“I’m not going to talk about digital transformation. I’m going to talk about the end of digital transformation,” declares Theresa McDonnell, Director of Digital Content and UStudio at Unilever, at our conference Transition earlier this year. Generation Z has caught marketers off-guard, and most advertisers aren’t prepared for marketing in a world where the majority of consumers are digital natives. For this emerging generation, digital isn’t transformation, it just is.

While many people think of Gen Z as young children, in reality, their oldest members will turn 21 this year, and they are projected to comprise 40 percent of all consumers by 2020. If every brand must accommodate their buying power, tastes, and habits, where does this leave the traditional idea of “digital transformation?” The marketing team at Unilever is leading the charge to engage this emerging generation by focusing on three core pillars:

  1. Aligning content with Generation Z’s values
  2. Engaging consumers instead of interrupting them
  3. Ensuring all content is mobile-first

In her talk, Theresa shared how the Unilever team is putting these pillars into action, getting results, and using innovative technologies to make it all happen.

“Unilever’s been going through a lot of transformation, and Percolate has been a huge part of that.” –Theresa McDonnell

Leading with Value-Driven Content

Generation Z has grown up with unprecedented exposure to multiculturalism, global influences, and gender fluidity, making them one of the most open-minded generations in history. Traditional gender, racial, and religious stereotypes don’t resonate in a world where same-sex parents, multiracial households, and working mothers are commonplace. In order to connect with Generation Z consumers, the Unilever marketing team needed to understand their values and ensure that it was reflected in their content.

To start, Unilever ran a study that found “only 4% of their advertising showed women in aspirational roles, 2% showed women as notably intelligent, and 50% featured a female stereotype.” This inspired Theresa to launch “Unstereotype,” which aims to “rid all of their advertising of stereotypes by 2020” and instead create content filled with diverse beauty, unique personalities, and multidimensional stories. And the results are already positive – when Unilever increased Unstereotype ads by 24%, its brands grew 5x faster.

Entertain Don’t Interrupt

Today’s consumers “know that the value of their attention is their most important asset.” They ignore content that doesn’t catch their attention and proactively seek out brands that they are passionate about and products that interest them. So, the second pillar of Unilever’s strategy is to grab their audience’s attention by creating content that is engaging rather than merely disruptive.

Theresa and the Unilever team termed this type of entertaining advertising “Seek Out Content,” and looked for ways to increase the amount of it in Unilever’s initiatives. This led to the launch of Unilever UStudio – a global network of in-house studios that allows teams to shoot, plan, and edit all advertising content onsite. UStudio has helped Unilever refocus their energies on optimizing their upstream marketing processes, ensuring that the messages in their content align with larger goals and the tastes and values of their target audience before distribution.

Mobile-first Strategy for a Mobile-first Generation

Today, children as young as two years old have a natural instinct to swipe on mobile devices. Generation Z consumers rely on mobile for almost every aspect of their daily lives and are quick to dismiss content only available on a desktop or TV.  To engage with Generation Z, the Unilever marketing team had to envision the entire consumer journey from a mobile screen. But ensuring that all content has a seamless mobile experience is nearly impossible without the right technology behind it.  

The UStudio team relies on Percolate to ensure that all of their digital content meets the mobile-first standard. With mobile previews and approval workflows in Percolate, Theresa’s team can see their content exactly as the consumer sees it, enabling them to be more customer-centric and mobile-first than ever.

“If it wasn’t for the Percolate Mobile app, we would not be mobile-first. We do everything from planning and trafficking to previewing on the App. It’s really forced our marketers to look at content on the mobile device, which is where our consumers are seeing it.”–Theresa McDonnell

The challenges of marketing to a consumer base of globally minded, digital natives is daunting for brands of all sizes. As the impact of Generation Z continues to grow, brands should follow Unilever’s lead: breaking away from one-dimensional stereotypes and dull interruption marketing and ensuring their content is mobile-ready.

To learn more about how Percolate helps brands prepare for the future of content, talk to a Percolate expert today.