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Unilever Philippines’ Dorothy Dee-Ching on championing positive beauty

MANILA, PHILIPPINES — The COVID-19 pandemic ushered disruption within the industry—yet the most remarkable marketers are the ones leading their brands with resilience and courage, as they rise above the times and usher innovation and creativity in their strategies and decision-making.

adobo Magazine presents Meet the Remarkable Marketers: A CMO Series 2021, where we feature some of the most fearless, agile, and exemplary brand leaders as they provide inspiration, insights, and key learnings that have shaped their business —from surpassing industry benchmarks and launching creatively effective campaigns, to initiating best practices as they navigate through uncertain times.

Amidst the COVID-19 crisis, brands faced a world of disruption—yet not only did Unilever Philippines ride the tide, but they also rose above the wave as they shifted towards the Filipino consumers’ needs amidst the pandemic. At the helm of this shift is Dorothy Dee-Ching, Vice President for Beauty and Personal Care, Unilever.

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Today, Dorothy heads Unilever’s beauty and personal care division, where her unwavering belief that brands must be a force for good has been evident through Positive Beauty — Unilever Philippines’ commitment to building a Beauty and Personal Care Portfolio that does more good for the people and the planet.

 

As the pandemic hit, Dorothy helped steer their brands’ conversation with customers and focused on their emerging needs and concerns in a crucial time, while embracing the inevitable digital shift. These led to the creation of innovative platforms that provided richer online experiences for their now always-on audiences while providing solutions to deeply held concerns.

Dorothy sheds more insight with adobo on Unilever’s pivot in the new normal, and how digital transformation and genuine brand commitment lead their next steps.

What has been the most disruptive part of the pandemic cycle in your role as a marketer and what did you have to immediately address to fortify your brand’s foothold in the market?

The most disruptive part of the pandemic has been how people’s needs and priorities have quickly evolved which necessitated us to pivot our plans and investments to properly respond to these shifts.

With heightened awareness of the virus, Filipinos have become increasingly concerned with their health and safety. Recognizing the need for a hygiene brand that could help them through the crisis, Unilever fast-tracked the launch of Lifebuoy – even repurposing manufacturing lines to produce hand sanitizers which was much needed at the time. With its strong portfolio of anti-bacterial bar soaps, handwashes, body washes, hand sanitizers and alcohol, Lifebuoy is committed to educating everybody on proper hygiene habits to stop the spread of germs and diseases.

 

Due to the prolonged lockdown, people’s limited physical mobility has forced them to quickly learn and adapt to technology. Filipinos are increasingly watching digital content, learning remotely, working from home, shopping online- accelerating the digital revolution by a few years. Understanding this change in people’s habits, Unilever immediately increased investments in Digital Media and Digital Commerce to ensure our brands continue to be present where our consumers and shoppers are.

In terms of marketing budgets and brand investments, what were the shifts you made in terms of marketing efforts and media channels to reach your digitally connected, at-home customers?

To continue delivering engaging brand experiences to our digitally connected consumers as well as navigating through the changing media landscape, Unilever has made some adjustments in the way we invest in marketing and media to ensure we are spending efficiently and effectively.

Whereas we used to treat and quantify TV and Digital reach separately, Unilever has broken down media silos by now looking at cross-media reach through Total Ad Ratings (TAR). Recognizing the growing need for influencer and content partnerships, we have made the “unmeasurable” measurable by outlining stronger KPIs and digital metrics. Depending on each brand’s business objectives, we have also shifted investments between push advertising and seek out content, allowing us to explore digital campaigns grounded on key consumer passion spaces—such as Dove’s music partnership with ABS-CBN and Spotify for My Hair My Say and CLEAR’s partnership with Rumble Royale for Mobile Legends.

 

To realize your need to manage this cataclysmic shift, what do you expect from your partner advertising, media, PR agencies, and how does this differ from the pre-pandemic period?  How are you structuring for the uncertainties ahead?

Unilever has always believed in building strong partnerships with our different agencies to deliver the best for our consumers. This starts with getting the best talents in the industry to help our brands stay authentic, relevant, and talkable. To enable this, Unilever has started working with holding groups (WPP, Omnicom, IPG) rather than specific agencies which allow us to tap talents across the whole organization depending on the brand requirement and the talent expertise. Recognizing their specialized capabilities, we continue to work with independent agencies for specific brands and campaigns. Knowing the need to be very agile in an always-on digital world, Unilever also has our own in-house creative team (U-Studio) that helps us create branded experiences at the speed of culture. We believe this model will allow us and our agencies to better navigate and thrive in the new world.

Intelligence, insights, and real-time data gathering is essential to your marketing decisions, more so than any other time. What are you on the lookout for?

Today, more than ever, data is critical to marketing. It is important that we are able to maximize the value that data is able to generate: from insights to building 1:1 relationships and driving commerce.

Data allows us to have stronger consumer insights. It allows us to understand our consumers in greater depth so that we understand what they care about at every step of the consumer journey, letting our brands meet their needs at the right time and deliver consumer experiences that matter.

As we future-fit Unilever for the cookieless future, data allows us to build meaningful 1:1 relationships with our consumers at scale. The key is to really understand our first-party data to get a holistic view of each person behind the data points which allows us to create hyper-personalized communication that strengthen our campaign’s emotional impact and scale up the human touch of our brands.

Finally, data allows us to step up our measurement from shortsighted sales to Consumer Lifetime Value (CLV) — a unified, holistic, and long-term understanding of the consumers we serve. Leading the charge for this initiative is Unilever’s loyalty program, U-COIN, where Unilever hopes to see each consumer’s preferences, behavior, buying habits and create hyper-targeted actions that induce consumer loyalty.

