Working with start-ups eliminates 'fear of failure', Unilever says

Speaking today at the Marketing Society's annual conference, Marc Mathieu, global SVP marketing, Unilever the company had been developing ways to harness the innovation of tech start-ups through the company's 'Unilever Foundry'.

One of the key challenges of the business and one of his "core missions", he said, was to ensure the business was not in a reactive state but was proactive in responding to new technologies and possibilities.

The business had built a programme, the Foundry, in order formalise this process of tapping into new innovative ideas and to "raise the floor and the ceiling."

"One of our core missions is to make sure we experiment new possibilities of how marketing will be done tomorrow," he said.

He said businesses needed to "embrace the risk of failure much more than we have in the past if you want to succeed in the future", which was a journey that Unilever was on through the Foundry. Working collaboratively enables large business to invest in new ideas without what Mathieu calls the "fear of failure."

Mathieu said the business sends its marketers to events including SXSW and CES to meet start-ups and gain new ideas, through he admitted that in the beginning embracing this way of thinking wasn’t easy because it "was not the common practice."

Through the Unilever Foundry, which he called a "platform for collaboration and also a framework to experiment," the business could reach out to entrepreneurs and start-ups with briefs for its brands. It cited Magnum’s ibeacon technology pilot as an example of a successful programme which started from one of the brands briefs.

"The first experiments we did were really an adventure for the start-ups and us, it brought new ideas, and brought new pioneering ideas and also took the fear failure away a little bit."

He added Unilever had put out 40-50 briefs, several of which were now active.

Earlier this month, Mathieu told Marketing one of the main challenges for marketers is that they are scared to fail.

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