sustainable living habits and as the second biggest advertiser in the world, with more than 400 brands who together strive to improve 4 billion lives by 2020, he called upon his marketing and brands leaders to help make sustainable living commonplace. How can they change Unilever’s way of crafting brands so they can drive business while contributing to Unilever’s sustainable living agenda?
The brief given to us as business humanizers was: help us make marketing noble again. What a challenge! Early on in the process we understood that the only way to humanize marketing was to humanize the marketer (and the people the brands served).
We had to nurture the marketers abilities to ‘feel and imagine’ better ways to improve the lives of the people. We had to make them active contributors of a broader movement striving to make sustainable living commonplace.
We developed the people immersion-program and the brand deep dive-process to unlock their ’empathy and collaborative capacities’ so they could imagine and create better value as people, working for people and with people.
Many of the marketers who participated in the change program shared with us that learning to create value as people for people again was for them a turning point in their career. It unlocked their contributive capacities and their desire to drive more meaningful growth. What also makes us proud is that 10 years later Unilever has all the hard evidence that putting people and purpose first works. The brands that delivered best on people and purpose delivered best for the business too.