Nikki Wicks
Jan 16, 2015

Unilever fires up its 'Foundry' with three briefs for Asia

The Unilever Foundry, a global initiative to connect Unilever brands with the startup community, has announced three new project briefs with a specific focus on Asia.

Marc Mathieu
Marc Mathieu

The new briefs call for startups to develop consumer engagement solutions for Unilever’s Clear, Lux and Lifebouy brands (see details below). Successful pitches will be granted US$50,000 (for each brief) and the opportunity to pilot their technology with Unilever and work with brand mentors.

“Marketing is being reinvented, largely by the startup community," Marc Mathieu, senior vice president of global marketing, told Campaign Asia-Pacific ahead of the launch of The Foundry in Singapore last night (Unilever announced the global Foundry project in May. "They are more likely to invent something that’s never been done before than somebody who’s got a business model that depends on the way we’ve done things for years.”

Since it launched in London in May last year, Mathieu said that around 50 briefs had gone through the platform, with more than US$3 million being invested by a number of Unilever brands.

“We’ve been very happy with the pace in which people have embraced this,” he said. “Very often when you launch something new, people are little bit on the fence. It’s been interesting to see that very quickly, both on the projects as well as on the mentoring side, the brands are seeing the benefits for themselves.”

Unilever Foundry overview.

Mathieu added that The Foundry has allowed brands to test new technologies and ideas much faster than in the traditional model. “We are a big machine,” he said. “So if you want to answer a question, you can write a multiple-page deck to brief multiple agencies, and a year (and a few million dollars later) you’re still working on it. Whereas by putting it on a startup with a brief on The Foundry, very quickly you can see various solutions and then test them and learn.”

Whilst the three new briefs announced yesterday focus on brands with significant presence in Asia, they are open to the global startup community. Mathieu acknowledged that it’s “less likely that New York comes up with a solution for Lifebuoy because the brand doesn’t exist in the US."

More than 250 people including members of the startup community, entrepreneurs and marketers attended last evening's launch at Unilever’s Singapore office. A number of startups had displays at the event and several were invited to carry out three-minute pitch, selling their innovations to many of Unilever's brand marketers.

Speaking at the launch, Peter Ter-Kulve, Unilever’s chairman, Southeast Asia and Australasia, said that he believed Asia would lead the rest of the world in marketing innovations.

“Our whole business model is changing very rapidly, and in order for us to manage that we need to create a new ecosystem," he said, adding that the Foundry can provide "an ecosystem of partners, technology providers, startups, bigger companies who can help us do fast moving consumer goods business in a different way".

While the industry in Europe and North America isn't growing very fast, less money is available for for innovation. "And we are here at this unbelievable sweet spot, where we have the talent, the technology and the cash to drive real change," he said. "I really believe that the next marketing revolution in FMCG is going to start in Asia, and we are going to lead it.”

New briefs led by Unilever brands from Singapore

Clear: Developing confidence

As an anti-dandruff brand, Clear helps people have “Nothing to hide”—in both their grooming and their attitude. We want to encourage young adults who are ready to court scrutiny.... We are looking for partners with ideas that can help young adults, who have nothing to hide, raise their social net worth by leveraging existing social media platforms.

Lux: Building community

Lux is the No.1 soap in the world, with a strong footprint in developing and emerging markets. At Lux, we believe that beauty shouldn’t be about hard work but about pleasure. is a social platform that helps Lux Lovers feel and do fabulous, with inspiring editorial content around fragrance, fashion and beauty. We are looking for partners that can help us make our social platform in Indonesia, a self-sustainable platform driven by the community.

Lifebuoy: Preventing disease

Lifebuoy is the world's #1 selling germ protection soap and a worldwide leader bringing better health and hygiene to billions. One of Lifebuoy’s objectives is to empower and enlighten mums to keep their family one step ahead of infections. We are looking for innovative technology that can enable Lifebuoy to identify disease ‘hot-spots’ real time, and to alert moms by providing them with information and interventions to take preventative health measures in order to protect their family.


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