Unilever's Esi Eggleston Bracey Talks Truth about Brand Purpose

By ANA InSites Archives
Cover image for  article: Unilever's Esi Eggleston Bracey Talks Truth about Brand Purpose

Esi Eggleston Bracey (pictured at top), Executive Vice President/COO Beauty and Personal Care at Unilever North America, is scheduled to speak at the ANA's Brand Masters Conference August 2-4 in 2021 in San Diego. ANA's Director of Communications John Wolfe recently interviewed her about her views on how brands can use service and action to inspire the people they serve.

John Wolfe: How can brands authentically attain purpose?

Esi Eggleston Bracey: For a brand to authentically attain purpose, consider two questions. First, what is your brand already well known for? And second, where are there large, unmet human, societal or planetary needs? An authentic brand purpose is found at the intersection of these two questions. This will help you discover where your brand can authentically add value and make an impact.

Importantly, brands need to act! Many think about purpose as why a brand exists. But at Unilever, purpose is beyond the why; [it's about] what we do. In fact, we reference "Brand Say" (what content messages we communicate to our audience) vs. "Brand Do." More "Brand Do" drives authenticity, and "Brand Say" that highlights the "Brand Do" can create a virtuous cycle of trust and impact.

Wolfe: How does your organization prove that brand purpose is critically important to a brand's successful growth?

Bracey: We look at several factors. Of course, the growth of a brand is one, but there are other important factors including a brand's association with purpose and the number of lives we reach and impact with our purpose efforts. Our experience at Unilever has shown that brands with purpose are growing faster, have more brand power and are having more impact.

Wolfe: How do brand purpose and brand sustainability connect?

Bracey: I'll give you an example of how they connect. Unilever Beauty and Personal Care's purpose is to be the beauty company that makes the most positive impact on people and the planet. We call this Positive Beauty. We think about sustainability in both an environmental and societal sense and strive to be people and planet positive. This means that our brands are making a meaningful and positive difference for individuals, communities, society and the planet. They both work together to create impact.

It's also important to note that it is critical that your brand have a point of view on sustainability, even if it is not at the core of your brand's purpose. We all have a responsibility to make a positive impact on the planet, and people are looking for ways to act. Your brand risks losing relevance and not being fit for the future if you don't.

Wolfe: How do the brands you oversee, such as Dove; Love, Beauty & Planet, and SheaMoisture, inspire your consumer base?

Bracey: We inspire our consumer base with meaningful action in areas that they care about and give them a call to action for people to get involved. For example:

  • On Dove, you can help champion for the passing of the CROWN Act to end race-based hair discrimination by going to thecrownact.com to sign the CROWN Act petition and send a letter to your local legislator.
  • With Love, Beauty & Planet, we're continuing to support our Love Beauty & Planet Project. We've awarded $100,000 to people and their projects that improve the well-being and health of our planet and the people on it by reducing carbon emissions. We had a fantastic group of grant winners in 2020 and are looking forward to awarding our 2021 grants.
  • Last summer, SheaMoisture and BROWN GIRL Jane joined forces to power #BrownGirlSwap, a $250,000 grant fund initiative in support of independent beauty and wellness brands created by people of color. This program challenged everyone to commit to replacing at least five of their "go-to" beauty and wellness products with brands owned by Black women.

Wolfe: What does the concept of "brands for humans" mean to you?

Bracey: At Unilever, we believe in the shift from "consumer-centricity" -- or being mostly concerned with how people consume products and services -- to "human-centricity," or caring and being concerned about the whole person, our humanity, our lives, our communities, our planet. We are all more than people who consume products. As human-centric brands, we want to be of service to our entire humanity. That's how you authentically connect. Of course, your brand needs to be clear on its product benefit, but purpose enables you to be human-centric and be thoughtful about what more your brand can do to have a human positive impact.

Wolfe: Do certain product or service categories lend themselves to the idea of brand purpose more than others? What advice would you give to brands trying to connect to their consumers with purpose?

Bracey: It's certainly easier to embrace brand purpose in some product categories (health and wellness, financial services, etc.). However, I believe that almost all brands can create a meaningful purpose and impact. There are so many large unmet needs, problems and opportunities in the world to address. You just must pick an area that is consistent with what your brand is known for and an area [in which] you can make a meaningful impact. We can use our own humanity and deep connectivity to the needs and world around us, combined with our creativity to unlock where your brand can authentically make a difference and connect with people through purpose.

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