Understanding the meaning of Protection in Modern Mums’ lives to drive momentum for Unilever Smile

The first step towards bringing a brand back in touch with their consumer is often a step back: observing from afar the rules that govern the decision-making in the consumers’ day to day life.

Unilever Smile Toothpaste came to us last year with a brand platform centred around ‘protection’, but a limited understanding of the role it played in lives of its core audience: Modern Mums.

Our task was twofold: create a real and inspiring portrayal of the role of protection in modern Mums’ lives and provide guidance on how Protection can be landed in the brand in a way which was relevant, progressive and authentic.

One step back: identifying each market’s core parenting values

Going into the research, we had one key insight as our foundation: the way we parent, and in turn choose to protect our children, is often centred around the way in which we’ve been brought up ourselves.

While each wave of new parents- and particular ‘modern parents’ – seek to bring new techniques and values distinct from their own upbringing to the fore, more often than not, when things get tough or unknown, they’ll slip back into the values instilled into them as a child.

By starting the research exploring these values and how they differed in each of our three markets (France, Vietnam and Indonesia), we had a solid framework from which to understand the key tensions surrounding protection.

One step forward: getting to the heart of protection

With our framework in place, we used mobile ethnography to get Unilever as close possible to protection moments between mother and child as they happened in real time.

We designed a threefold task structure, focussing on:

  1. The when to identify  live ‘protection’ moments the occured over the course of a week
  2. The how – asking them how they protect their children in these moments
  3. The tensions – bringing together the Mums into a live chat platform to tease out what makes protection hard and easy as a parent

Insights: The hidden weigh up underlying protection

While the values that shaped the behaviours around ‘protection’ varied by cultural upbringing, we found all three markets looked towards one ultimate act of protection: self-reliance.

Far from a reactionary act, protection for our Mums was a calculated act: a constant weigh up of “how do I keep them safe vs give them the freedom to build self-reliance?”

Applying this insight to the brand, we identified key areas of opportunity for Smile to enable their mums to build self-reliance in their children in ways that they didn’t feel they had to sacrifice.

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