Unilever is the third biggest player in the global hair care market, and struggles to achieve growth in a stale and highly competitive market. Consumers struggle to differentiate between brands that often seem to say the same thing. Online, however, there is a huge appetite for hair content. Every month, there are almost 1 billion hair searches on Google – but they're not going to brands.
Unilever asked us to increase the online presence and relevance of their hair products, and establish a sustainable relationship with their audience.
Our solution: bringing together Unilever's top hair brands with the world's biggest search engine and the best video bloggers on a bespoke YouTube channel.
We analyse what women are looking for online, and use this to brief the vloggers, who create bespoke content to match – featuring relevant Unilever hair products from multiple brands. We then buy the trending search terms, match them to the content, and host everything on our bespoke, e-commerce enabled YouTube channel.
The brand-agnostic approach was radical; one that would shake an entire category out of a communications slumber.
Combining the consumer connection of our YouTube stars with Unilever's product expertise and Google's search insight, All Things Hair became the biggest hair brand channel in the world in just 10 weeks, with 50M views in the first year – wedged between Rihanna and Nicki Minaj in YouTube's own engagement ranking. And research has shown All Things Hair content is three times more likely to lead to purchase than traditional advertising.
Our objectives were:
1.To increase presence and relevance of Unilever hair brands online
2.To establish a personal, sustainable relationship with our audience
3.And, ultimately, to sell more products.
We knew that while people trust the quality of Unilever hair brands, they are rarely loyal to a single brand, and there are few differences in user profile between the brands. Furthermore, consumers are tired of hair category clichés, and go online in search of answers: there are over 11 billion hair searches a year on Google, more than any other personal care category. Half of all online beauty shoppers watch a related video on YouTube while looking for products to buy. But only 3% of views go to videos by beauty brands – video bloggers control the other 97%. How could Unilever, as brand owners, turn this into an opportunity?
We brought Unilever's top hair brands together with the world's biggest search engine and best video bloggers to bring women the hair solutions they are looking for.
We built a custom Google Trending Tool to analyse the hair searches, and use them to brief our vloggers to create videos using Unilever products. We buy the trending search terms, and point to relevant content on our custom, ecommerce-enabled YouTube channel. There, you browse by hair type to find the latest trends, treatments and how-tos.
By listening to the community, putting the consumer in control, working collaboratively with Google and our blogger partners, and putting All Things Hair before All Things Product, we turned the traditional hair care communications model on its head.
Instead of creating a brand community, we created a community brand.
Instead of just using communications to influence consumers, we sought to have consumers influence our communications.
Instead of pushing thinly veiled sales messages, we made Unilever's products purchasable when they are most relevant.
Instead of short-term sales uplift, we used digital to listen to and learn from real people in real time.
In the process, we created a new model of brand communications for the digital age, innovative in its brand-agnostic and community-centric approach.
All Things Hair is Unilever's biggest digital initiative ever, and their first category super brand. Campaign called it "genius", "today's leader in the business section" and "advertising for real people". Contagious said it's "incredibly smart" and asked whether it should set a new standard for how we judge creativity. Keith Weed, Unilever CMO, presented it on the main stage in Cannes.
Within a year of its first beta launch, All Things Hair was live in 5 countries on 3 continents, and had amassed a total of over 50 million YouTube views across almost 500 videos.
All Things Hair UK became the number 1 hair brand channel on YouTube globally within ten weeks of launch.
Research (Millward Brown, 2014) shows that our content is more than twice as believable as films from a Unilever control brand. All Things Hair videos were also more than twice as likely to teach the consumer something new compared to single brand communications, even if they had never seen a YouTube blogger video before.
Our analytics also shows that viewers tuned in for the same proportion of duration as they would for non-sponsored blogger content, demonstrating that All Things Hair content was as relevant as it was engaging.
An outsize portion of reach came from organic reach, through partnership with our bloggers and organic subscribers.
We are the most liked, commented and shared hair brand channel globally. YouTube's own ranking put us between Rihanna and Nicki Minaj on the list of the most engaging brand channels worldwide, proving that we have moved beyond category education, and into entertainment. Research by Millward Brown backs this up, showing All Things Hair content being four times more enjoyable, three times more appealing and three times more likely to lead to purchase than traditional advertising from the Unilever control brand.
And finally, we have become the dominant hair brand channel in the UK and Canada, with 86% and 98% of all category views.