Unilever has set up a central hub to house all crowdsourcing briefs, a structure it expects will better organise outsourced activity as it accelerates its search for more cost-effective yet sustainable cuts to ineffective marketing.
The IDEAS platform will increase the use of crowdsourced innovations tenfold globally by 2020, the company boasted. Unilever is no stranger to crowdsourcing, having undertaken a number of initiatives with the likes of third party platforms such Eyeka in recent years, but the launch of its own hub signals a long-term commitment to it as a growth driver.
IDEAS will be managed by Unilever Foundry, the FMCG maker’s proxy to the start-up scene that is already spearheading the company’s adoption of the beacons.
While much of its efforts to date have wooed start-ups, Unilever wants more of its marketing creativity to flow from individuals such as filmmakers and entrepreneurs through its direct crowdsourcing hub.
Unilever’s senior vice president of global marketing, Marc Mathieu, said: "In 2009, we announced an ambition to double our business by 2020 whilst reducing our environmental impact. Enabling our sustainable growth ambition requires that we invite and harness capabilities and ideas from everywhere.”
Crowdsourced marketing has witnessed tremendous growth recently as companies increasingly exploit new media to elevate the role of user-generated content at a time when budgets are constrained. The cost benefits are clear though marketers are warming to the idea that participation marketing can actually accelerate the rollout of innovative, sustainable ideas company-wide.
“Through Unilever Foundry IDEAS, we’re creating a platform that allows us to engage with innovators, creatives, designers and anyone with a novel idea,” said Mathieu. “Although crowdsourcing is not a new concept to Unilever, our ambition is that by 2020 Unilever will leverage crowdsourced ideas ten-times more than we do today.”
Launched last year, Unilever Foundry is currently on the hunt for start-up ideas that can improve the business for which it is willing to commit $100,000 to funding pilots. One brief wants ideas on how to convince consumer advocates to create content for its brands, while another asks for a solution to how to optimise the sourcing of user generated content.
The investment is the latest in Unilever’s search for more effective marketing as it looks to shave costs from the business. Production costs made up 40 per cent of the company’s total advertising spend in 2014 compared with 32 per cent in 2010 following several major investments including a shake-up of its global digital agency roster and a media review to evaluate online marketing, mobile, social, data and analytics.
To curb the cost rise, Unilever is siphoning more budget into cheaper, more targeted digital channels. Digital accounts for around 20 per cent of the company’s digital marketing spend, up from 17 per cent in 2013.