P&G vs Unilever has been a kind of massive, slow-motion grand prix for how many decades now? And right now, P&G appear to be carrying the wrong tyres. They’re in the process of selling off 100 brands globally, including Duracell, in order to achieve a return to profitability. Unilever, in the meantime, saw global sales grow 2.9% in 2014. As has been ever thus in the past few years, this was due in small part to emerging markets, which grew 5.7% while sales in developed countries declined by 1%. Emerging markets now account for 60% of revenue, with 70% targeted for 2020. Unilever spent $7.6million on marketing last year, a biggish chunk of it on getting the Unilever brand if not front and centre, then in a position of greater prominence. This, Unilever believes, is an imprimatur of social and environmental responsibility which consumers will learn to trust.
Comment: As early adopters of the sustainability message, Unilever will have to work (and spend) harder and harder to defend this positioning as virtually every other business in the world comes on board.