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Building Next-generation Brands at Unilever

Via its incubation platform The Uncovery, Unilever is churning out digitally savvy brands at record speeds.

As Unilever looks to the future, it’s marrying corporate muscle and the agility of an indie brand.

The London-based giant has leveraged its capabilities to launch smaller beauty brands rapid fire via The Uncovery, its incubation platform. Its portfolio thus far includes Mojo Wellbeing, Ferver Skincare, For Every Type, Skinsei, Natur-Alternatives, The Good Stuff and Duck Lip Vibes. A handful are already available in a slew of retailers, such as Amazon and Target, as well as directly on their own websites.

The platform’s was created to bring the muscle of a conglomerate to burgeoning and fast-growing trends in beauty and wellness. Mojo Wellbeing centers on the concerns of perimenopausal women, for example, while Ferver Skincare ferments its active ingredients for better efficacy claims.

The strategic importance of the platform is to build “the next 100 years of Unilever,” said Selina Sykes, vice president of Unilever’s new business creation unit, who oversees The Uncovery. “We’re trying to learn new things, and get to some of these opportunities, and then scale them. It’s about building the future in what we create.

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“From a human point of view, everything’s changing, but also the technology: there is so much we can do with the way we launch and sell brands,” Sykes continued. “We see all of that opportunity and are looking at different ways that we can really get involved in these high-growth spaces.”

Most of that decision-making process is data driven. “We use predictive algorithms,” Sykes said. “We look at competitor sales, our own sales, and all the social media commentary, and scrape it to find out what people are talking about in the beauty and wellness space, and figuring out their needs.”

From there, the algorithm looks at trends that have already proven scalable, and which ones remain untapped. “We’re using that technology to ideate. Effectively, we use that to spot trends, and then size up how big we think they can get.”

Unilever joins other conglomerates incubating brands to fill white spaces in the market. Last year, P&G Beauty joined forces with Walmart on a co-incubated beauty brand, called Next of Us, which caters to textured hair types, while Shiseido has launched two new brands this year, including the France-specific skin care line Ulé and Sidekick, a Gen Z skin care brand launching digitally in Japan and China.

The Uncovery’s advantage lies in its speed. Sykes said the timeline, from ideation to launch, is between three to six months. “Thirty-nine days is our fastest,” she added.

While there are two Target-exclusive brands, Skinsei and Ferver, the brands are predominantly digital. “It’s such a great channel to test on,” Sykes said, who’s spent the last 10 years in digital roles. “I’m a true believer that omnichannel is the future. But what is exciting in terms of learning, is what does it look like to create these sticky, digital brands.”

Sykes declined to comment on sales expectations for the brands, but added that “we’re about having an impact on as many people as possible. A scalable brand, for us, is a brand that can become something that is universal.”

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