Case Detail

Case Summary

Unilever's Mission for Vitality

Case Number: 5-307-501, Year Published: 2007

HBS Number: KEL364

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Authors: David Austen-Smith; Adam Galinsky; K. H. Chung; C. LaVanway

Key Concepts

Values, Corporate Culture, Organizational Structure, Brand


Dove and Axe were two highly successful brands owned by Unilever, a portfolio company. Dove was a female-oriented beauty product brand that exhorted “real beauty” and not the unachievable standards that the media portrayed. In contrast, Axe was a brand that purportedly “gives men the edge in the mating game.” Their risqué commercials always portrayed the supermodel-type beauty ideal that Dove was trying to change. Unilever had always been a company of brands where the consumer knew the brands but not the company; but recently there had been the idea to unify the company with an umbrella mission for all of its brands. This would turn Unilever into a company with brands, potentially increasing consumer awareness and encourage cross-purchases between the different brands. However, this raised the question about conflicting messages between the brands’ marketing campaigns, most notably between Unilever’s two powerhouse brands, Dove and Axe.

The case starts with COO Alan Jope thinking about an upcoming press meeting in New York City to discuss Unilever’s current (2005) performance and announce Unilever’s decision to create an umbrella mission statement for the company. The case is focused on the central question of whether or not consistency between brand messages is necessary or inherently problematic.

The Unilever’s Mission for Vitality case was created to help students and managers develop an appreciation for how the values underlying a marketing campaign can affect and alter an organization’s culture. The case focuses on how two products/marketing campaigns that express conflicting underlying values (as reflected in the Dove Real Beauty and the Axe Effect campaigns) within the same corporation can give rise to a number of unintended organizational and marketing complications.The learning objective of the case is to develop, first, an appreciation of how the expressed values underlying a marketing campaign can affect internal corporate culture and, therefore, how two products with conflicting underlying values (in this case, those reflected in the Dove and Axe campaigns) within a given corporation (in this case, Unilever) can give rise to organizational and marketing complications. And second, to explore how managers might best anticipate and respond to the conflicts inherent in such complications.

Number of Pages: 13

Extended Case Information

Teaching Areas: Marketing, Strategy

Teaching Note Available: Yes

Geographic: United States

Industry: Consumer Foods, Beverages, Cleaning Agents, and Personal Care Products

Organization Name: Unilever Home and Personal Care

Organization Department: Management

Organization Size: Large

Decision Maker Position: COO

Decision Maker Gender: Male

Year of Case: 2005