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Unilever's 360 degrees of success

Cost savings are commonly associated with a compromise to consumers. But Suave's package redesign shows that a brand can have it all through integrated planning.

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Product marketers often ask this question: How can we validate the value of package design for senior management? For Unilever's Suave brand, the answer comes by letting the new design pull itself into the market through quantifiable cost savings and consumer benefits instead of the marketing department pushing a design that fails to link anticipated benefits to the overall business strategy.

Unilever succeeds by meeting two internal objectives in restaging its Suave Naturals shampoo and body wash lines and its Suave Professionals shampoo line. The company communicates each line's price-value relationship more effectively to consumers while also reducing production costs. Input from a cross-functional team guided the process, and Unilever has achieved the following results:

- The company increased dollar sales volume for the Suave Professionals line by 51% and unit volume growth by 12%, even with a retail price increase for the line.

-Dollar sales volume for the everyday Suave Naturals line increased 3% and unit volume grew 2% during the new packaging's first 12 weeks on the shelf.

-Unilever achieved these results in part by integrating visual cues of shape, color, and texture, yet avoiding frivolous decoration, to communicate Suave's niche as a quality product at the right price. Unilever switched to a wider cap and lighter-weight materials to deliver visual impact while also reducing costs.

"Not only is the major redesign of our relatively generic bottle a major win for our consumers, but the added production efficiencies and cost savings for Unilever made it a true win-win situation," says Eric Yoch, senior brand development manager at Unilever. "The growth in sales volume has exceeded our expectations and solidified our leadership of the value segment."

Yoch explains that the success of this project owes in large part to early internal discussions among multiple departments at Unilever that also included an outside design firm and packaging vendors. It was essential, he says, for everyone involved to understand not only Unilever's business and consumer needs, but also its manufacturing capabilities prior to launching the creative stage.

The results of the package redesign for Suave Professionals and Suave Naturals show what can be achieved when all interests are considered upfront in package redesign and development. When the right design with the right materials can also produce a cost savings, it's logical for everyone to support the redesign.

For the complete Suave story, see the June issue of Packaging World.

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