Unilever’s David Rubin Discusses Brand Building in a Digital World

The company employs a three-pronged approach of “putting people first, building brand love and unlocking the magic.”

David Rubin, vice president of marketing for Unilever’s U.S. hair business, began his talk with a video clip, a humorous Dove Men+Care advertising spot that featured a long-haired gent with a swinging feminine mane.

This story first appeared in the February 28, 2014 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Despite sparking hundreds of thousands of views and many peer-to-peer conversations across counties, Rubin said he does not see the campaign as a success because it did not truly link to the Dove Men+Care brand. “We find an interesting paradox that as technology keeps advancing, as we get to more choices…the more we find ourselves back at the basics, the fundamentals of marketing 101,” he said. “The only way to truly unlock a brand…is [when] the right things come together to unlock that real connection.”

He continued, “What uses the technology available to us, but what also marries that with a long-term sustainable brand building? At Unilever, we call it ‘crafting brands for life.’”

To do that, Rubin said the company employs a three-pronged approach of “putting people first, building brand love and unlocking the magic.”

He went on to give specific examples from several Unilever brands, including Dove.

“If you go back far enough, Dove was about a simpler thought, which was moisturization. This worked really well for the brand for 50 years,” he said. “But as our channels proliferated it wasn’t enough. So in 2004 we unlocked this idea of the Campaign for Real Beauty…which is really the idea that beauty can be a source of confidence and not anxiety.”

He noted the campaign’s Real Beauty Sketches video, which has been watched by some 60 million people around the world, recently introduced a “selfie campaign” at Sundance.

“This was based on the concept of the insight that over 60 percent of women believe digital and social are now having a more profound impact on the definition of beauty than any traditional channel,” he said. “It’s sparking a lot of conversation.”