What are your thoughts on the surge of brand purpose and cause-related advertising to an often skeptical consumer?

I’ve always believed that we should use our brands and platforms as a force for good. Thus, it’s always great news to hear of more and more brands standing for and supporting important issues.

However, there are two crucial things brands must do to make their purpose more meaningful. First is that brands should not just talk about their purpose but instead, actually do something to help address the problem they are trying to solve. Second is that brands do not treat their purpose as a one-time tactic but rather, a consistent commitment over time.

I am proud to share that Cream Silk has always championed the Filipina, empowering her to never settle for just good, but always strive to be greater. And beyond just talking about its purpose, the brand is committed to help Filipinas become better and land better opportunities. Thus, the brand partnered with Edukasyon.ph to launch the #ConditionedForGreater Academy where Filipinas can avail of free certificate courses to equip themselves with skills needed for employment and are then linked to partner hiring companies for job interviews. As of June, we now have 25,000 enrollees, 15,000 graduates and over 5,000 job applications being processed.

Do share some of the campaigns and case studies to showcase your brand efforts that exemplify creative effectiveness. 

Pond’s Skin Analyzer
We all know that choosing the right skincare products is not easy. Not only are there thousands of options to choose from, there’s also the factor of picking the best one to address your concerns. The pandemic only worsened this problem as one cannot even do face-to-face consultations.

As a brand that continuously innovates itself, Pond’s took on the challenge of continuing to provide expert skincare solutions to Filipinas in the new normal.

 

To address the issue, we created the Pond’s SAL (Skincare Advisor Live) chatbot. It is powered by Artificial Intelligence to analyze what your skin concerns—from Acne, Spots to Wrinkles—to recommend the right products for your skincare routine. The best part: the consultation is absolutely FREE and easily accessible via Shopee or Watsons online, which you likely already have on your phone. By providing an intuitive, powerful, and personalized solution to skincare, we are able to make skincare less daunting and more friendly to our Filipina consumers, driving brand and business growth.

Shop2GiveCare
As Filipinos navigate through the extended impact of the pandemic, the need for care is at an all-time high. Whether it’s self-care at an individual level or communal care at a collective level, there’s no denying that each act of care helps Filipinos power through the toughest of times.

 

Now on its fourth year and at a time when we need care the most, our multi-awarded Shop2Give (a Unilever 24-hour online shopping event in Lazada) was relaunched as Shop2Give Care. Celebrating an early Christmas in August where Filipinas can show care to themselves and to others, Unilever offered exclusive discounts and offers on brands like Cream Silk, Sunsilk, Dove, Pond’s, Rexona, Close-up and many more.

To make the campaign even more meaningful, we pledged a portion of its proceeds to support communities impacted by the pandemic. This has benefitted over 3,000 families nationwide under the Gawad Kalinga Barangay Walang Iwanan initiative as well as over 100,000 children through UNICEF’s education-related programs.

From masterful conceptualization to seamless execution, Unilever Shop2GiveCare proved that purpose can create a sustained impact on both business performance and society at large.

What are the greatest work and life lessons you have learned from the past year? 

The past year has been a season of learning at work and in life.

Given all the changes and challenges during the pandemic, the things to do are multiplied a hundredfold so it would be very easy to get lost, overwhelmed and exhausted. Thus, it is important that you are absolutely clear on the priorities. This would allow you and your team to focus time and resources only on the things that matter and make the biggest impact.

No matter how much you’ve planned for something, the reality is that things could change in an instant. Thus, it is important that you are agile, ready to adjust and pivot as necessary. Progress over perfection is critical so that you can move quickly to respond to the new situation. This is the only way you can get ahead and win in the market.

Take breaks and take leaves! It doesn’t matter where you are or where you go, the important thing is to allow yourself to relax and recharge by spending time with yourself and your loved ones. This is good not just for your physical health but equally important, for your mental health!

How do you foresee 2022 and what do you anticipate will be the emerging trends? Do you feel ready to take it on?

With more people getting vaccines, I am personally cautiously optimistic about 2022. I think we will finally albeit gradually be able to recover from the pandemic. While things will never go back to the way they were pre-Covid, there will definitely be more face-to-face connections as more people start going out of their homes more frequently.

Having witnessed the ravaging effects of the pandemic, people will still prioritize health and wellness. They will continue to spend on products and experiences that will help them stay safe and happy. In light of the recession, we see the relevance of meaningful spending where shopping choices will not just be about price but the overall value it gives to the consumer in the form of quality, convenience or experience. Finally, we will see the deepening of digital. With consumers becoming more literate and at ease with online, we see them integrating even more digital options and technology in managing their lives- whether in media consumption, online shopping, or financial transactions.

On wellness, how do you take care of yourself and find that white space in this all-consuming, digitally-connected new world? Give us a few tips.

It is very important that we take care of ourselves so that we can take care of others.

My first tip is to make sure you always have some “me-time” to engage in your passions outside of work. Personally, I’ve picked up new hobbies during this pandemic. Starting with Crash Landing On You, I’ve discovered the wonderful world of K-dramas and enjoy watching different series during my downtime. I’ve also embraced the plantita in me, growing hydroponics and building our mini garden. Finally, I’ve found some time to start cooking again during weekends—nothing too fancy, just some hearty homecooked favorites.

My second tip is to make sure you also have enough “we-time” to connect with your family and friends. To stop myself from getting distracted, it is important for me to Unplug. This means putting my laptop and phone away to stop myself from checking my messages, no matter how tempting. This digital detox allows me to spend time with my loved ones and be really present to just focus on making memories.


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