Becoming one of history’s most influential painters is no easy task. Pablo Picasso did it by being distinctive, disruptive and inspirational.
Over my past six years with Unilever, I’ve learned that if brands are to be as popular as his exquisitely crafted pictures, they must do the same. Today, as a senior brand manager working in China, I find that one Picasso quote in particular stands out.
“The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.”
The prolific painter could not have been more right. It is not enough for brands to be good at what they do. They must also identify their meaning – and transform it into real purpose. How do they help the people they serve? How do they give back to the communities they are a part of?
The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.Kaan Camgoz
Making magic happen
Six years ago, I became my five-year-old nephew’s favourite person. I had joined the Unilever Future Leaders Programme – but what my nephew really loved was that my Unilever journey was beginning in the ice cream category. This is the gift of ice cream: making kids happy. It is not always such an easy task.
Around the world, children face big inequalities – even though they are the ones least accountable. I had always wanted to remedy this problem but, on my own, the reach I could have was limited.
When I joined Unilever, everything changed. I could take that gift of ice cream and use it to drive real change in people’s lives. When you combine your purpose with the purpose of a major company – that’s when the magic of empowerment happens! Our Movement In School project, for example, helped 230,000 kids get moving by encouraging them to exercise in an engaging and fun way.
Another project saw us go into 100 village schools and create an unforgettable memory for children facing poor economic conditions and tough winters in Turkey’s far east. As a welcome to the summer, we distributed free ice cream but with a twist: made it fall from the sky. The cheerful smiles of the children and the genuine thank you letters we received from the school teachers are still the most valued prizes of my career.
Many shades of purpose
Purpose is becoming more important day by day. Consumers, rightly, now expect to see the purpose behind the brands they use. When it is visible, people want to align themselves with it and collaborate to make the world a better place.
From Axe to Ben & Jerry’s, Hellmann’s to Surf, Wall’s to Lipton, there are many shades to Unilever – but all of our brands share the same purpose at their core: to build better lives and make sustainable living commonplace. Dove, for example, is not only a shampoo or soap, it also helps women across the world overcome beauty-related pressures.
I recently moved to my current position as Senior Brand Manager at Lipton. I’m now collaborating with 36,000 tea farmers to improve livelihoods – both economically and socially. It’s inspiring and motivating to know that although the brands may change, I will always be empowered to work with the same spirit, on a global scale, to advance the same purpose.
Crafting positive impact
Of course, if any company is to survive, achieving business results is an important and inevitable element of their strategy. The same is true of Unilever. Here, though, we are recognised and appreciated just as much when our work has a positive impact on people as we are when it drives up profits.
That’s because our kick-off point when crafting brands is to start with the people we are serving them to. Understanding the people we serve is critical to finding out what our brands can mean for them.
To create his magical paintings, Picasso combined visionary ideas and supreme technique. He was in possession of a technical mastery that allowed him to put his distinctive, disruptive and inspirational ideas onto canvas.
As a young person wanting to change the world, I saw the opportunity to do something similar: to combine my personal beliefs with that of an employer who would empower me to impact on a major scale.