Every business has a brand, some have several. All businesses need customers for their brands because the dominant purpose of business is to make money. To reach those customers they need exposure. Simple really… except things constantly change.

They just did for Unilever which went public about its strategy for marketing online, ie its digital strategy.

Take the business of Unilever Australia Limited as an example. In Australia it owns or conducts brand management for such trade marks as Rexona, Surf, Sunsilk, Vaseline, Streets, Omo, Lipton, Flora, and Bertolli.

"unilever_flora" Unilever represents its value proposition as: “Meeting everyday needs for nutrition, hygiene and personal care.”

Unilever’s digital strategy

So what’s Unilever revealing about its current thinking on how it’ll get more customers? Reaching the eyeballs of retailers, one of Unilever’s people recently talked to Paul McIntyre, a marketing journalist at the Sydney Morning Herald.

"unilever_logo" Nicole Still was today described in a Sydney Morning Herald article as Unilever’s digital strategist for Australia and New Zealand. McIntyre quotes her saying:

“Seven of the top 15 websites in Australia are controlled by consumers, not by traditional portals like Fairfax or ninemsn,” Ms Still said. “We knew if we could tap into this space of consumer-controlled content where they could be entertained and take it on themselves, we could build great reach before we could buy advertising in that space.”


Let’s return to our opening theme: where potential customers go, businesses like Unilever must go. Where Unilever goes, advertising in all its descriptions follows. So social media (AKA social networks or social networking) is garnering more attention from Unilever.

The terms Still uses, eg “controlled by consumers” and “consumer-controlled content”, are digital media jargon. They refer to online social media sites such as  Facebook, Myspace and Bepo. More broadly one can add other social media sites which include social networking features, eg LinkedIn, Delicious, Flickr, and YouTube. We’ve discussed the popularity of such sites repeatedly in this law blog of late (see further reading list).

Is Unilever onto something in seeking to engage with consumers using social media? Definitely. There’s further recent evidence of changes which help use social media to “build great reach”, to quote Still.

  • Last week Nielsen Online secured a share of exposure for its report that in 2007 Australians for the first time began spending more time each week on the internet (13.7 hours) than watching TV (13.3 hours).
  • This week the launch soon of the OpenSocial Foundation was announced: Foundation website. Interestingly it will use Creative Commons copyright licences. "unilever_lipton"
  • This week the grand master of online search and advertising, Google, tweaked its system some more to garner more money from where consumers go. According to the New York Times it alarmed brand managers and retailers.

We too are digital media strategists

As lawyers specialising in online social media we are assisting a range of clients. Their concerns include protection against legal liability and use of legal mechanisms to support their business models (eg contracts with advertisers, sponsors, joint venture partners, employees, programmers, web developers etc).

Our clients include digital media strategists and consultants; a range of growing, new or forthcoming websites based on or using social media features; and businesses seeking more exposure to consumers engaged in social media.

Noric Dilanchian