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Vaseline has been a vital addition to bathroom cabinets, make-up bags and first-aid kits for 150 years – but age certainly isn’t slowing it down. In fact Vaseline is one of the fastest-growing brands in Unilever.
Beloved for its ability to gently soothe, smooth and heal skin, this enduring brand has come a long way since Brooklyn-based chemist Robert Chesebrough patented the process of making purified petroleum jelly. In his patent application, he mentioned that his product could be used to treat chapped hands and as a hair pomade. But Vaseline really took off when women began applying the affordable product to lashes, lips and skin – and evangelising about the results to their friends.
Fast-forward a century and a half and, once again, Vaseline is seeing a sustained surge in sales thanks in part to a new demographic of skincare enthusiasts extolling its virtues – this time on social media. A viral trend known as ‘slugging’, where beauty fans sleep with their face covered in Vaseline Jelly and wake to a radiant complexion, has inspired devotion among legions of Generation Z followers. In August 2022, the hashtag #Slugging had more than 415 million views on TikTok alone, with countless users celebrating the benefits of Vaseline’s glow-giving powers.
But beauty trends aren’t the only reason for Vaseline’s lasting popularity. Its longstanding purpose, premium product innovations, digital evolution and well-timed entry to new markets all add up to a winning formula – along with many years of affection.
Here are five factors behind Vaseline’s 15 decades of success…
150 years of brand love
Vaseline has been part of skincare routines for more than a century. What started with a little pot of skin-healing jelly has since expanded to a portfolio including lip balms, body lotions, deodorants, hand creams and more – all carrying the Vaseline name, and with it decades of trust from generations of users.
Now sold in more than 70 countries and a staple in millions of homes around the globe, Vaseline experienced a revival when Covid-19 hit. As consumers craved products they knew and loved, many shifted back to established, familiar brands with long-earned reputations for superior skincare.
Local and global growth
Vaseline started out in the United States, and that’s still the brand’s biggest market. It continues to grow there in double digits – and now its success is echoed all over the world.
On the other side of the globe in Asia, Vaseline has seen extremely strong results. It launched in India in 1947 and Thailand in the 1980s, and its performance in both countries outstripped forecasts last year. But China’s results are perhaps the most impressive. Vaseline relaunched there in 2015 and has posted very strong growth figures every year since. The country is now the brand’s second-biggest market worldwide.
In India, Vaseline took a strategic step in 2022 to extend its relevance beyond nourishing winter skincare by launching a summer range of body serums catering to the demand spaces of sun protection and brightening. With very light, non-sticky formulas designed for tropical heat conditions, the new products are performing well, positioning the brand for future growth.
Iconic products and premium lines
Vaseline is enjoying strong growth across its portfolio – from the iconic original Healing Jelly and ever-popular Intensive Care lotions to newer innovations.
The brand’s Pro Derma line is one such example, featuring cutting-edge technology developed in Unilever labs. Across the business, we have a team of Research & Development specialists, including over 200 PhDs, working on skincare science to ensure our brands deliver superior benefits.
A breakthrough innovation from our experts that’s been introduced to Vaseline is our Pro Derma technology. It allows skin-nourishing ingredients to penetrate deep into the epidermis to rebuild and restore ceramides – the ‘glue’ which regulates the skin’s natural barrier. Pro Derma is clinically proven to double the skin barrier’s strength from its first use.
Since launching the premium Pro Derma line in China, sales have rocketed and the range now accounts for 20% of Vaseline’s business in the country. Other advanced ingredients in the Pro Derma portfolio include niacinamide and hyaluronic acid, delivering on consumer demands.
Future-fit digital presence
Vaseline is stocked in supermarkets, small-scale retailers and chemists all over the world – but online sales have taken off significantly for the brand in recent years too, particularly in Asia.
India and Indonesia have both seen strong increases in online sales, and in China, digital commerce is the primary way Vaseline reaches and sells to consumers. The brand has launched successful partnerships with e-commerce giants Alibaba and Tmall and frequently works with influencers to demonstrate products and showcase superiority in a crowded beauty market.
The online slugging skincare trend, which shows no sign of abating, created a huge buzz for the brand and has led to the classic Vaseline Jelly tub being the brand’s highest-performing product in the past year. And by collaborating with influencers and digital creators to promote new product launches, Vaseline has connected with a large audience of young consumers, winning affection and future-proofing the brand for generations to come.
Purpose and equity
Vaseline exists to give every body healthy skin to live without limits. Since 2015, the brand has partnered with the humanitarian organisation Direct Relief on the Vaseline Healing Project. Through this, Vaseline provides dermatological care, medical supplies, products, health care worker training, and patient education to help heal the skin of millions affected by emergencies and poverty around the world.
The programme aims to triple its reach from 1 million to 3 million people per year by 2030. Vaseline’s purpose is able to successfully drive growth because it is articulated in a way that is locally relevant while remaining consistent around the world.
In the US, for example, Vaseline made equity a vital element of its brand purpose. In 2020, the brand launched its ‘Equitable Skin Care for All’ initiative, partnering with Medscape to better equip dermatologists and medical practitioners to accurately treat, diagnose and care for melanin-rich skin.
Vaseline is also working with healthcare tech startup HUED to connect patients with medical professionals who understand their cultural, physical and mental health needs. Through this partnership, Vaseline co-created a search tool to help people identify dermatologists of colour and those experienced in treating melanin-rich skin. Vaseline and HUED also worked with VisualDx’s clinical decision support system to create the only online database designed for people to search conditions on skin of colour.
It is clear that at 150 years, the Vaseline brand is the original that never goes out of style. Fuelled by new technology based on a deep understanding of how skin works, innovation to meet the diverse needs of consumers all over the world, and a commitment to skin health for all, Vaseline is ready for its next 150 years.
Brands taking action for people and the planet grew 69% faster than the rest of our business last year. Now we’re committing that in the future, every Unilever brand will be a brand with purpose.
Congratulations to Dove, Vaseline, Sir Kensington’s, OMO and Hindustan Unilever for winning at this year’s International Festival of Creativity