Unilever now literally knows what’s in its “brand DNA.” The global behemoth has been giving its marketers and agency folks DNA tests, something they all volunteered for as part of an effort to make better, less-biased ads.
The effort is part of the company’s “Unstereotype” movement to stop pigeonholing people in ads based on ethnicity, gender, nationality or sexual orientation. Aline Santos, Unilever’s executive vice president-global marketing and chief diversity and inclusion officer, is expected to talk about results of “The Unstereotype Experiment” during a presentation on Monday at the FQ Lounge in Cannes.
The idea is to help marketers and agency people break down stereotypes about other people by learning how diverse they are themselves. In a video Unilever posted on YouTube about the experiment, one employee looks at her DNA test results on her phone, wide-eyed, as she says, “Mum, what did you do?” Others talk about the surprise of discovering Asian, North African/Middle Eastern, Basque, Ashkenazi or other Jewish DNA in their profiles.
Unilever enlisted business and experimental psychologists to help with the experiment. So far, the company has tested 63 people in the U.S., U.K. and Netherlands, covering 12 brand teams and also including people from MullenLowe and Ogilvy. Unilever will be rolling out the experiment to marketers and agency teams globally, Santos says.
After receiving the test results, Unilever hosted day-long sessions, looking at strategies for unlearning stereotypes and illustrating how this process can actually create “space in our brains for creativity,” Santos says.
The psychologists administered tests before and after the training, which found a “35 percent reduction in stereotypical thinking and 27 percent increase in original thinking,” she says.
“Some people feel like they know it all and they’re bulletproof on stereotypes, but they never are,” Santos says.
In recent tests of Unilever ads, most came out at progressive on stereotype issues, she says. “Only 6 percent didn’t test well. Of those, most we didn’t put on the air or we changed the ad in accordance with reality.”