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For Unilever’s Anna Mangilin, purpose is always at the heart of braver, bolder branding

MANILA, PHILIPPINES — Women in the creative industry are only getting bolder and braver. As they do, so do their brands. For “Braver, Bolder Brands,” the latest adobo SheCreative hybrid brunch session held on September 01, adobo Magazine invited a lineup of exemplary women to talk about what it takes to make a real connection with your customers and share brand stories that show the impact of courageous branding that breaks the norm.

Anna Mangilin

Joining the panel was Anna Mangilin, the chief marketing officer for Beauty and Wellbeing Southeast Asia and the country head for Beauty and Wellbeing Philippines for Unilever. She leads teams across Unilever brands including Dove, Cream Silk, Sunsilk, and Ponds. In the last 20 years that she spent in brand marketing, she considers uplifting women’s advocacies and causes through these brands the biggest privilege of working at Unilever.

For this session, Anna talked about the bolder campaigns that Unilever has executed throughout the years. She discussed the significance of these campaigns in shaping their branding and how they stem from understanding and championing women and a more inclusive approach to beauty.


The philosophy of how Unilever builds brands

Anna opened by saying that it was fitting for her to talk about Unilever brand stories during this session because “bolder and braver” branding is at the heart of what she and her teams are doing. Unilever, Anna said, has always been anchored in purpose-led brands that are future-fit. It has always focused on building brands on foundations and purposes that are relevant, authentic, and meaningful to consumers.

For her presentation, Anna focused on brand stories from two Unilever brands that she considers close to her heart: personal care brand Dove, which is Unilever’s flagship for talking about purpose and authentic marketing, and haircare brand Cream Silk; a local jewel.

“[These are] two of the brands that I feel really represent what we mean by bigger, bolder brand stories,” Anna said.

Dove, Unilever’s flagship of purpose

Dove is at the forefront of Unilever’s philosophy grounded in authentic marketing, especially in terms of going beyond societal standards of what “real beauty” means, Anna says. In fact, Dove has been building that branding for almost two decades now, close to 20 years since the first of its “Real Beauty” campaigns which started in 2004.

“Even in those 20 years, I feel it still kept fresh and is still one of the most relevant campaigns we have out there in a way that really creates meaning for consumers,” Anna shared. “Over time, [‘Real Beauty’] has evolved to many executions, but at its heart, [it is] still about making sure we take a stand on the most critical issues, especially around beauty and body image.”

This fits Dove’s global purpose, which is to make universally accessible to every woman a positive experience of beauty. That includes their efforts in making concrete actions toward beauty inclusiveness, improving women’s and girls’ self-esteem, and putting out accessible and effective care products.

To demonstrate what this global purpose means for the Filipina, Anna talked about Dove’s latest campaign in the Philippines — one that debuted on the same day as this SheCreative session! — named #StoptheNameCalling.

This campaign started with Dove’s finding that, in the Philippines, 50% of girls are teased by their families for their looks and called harsh names based on what others deem to be physical flaws. The campaign emphasizes that, even though these names are not meant to be cruel because this treatment is just normalized among Filipino families, this attitude towards these so-called “imperfections” must be unlearned.

#StoptheNameCalling launched with a film showing young girls wearing name tags. But instead of their actual names, what’s written on the tags are mean nicknames their loved ones call them based on their body type, curls, and skin color respectively.

The girls talk about how the names make them feel and how it’s affected their mental health. At the end of the film, they tear off the name tags with the names their loved ones call them and replace them with tags bearing their actual names.

Anna said the campaign was meant to drive conversations about this norm in Filipino culture and face the realities of how it negatively affects young girls. By putting a spotlight on girls who go through this, Dove is opening the eyes of those who don’t realize how hurtful name-calling can be, especially when it’s rooted in physical aspects that shouldn’t be deemed imperfections.

Cream Silk, Unilever’s local jewel

When we talk about purpose, does it really translate to business performance? While the answer to that differs case, Anna shares an instance when it did translate to better business performance.

Cream Silk may be the leading hair conditioner in the country, but at the height of the pandemic, it faced an issue. With the lockdown happening, women were stuck at home and wanted to prioritize spending their money on basic necessities only, of which hair conditioners weren’t an example.

“We needed a young, brave, new market development campaign that could somehow cut through [when the] relevance of this category was not really at the forefront of anyone’s mind,” Anna said.

The answer came to Unilever via a fanmade viral meme showing the vocalists of popular folk-pop band Ben&Ben on Cream Silk packaging.

Realizing that this was the brave and bold move it needed, Cream Silk made Miguel and Paolo Benjamin the brand’s first-ever male endorsers in its 40 years in the market. The brand even produced a Cream Silk version of the band’s hit “Araw-Araw.” This effectively turned a funny viral tweet into a campaign about inclusivity, one that sent the message that beautiful hair belongs to everybody, regardless of gender.

“Sometimes, with bigger brands [like Cream Silk,] it’s more difficult to do something brave because the impact could be tremendous. It could go one way or it could go the other way,” Anna admitted. “But we said it was an opportunity for us to bring together the purpose around inclusivity and virality.”

When the campaign launched, fans went wild and started to advocate the unstereotyping that the campaign was championing. Some even used the song to produce their own content about their use of Cream Silk, further contributing to the campaign.

Engagements skyrocketed, reaching the millions and making it the most celebrated local Unilever campaign that year, and soon enough the campaign led to a full brand turnaround online and offline.

Being bolder with purpose

Anna ended her presentation by addressing the question of what exactly the real impact of purpose and these stories are on a brand.

She said that its significance is in the fact that these purpose-led campaigns drive relevance, differentiation, and memorability.

Regarding relevance, the meaningfulness and authenticity of brands show consumers the space in their lives that a brand can fulfill. Differentiation can also be brought about through the bravery of purpose-led campaigns that can set it apart from other brands. And lastly, being consistent with one’s purpose over the years as a brand drives the salience and memorability that every brand hopes to achieve.

“These three together strengthen what we call brand power,” said Anna. “That’s what translates into consumers buying [our products] and making sure we’re part of their lives and in their homes.”

Every month, adobo Magazine gathers influential female speakers in a breakfast session to celebrate the power and innate talents of women, as well as their ability to create a positive impact on culture, creative industries, business, and communities — providing a platform for women to connect, educate, and support each other in their endeavors and achievements. We explore the power and possibilities of an all-women network as we gather the country’s most influential Filipinas who are instrumental in taking the first step toward creating a strong community of female leaders in Asia.

In case you missed this session, you can watch the video-on-demand here.

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