Seeing old brands in a new light


Unilever own a ton of iconic brands: Marmite. Hellmann’s. Lynx. They’re ubiquitous. Mundane, even. Challenged with helping people fall back in love with Unilever brands, we found that they already were. But for unexpected reasons.


Unilever’s overarching strategy was to get people to fall back in love with their brands. We set out to understand why people might have lost the romance they once had. We very quickly found that people can’t really love bleach, or mayonnaise, and it’s difficult to fall in love with a Pot Noodle. But they can love what the products allow them to do.


There was a big opportunity here to get people within Unilever to start looking at their brands a bit differently, to see that they’re not the ultimate highlight of people’s days. We wanted to encourage Unilever and its marketers to challenge the idolatry of the brand image, and start speaking to people on a level that they can relate to. The domestic nature of a lot of Unilever brands means they’re more about convenience than status.


In our research we had found the people were repurposing Unilever products for other uses. Peperami Firestick is apparently a very good carp bait FYI. If we could show these hacked, bastardised products and brands, maybe we could get Unilever to see that it’s OK to challenge the brand guidelines once in a while. Afterall, once the products leave the factory they’re out of their control.


This idea became an exhibition called Reform. We worked with 8 of the world’s best designers and creatives to reimagine Unilever product for other uses, and displayed them at the Unilever party at Cannes. We also showcased examples of products that had been subverted through necessity, like the Coke bottle light that allows natural light into ad-hoc dwellings in the Brazilian slums. Even the identity was made from reappropriating Unilever products. All Unliever’s retained agencies and marketers were present to be provoked.

Persil Lilo by Studio Swine

Domestos Drawing Machine by La Bolleur

Axe Air-Horn by Oak Studio

Hellmann's Dumbbells by Lernert & Sander

The graphic identity uses elements from product logos and packaging

Having fun with an air-horn

Key Learning

Proving something is many more times powerful than explaining it.