Case Study | How Unilever protects consumers from counterfeits and controls its digital footprint

Case Study | How Unilever protects consumers from counterfeits and controls its digital footprint

About Unilever

Established over 100 years ago, Unilever is one of the world’s largest consumer goods companies. The company is known for its great brands, a global footprint and its belief in doing business the right way.

Unilever operates over 400 brand names and employs over 149,000 people across 190 countries. It is a global company with a global purpose.

Unilever’s Key Brand Protection Issues

1. Threat of online counterfeiting 

As with every multinational FMCG company, Unilever grapples with counterfeiters exploiting its brands. Following the rapid growth in e-commerce, counterfeiters have shifted their criminal operations online. Unilever’s team recognized this and set out to develop a strong program to support and protect its brands in the digital ecosystem. 

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2. Siloed working across the Brand Protection function 

Unilever’s large global team and regional coverage led to siloed working. Prior to working with Incopro, it was very difficult for the team to make large, connected takedowns. It was impossible for the team to connect its online and offline activities, so it were unable to see a holistic picture of the illicit activities impacting Unilever brands. Unilever stressed the need for a solution that would facilitate collaboration and data sharing.

3. No visibility of digital footprint 

Legitimate assets, imagery, and messaging found online comprise a brand’s “digital footprint”. Unilever’s team identified that it did not have a technology solution in-house that enabled them to monitor and analyze the sprawling digital footprints of its brands. It was essential that a solution was brought in to help Unilever gain visibility of its legitimate online presence and control it. 

Choosing Incopro

To be able to find a best-in-class Brand Protection vendor, Unilever engaged in a global benchmarking exercise. The team took a step back to evaluate its requirements across the different digital channels accessed by its consumers, such as marketplaces, e-commerce websites, and social media. 

Focusing on impact, not number of takedowns  

A key requirement was delivering commercial impact for the business. Unilever previously worked with a number of vendors in the Brand Protection space, but they would focus on the number of takedowns rather than securing a lasting reduction in brand misuse. Now, Unilever applies advanced network analysis to connect the dots to understand the players behind the illicit listings and take down entire companies and their online operations, not just individual accounts. 

Incopro was selected as Unilever’s best-in-class supplier upon review of all other vendors within the market. The partnership focuses on cross-functional collaboration and a shared understanding of Unilever’s overall strategy – rather than just providing data dumps of listings. 

Advanced technology to meet Unilever’s needs 

Incopro’s market-leading Brand Protection technology, Talisman, was a core driver behind Unilever’s decision. With sophisticated detection capabilities and a robust threat-prioritization system, Unilever is now able to swiftly identify and remove the key threats facing its consumers, cleaning up critical e-commerce channels. 

“One of the reasons that we selected Incopro was due to Talisman’s advanced Network Analysis tool and the capabilities this provides.”

Claire Hendey, Global Brand Protection and IP Operations and Systems Manager at Unilever

Managing Unilever’s digital footprint 

A core focus area of Incopro and Unilever’s partnership is monitoring and analyzing the legitimate digital presence for Unilever’s brand portfolio, with the goal of improving the “footprint” left behind. This is an essential activity for when the messaging, imagery, or overall strategy of a Unilever brand is pivoted.

Example: Beauty product rebrand 

Two years ago the strategy for a beauty brand within Unilever’s portfolio shifted, refreshing the brand name and associated messaging. With Incopro’s technology, the brand’s team was able to identify that nearly 80% of the images that were still being broadcast online were from old marketing packs and no longer relevant to the brand.

This enabled the team to isolate past digital content and remove it from websites, marketplaces, and social media platforms to prevent consumer confusion.

Flagging high-risk parallel imports

Unilever has a large portfolio of brands available across countless territories and regions. Each territory will have its own regulatory regime, and products will need approval before being distributed. Additional to discovering counterfeits and brand misuse, Talisman flags parallel import goods that are being sold in territories without regulatory approval, preventing reputational damage and potential penalties.

Example: Products being imported into US without approval

Talisman revealed that 70% of US listings for one of Unilever’s global beauty brands were being shipped from India, and the products likely did not have FDA approval. Prior to partnering with Incopro, Unilever’s brand teams had little visibility of parallel imports and could not proactively enforce against high-risk listings.

“Incopro provides the best capabilities to spot this content and to make sure that we are in control of taking it down.”  

Svetlana Tsareva, General Counsel Skin Care, Prestige and Head of Brand Protection at Unilever

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Working collaboratively with an eye to the future

“Our brand teams can look towards the future to be able to see how they can better protect their assets online. We’ve also been able to provide more whitespace analysis and feedback to the business around this area. It’s provided a great deal more clarity for us than we’ve ever had before.”

Claire Hendey, Global Brand Protection and IP Operations and Systems Manager at Unilever

This is just the first step in a greater strategic direction. Unilever want to build a connected ecosystem which gives all of its collaborators, third-party suppliers, and wider team a global hub, enabling the company to be agile and responsive as the e-commerce landscape continues to evolve. Incopro will be instrumental in helping to set this up.

Partnering with Incopro has given Unilever the ability to monitor activity across all digital channels and markets. Harnessing this data, the Unilever’s Brand Protection teams can collaborate together better and work alongside teams from the wider business, such as e-commerce and marketing functions.

“I would highly recommend working with Incopro, not only because of its amazing Talisman technology which helps to understand and analyze the digital space, but also because of the high level of collaboration, communication and partnership which makes the whole working experience exceptional.”

Svetlana Tsareva, General Counsel Skin Care, Prestige and Head of Brand Protection at Unilever

Online Brand Protection Maturity Report: The 4 stages to maximizing your brand’s strategic potential

As they mature, brand protection teams become increasingly strategic – able not only to counter threats, but to identify new growth opportunities for the business. 

This report outlines the four stages of this journey, helping you recognize where your organization currently sits, the tools you can use to progress, and the value to be achieved by doing so.

Online Brand Protection Maturity Report: The 4 stages to maximizing your brand’s strategic potential

Protect consumers online and gain full visibility of your brand’s digital footprint

Talisman systematically scrapes the internet using machine learning technology and detects brand misuse visible to your consumers on e-commerce websites, marketplaces, social media, paid search, and more. 

For Unilever, Talisman’s capability to uncover the true scale of online brand misuse paired with Incopro’s expert insights on managing its brands’ digital footprint has been instrumental in protecting consumers from harmful products and ensuring brand messaging is aligned across online and offline channels. 

Whether you’re a midsize organization or a Fortune 500 enterprise, our Brand Protection solutions enable you to protect your critical digital channels, safeguard consumer trust, and drive real ROI. Talk to our experts to find out why Incopro is the right choice for you. 

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