Tue. May 24th, 2022

The souring of investor sentiment towards Hellmann’s mayonnaise, reported in “Unilever investors tell chief to keep the mayonnaise” (Report, January 13) highlights a major marketing issue: the role of company or brand goal in competitive advantage.

Some investors are upset about Unilever’s view that Hellmann’s goal is to fight food waste. Does it inspire consumers to “bring out the Hellmann’s” or are they more motivated to bring out “the best” tasting mayonnaise?

Food ads have traditionally emphasized the idea of ​​being nice as the primary motivation for consumers. My former employer, Dancer Fitzgerald Sample (later acquired by Saatchi & Saatchi), was the American advertising agency for Hellmann’s in the 1970s.

Unilever and a few other “houses of brands” have moved to bring company’s goal down to the brand level and I believe it makes sense, if done correctly. One good example is Hindustan Unilever’s linkage of Lifebuoy soap to hand washing and the fight against diarrheal diseases in India. That connection associates the brand more directly with a key product benefit – killing bacteria.

A major reason why “purpose” can be important for individual brands, as well as the corporate home, is the motivation of some consumers to align themselves with brands that authentically embrace a larger mission than pure profit. For some, mostly younger audience segments, mission or goal is the primary motivation to choose between competing brands. So while my household has Hellmann’s in the fridge because it makes our sandwiches and salads delicious, others may want a brand that plays an authentic role in social issues.

Charles J Skuba
Professor of Practice, McDonough
School of Business, Georgetown University
Washington, DC, USA

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