Adriana Angelova – Unilever

Adriana Angelova – Unilever

Adriana Angelova is a Global Brand Manager for Hellmann’s, the world’s leading mayonnaise brand and among the biggest and fastest-growing brands at Unilever. The brand is active in over 50 countries, serving over 450 million consumers worldwide. Adriana: “At Hellman’s, we help people enjoy good and honest food, without worries or waste. Embracing the philosophy of the brand that food is too good to be wasted, is something I strongly believe in.”

Ingredients for brand growth

According to Adriana, Unilever focuses on delivering sustainable and competitive growth: “We achieve that through operational excellence which is anchored in several pillars. The first one is penetration. Long gone are the days that marketers believed loyalty to be a guarantee for growth, the hard reality is that consumers don’t care about brands as much as we think. One of the key ingredients is to focus on winning new consumers. The second is to focus on mental and physical availability. Starting with physical availability, it is critical to delivering impactful innovations, which is another strategic pillar for Unilever and its brands. During covid, a lot of brands had to revisit their innovation strategy and their activities. The macro-environment has changed tremendously, so it is more important than ever for marketers to be continuously tuned in, to uncover trends, insights, only by solving those pain points are you able to drive growth. Next to that, it is important to design for channels. You must offer seamless and effortless experiences to make sure the brand is easily noticed and you can grab the consumer’s attention. The channel lines are getting blurred; buying a commodity product such as toothpaste in the middle of the day on Instagram would have been unthinkable 5 years ago. It is about uncovering those relevant touchpoints and owning those, but also offering effortless shopping experiences to the buyer.”

Moving on to mental availability, Adriana shares how neuroscience and behavioural economics have progressed immensely in recent years: “The work from Kahneman on decision-making and thinking fast and slow has revolutionised the way we think about marketing and how we influence consumers. The fact that 95% of the decisions are made from System 1, the more emotional, instinctive side of the brain, and only 5% from the more rational part of the brain, is still a ground-breaking insight to me. Coupled with the marketing view of Byron Sharp where we shifted from positioning, USP, message comprehension and persuasion, to salience, getting noticed and seeking an emotional response, really addressing that System 1 and building associations, creates a new recipe for brand growth. This brings me to Unilever’s key ingredient for brand growth, which is purpose. Not only have we been able to put purpose at the heart of the company, but we have also translated that to profitability. A year or two ago, Unilever shared that around 70% of the company’s growth was down to purpose-led brands, and those brands that were truly purposeful grew 70% faster than the non-purpose brands. It shows that people prefer brands that have a social stand on issues and are working towards a cost. Purpose creates relevance, and if the purpose is executed well with great creativity, it will undoubtfully drive talkability and mental availability.”

Role of data

Data is part of the fundamentals of Unilever’s marketing and business, Adriana shares: “We have always made decisions based on data, but with the rise of digital, people started seeing digital marketing as a hot topic. To me, digital marketing is just a part of the overall marketing activity, offering a different touchpoint and infrastructure. The rise of digital has enabled us to reach and engage many more people with relevant and personalised content, in more and narrower channels. For Unilever, we have become way more agile, which has been extremely valuable in the FMCG industry. In the past, research and data collection to validate products was done more traditionally, whereas we have now shifted to being more experimental, attaining just the amount of validation we need to take the next step. It is also a great tool for us to obtain insights and understand what consumers are doing and talking about. We can build digital personas and understand people’s interests, so we can not only offer consumers the most suitable products but also do it in a relevant way. For the brand that immediately translates to higher engagement, greater reach, and hopefully higher conversion.”

“There is so much noise, unless you make sense of the data to serve transforming or growing your brand, it becomes a waste of time and resource, and a distraction.”

Noise & waste

In terms of implementing a data-driven approach, Adriana reveals that it has been challenging: “As a marketer, It is difficult to orientate and know what is relevant, as there is a lot of noise. I think one of the mistakes you can make is to focus on external noise, instead of focusing on what your brand stands for, what you want to do, and what the marketing strategy is. You need to look at your activities first, and then screen the environment; can data benefit those activities, and complement your decisions? It’s important to not lose focus and use data to complement, ease, and facilitate your activities.” Adriana believes the success of data relies on context: “For most marketers, data should come with context, if not, it doesn’t serve you. Context is a key ingredient to make sense of the data, how it translates to your marketing or brand activity, and how it can be actionable. There is so much noise, unless you make sense of the data to serve transforming or growing your brand, it becomes a waste of time and resource, and a distraction.”

A paradox

When asked about the future of data-driven decision making, Adriana feels it is a paradox: “On the one hand, there are privacy concerns in terms of tracking and legislation like GDPR. Recently, Apple announced they are limiting data flow and how users are being tracked. They will be blocking IP addresses, but also restricting emails so companies can no longer access open rates, CTR, and conversion. They are closing the door, and companies like Google are heading in the same direction. On the other hand, you have the rise of artificial intelligence, machine learning, big data, predictive analytics. For me, it is a paradox, and I wonder how those two spectrums are going to collide. We are about to witness even more fragmentation and complication to the whole infrastructure of digital, data points, and data collection. It will be even more relevant to make sense of the data and to get the right data that you need, and doing that in a relevant way that complies with all those restrictions. Finding your way in the noise will become even more challenging.”