Authentic, mission-driven brands are top of her radar. “If the brand doesn’t have purpose, then it doesn’t belong here.” A strong foundation in “principles, authenticity and purpose” is crucial to connecting with today’s younger customers, Petrou explains. Beauty has outpaced fashion in purpose-driven business, with growing numbers of consumers expecting brands to stand up. “There are communities of people who are married to brands, because they’re tied to their purpose.”
Unilever will acquire brands that have done the hard work in building these communities. “It takes years to build a reputation and following, and it’s important for our brands to be organic and authentic,” says Petrou. A key attraction of acquiring names such as Murad, Dermalogica or Paula’s Choice is to tap into their advocacy built up over time, she explains. An acquisition from Unilever is like “a marriage for the future,” she explains.
Unilever could find opportunity in the masstige space (mass produced relatively inexpensive products that are marketed as luxurious), suggests Amy Rollinson, Euromonitor senior analyst for beauty and fashion. The premiumisation of products for the middle class demographic is a “huge” opportunity for beauty, agrees Petrou. “It’s about making luxury more accessible to the everyday woman.”
Reaching new consumers
Unilever will invest €7 billion in marketing over the coming year to support its biggest brands. In the Prestige unit, there are high hopes for Dermalogica, already one of the largest in Petrou’s portfolio, with sales currently of about €200 million, she says.
The group is shifting away from traditional platforms, such as TV, towards gaming and streaming services. Digital marketing at Unilever accounts for some 45 per cent of total media budget compared with 40 per cent before the pandemic.
“I’m very interested in gaming because it’s all about communities,” says Petrou. Twitch and Newness are among livestream platforms tested this year. In the wider beauty space, social commerce apps including Supergreat and Flip are also gaining in popularity.
Petrou is keeping an eye on how Tiktok will blend in commerce. “One of my key principles is to try and be ready before the wave takes off,” she says. Unilever-owned Tatcha was the first beauty brand to partner with Nintendo game Animal Crossing to launch its virtual world Tatchaland. It was also an early adopter of livestreaming platform Newness, which it used to introduce its new Silk Powder.