Finding a Brand's Super Power with Unilever

Unilever / Kathleen Dunlop

Part I

Part II

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With a mandate to “do good” from one of the world’s largest companies, the team behind the Vaseline brand set out to find their eponymous product’s super power. Kathleen Dunlop, Global Brand VP at Unilever, joins Carol to explore the conversations, insights, and “aha” moments that took “The Healing Power of Vaseline” into conflict zones, refugee camps, and community health centers to provide potentially life-saving wound protection.

Unilever has long been the bellwether of purpose-driven brands. The company’s 360-degree Sustainable Living Plan acts as a guiding framework for many of the company’s operations, product development, go-to-market strategies, communications, and growth. Paul Polman, Unilever’s CEO, mandates that all billion-dollar brands must now embrace a social mission. This visionary strategy has paid off tremendously: in 2017, Sustainable Living brands returned 70% of overall turnover growth for Unilever.

While brands like Ben & Jerry’s have a legacy as mission-driven organizations, and Dove has the now well-known Campaign for Real Beauty, finding Vaseline’s social purpose took some soul searching. As a product that touches the skin of hundreds of millions of people each day, Dunlop and her team understood the need to imbue Vaseline with a focused, meaningful, and exponentially impactful social purpose.

Listen in to hear about that journey – from roundtable conversations to bringing the Vaseline Healing Project to Life.

  • Pinpoint what your product does best. For Vaseline, that was protecting and healing wounds. This simple feature aligned nicely with an urgent need: medical supplies and healing help in war-torn regions, refugee camps, following natural disasters, and in our own communities.
  • Understand what your organization can and can’t do to create impact. Vaseline makes a great product. But Vaseline does not have expertise in administering medical care and supplies, putting boots on the ground, or the logistics of rapidly moving product into areas in need. In Dunlop’s words: “We couldn't solve the problem of the refugee crisis. We weren't peacemakers. We couldn't solve the civil war. But we could do this one small thing that was having an enormous difference in people's lives.” Getting product to the right people at the right time – with the right expertise -- took a steadfast partner: Direct Relief. Dunlop talks about the process of identifying Direct Relief as the Healing Project’s core partner, and how that relationship has evolved as the program scaled.
  • Give your team a chance to see impact first-hand. Dunlop had the opportunity to visit Jordan, visiting nearly 3,000 patients and seeing the direct impact of the Vaseline brand. Beyond providing compelling stories to take back to her team, the trip gave Dunlop “a real sense of the difference we could make.” All with a simple tub of jelly.

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