Originally registered under the business name ‘Lever Brothers (West Africa) Ltd, our business for this week has a rich history that dates as far back as 1923. 

Unilever is a multinational FMCG and currently publicly quoted company on the Nigerian Exchange, which produces home care, food items, and household essentials. The company was founded in 1923 by Robert Hesketh Leverhulme, who opened a trading post in Nigeria under the name Lever Brothers (West Africa) Ltd. 

The main product being sold by the company at the time was washing soap, this minimum viable product was so successful that the company changed its name to West African Soap in 1924. Over the years several products were introduced with mergers and acquisitions done. In 2001, the company changed its name to Unilever Nigeria Plc, a subsidiary of Unilever Overseas Holdings B.V. 

Of note is Unilever’s practice of having different brand names competing in the same market space, for example, Unilever produces:

  • Omo Detergent and also Sunlight Detergent
  • Dove body spray and Rexona body spray
  • Close-Up toothpaste and Pepsodent toothpaste
  • Knorr bouillon cube and Royco bouillon cube

This list is not exhaustive, as there are many more brand names which the company possesses. It is believed that this approach of having more than one brand name is taken so as to get a larger market share than what one brand name will offer.

According to the latest research, Unilever operates across four categories;

-Personal Care

-Foods

-Home Care

-Refreshment

Unilever’s sole purpose is ‘to make a sustainable living to a commonplace in order to deliver long-term sustainable growth and as a company, they aim to solve a number of problems which includes:

  1. Trying to help improve the health and wellbeing of the people
  2. Making consumer goods easily accessible to the people

As an organization, their unique selling proposition includes the following:

  • The wide range of goods and products they build, sell and invest in, spanning through Home Care, Beauty and Personal Care, makes them stand out from their competitors.
  • Their expertise in distribution channels gives them the edge to reach the nook and crannies of the globe.
  • Their sustainable business model provides consumers around the globe with products that make them feel good and look good, making them become a top mind brand.

Some of the strategies Unilever have used in growing and increasing profit over the years are:

  • Understanding Consumer insights, by combining traditional consumer research with product development and marketing.
  • Market penetration through aggressive marketing.
  • Diversification by making numerous corporate acquisitions and establishing new products to grow the company.
  • Springing up retail sales outlets (currently amounting up to 25 million outlets) and having a growing e-commerce platform.

Unilever Nigeria believes so much in marketing and advertising as a way of engaging with consumers on matters that matter to them. They are publicly aware and in recent times have released policies as regards consumer’s mental health and awareness among others. They are also one of the first companies to apply principles for marketing foods and beverages to children.

Examples of their sales/marketing campaigns are;

Omo’s “Dirt is good ” campaign promotes getting dirty as a natural and positive part of growing up for children-all part of their learning and development.

Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty challenges current stereotypes about beauty.

With over 400 brands, Unilever has a massive distribution strategy that is based on a direct-to-consumer business model(this model has reportedly made over fifty billion in revenues).  Asides from this, they also serve hypermarkets, small convenience stores, direct-to-consumer, wholesalers, and cash and carry.

Unilever also uses digital channels to create personalized campaigns based on consumer insights.

As a leading consumer goods firm, Unilever has an organizational structure that properly supports diversified global operations(reference). Organizational structures are defined as the arrangement and systems used to build and interconnect components in the organization including offices and teams. Unilever operates a structure that adapts to changes in both the consumer goods industry and the global market.

With a product type divisional organizational structure, Unilever has components divided based on their product focus. 

Characteristics of this structure include;

  • Product type divisions

  • Corporate executive teams

  • Geographic divisions

As a company, the strength of Unilever is based on how quickly they adapt to economic scenarios and their use of broad differentiation as a generic strategy for competitive advantage- this among several other unique characteristics stood out for us while writing this. 

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