150 million times a day, across 150 countries, someone chooses to bring a Unilever product into their life. Though it had evolved into a silent, city-facing, holding company, Unilever had an interesting history. Port Sunlight – a model village in north-western England – was built by the Lever brothers in the 19th century to provide decent living conditions for factory workers.

It also had an unwieldy brand portfolio, encompassing 1,600 disparate products. It was clear the company was too diffuse, with an abundance of brands and no unifying driver of growth. There was an opportunity to connect the products and bring Unilever out of the shadows, towards their customers.

The visible hand
Rather than a hidden owner of brands, we helped Unilever become a visible business focussed around a singular idea: “adding vitality to life.” We put this at the heart of the organisation by designing workplaces, transforming the recruitment process, training employees and inventing new products. We also developed a ‘vitality key’ and trimmed the range from 1,600 to just 400 brands.
A public face
This internal change needed to be reflected externally. We created a fresh visual identity, at the core of which was a logo that featured 25 icons representing Unilever’s many brands.
Seen from a distance, the U-shaped logo is solid and unified. It is only on closer inspection that the diversity and constituent parts become evident. Supporting the logo was a new, handwritten wordmark, which added warmth and humanity.

“You could now expect something from a Unilever product, rather than just know that it was a sister product of this or that”

Brian Boylan, Chairman, Wolff Olins

Unilever businesses across 100 countries embraced the vitality brand idea. It was used to guide decisions on investment, exit and innovation. In turn this yielded great financial results: over the course of 2004, Unilever’s leading brands grew by 3.7% under the “Vitality Mission”, while operating profit grew at an average of 15% a year for four consecutive years.

The logo, with wordmark, now appears on every Unilever product, on shelves throughout the world.