Unilever urges more innovation from its product

Unilever has thrown down a challenge to its design consultancies to up the group’s creativity. The food, home and personal care giant owns about 30 brands including Domestos, Dove, Flora and Hellmann’s.

‘The marketing is good, the selling is good. It is the product line that needs attention,’ Unilever chairman Michael Treschow said recently when commenting on the manufacturer’s innovation strategy.

Unilever’s product innovation programme for 2008 includes the launch of Magnum Minis and Hellmann’s free-range egg mayonnaise in Europe, and Dove’s Go Fresh skin cleansing range in the US.

The company tends to use external consultancies to execute design projects, including Seymour Powell, Boxer, Vibrandt, LFH, Epoch and Holmes & Marchant.

Dove creative director of design Richard Seymour warns that pushing innovation in a compa ny as big as Unilever is difficult. ‘Perpetrating innova – tion and creativity through large structures is a chall enging job, unless passionately commanded from the top,’ he says.

Seymour’s remit has recently expanded to include consulting on brands including Lynx, Vase – line, Knorr and Dove. Unilever contracts bring in about a quarter of his consultancy Seymour Powell’s turnover.

Vibrandt Form, the newly created product and packaging division of Unilever’s rostered packaging designer, is keen to expand into product design work for the manufacturer.

‘Innovation has to be ramped up in a downturn to create points of difference,’ says VF commercial director Tom Lovett.

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