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Unilever and Fragrance: Emotion and Function

By: Jeb Gleason-Allured, with Rachel Grabenhofer
Posted: May 13, 2010

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Now entering a third phase of its revitalized fragrance strategy, the focus is on driving fragrance excellence. “Now,” says Bartoletti, “fragrance is one of the most important capabilities within the company.” She adds that “it’s a very strong communication point” in the growth of brands.

Neal Matheson, Unilever’s chief technology officer, reinforces this: “We should be at the forefront of using fragrance as a basis to drive business growth. Fragrance has been a big part of consumer acceptance forever. We’ve [developed] more in-depth understanding of how fragrances work. In the final analysis, you’re driving consumer acceptance.”

Matheson developed his appreciation for olfactive excellence during previous roles at P&G and Johnson & Johnson. He frames his current responsibilities in terms of long-term business opportunities, of which fragrance is a focal point. “We want to use technology, we want to use partnerships and different kinds of experimentation—all of those drive growth.”

Leveraging Global Knowledge for Fragrance Excellence

Bartoletti coordinates with a global team of fragrance managers who combine fragrance expertise with an in-depth understanding of their respective brands and of local and regional consumer preferences. The team is responsible for hitting hedonic and functional targets, serving the world’s “olfactive territories” in several basic product categories: skin care/soaps, deodorants, laundry (fabric care/conditioner), household cleaning, oral care and hair care. Brands themselves range from multinational giants to highly regional entities.

Seeking to “participate in fragrance development,” Bartoletti has worked with her team to establish best practices guidelines, a common olfactory language, and fragrance training for internal experts at Givaudan’s perfumery school, ensuring productive dialogue with fragrance houses.