Belo cérebro: How Unilever used Do It Day to celebrate Brazil's beautiful brains

How does a massive multinational like Unilever go about engaging female millennials in Brazil in an authentic and worthwhile way, in the space of a day? At The Drum's recent Do It Day, a team of marketers worked with the company to develop a platform to link young would-be entrepreneurs with inspiring mentors, celebrating their 'beautiful brains".

Brazil is a land of contrasts. The fifth-largest country in the world with some 200 million inhabitants, it is home to the Amazon, in all its breathtaking beauty; to sprawling shanty towns and the heartbreaking deprivation that lives there; and to skyscrapers that rival Manhattan, and in which the machinations of one of the world’s most rapidly developing economies are housed.

It is also a centre for cosmetic surgery, with more plastic surgeons per capita than anywhere else, and a startling stat shows that 95 per cent of its female population want to change their bodies and would consider going under the knife.

On the other hand, a more positive and compelling statistic from credit rating agency Serasa Experian shows that some 43 per cent of businesses in the country are owned by women, and that there are 5.69 million businesswomen in the country, 73 per cent of whom are involved in small- and mid-sized companies.

It was this contrast, a country in which female entrepreneurs are shaking up the business world while simultaneously suffering a confidence crisis, that proved central to the challenge taken on by Unilever on Do It Day.

Its mission was to take this juxtaposition and turn obsession with physical and superficial beauty on its head, creating a community that celebrates women’s beautiful brains (belo cérebro in Portuguese).

An ambitious ask for an average Monday, but this was no average Monday. And working on the brief was no average team. Instead we had the beautiful brains of Mike Tuffrey, co-founder of Corporate Citizenship; Nicola Carey who spearheads strategy and planning at Jaywing; Amanda Gabb, senior business manager of the marketing strategy team of Barclays Personal and Corporate Banking division; Sam Herbert, a marcomms strategist for the charity sector; Marcie MacLellan, founder/head of copy of Incontext Productions; Rowena Luscombe, partnerships manager for the City Football Foundation; and Patrick Robson, managing director for Digilant UK.

IBM’s Gytis Raciukaitis, Aino Kivinen, Tony Pigram and David George were all on hand to help as well.

“The early stages of entrepreneurship can be quite isolating and challenging,” explains Jeremy Basset, head of Unilever Foundry (Unilever’s global platform to connect innovative startups with the company’s global-euro brands). “What we love about the idea is that it helps to facilitate connection and advice at scale, making available two vital ingredients to women across Brazil, and helping to ensure that ideas move into action.”

And so the team got to work creating an innovative platform for mentoring and networking that would subvert stereotypes of Brazilian women.

Things moved quickly and by 11.30am the concept was locked down. By 1pm most of the design and build had been done. 1.30pm all content was in place. And by 2.30pm testing had started.

The resultant app allows users to identify their brain type with the aid of IBM Watson technology, either by entering their social media details or by completing a quiz. Once users have their brain type identified the platform then matches them to mentors who are similarly minded or who have started businesses where those skills could be required.

There are also mentor and member profiles and the accompanying website lets users link to mentor blogs and videos providing a constant source of information. The peer-to-peer network of underprivileged young women and female entrepreneurs in essence gives the support, guidance and encouragement they need as they launch and develop their own businesses.

“Do It Day was an opportunity to develop a tool that could have a transformative impact on women and their communities across Brazil,” says Basset.

“In 24 hours we saw this idea go from concept to prototype, and we now have a product which we can go into beta with, to start learning, developing and evolving as quickly as possible.”

But while Do It Day might be done, Unilever is by no means finished in its aims (indeed, it has ambitions to empower five million women by 2020) and, as Basset explains, “the opportunity here for social and economic impact is massive”.

With a huge proportion of Brazilian women interested in pursuing entrepreneurial opportunities, he hopes this idea can play a pivotal role in moving women across Brazil from having great ideas to launching great businesses.

And, he adds, “if this is something that can work in Brazil then we’d look at how we could take the model to other markets too”.

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Thomas O'neill

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