FMCG: Getting social with multi-brand corporates

It’s a new month, so it’s time for a new theme here at 1000heads HQ. For March we’re going to be talking about all things FMCG. So where to start?

Having worked with a fair number of larger FMCG brands in the past, today I want to talk about corporations that manage large multi-brand portfolios. Should they be involved in social? What are the options? Who’s doing it already (and who isn’t) and of course, who’s doing it well?

Let’s say you’re Unilever.

You’ve got 40+ sub-brands (in the UK alone) operating under the Unilever banner, each executing their own marketing campaigns (with varying degrees of social media throughout) should you as a global umbrella brand, be embracing social media to help further your cause and message?

And if so, how do you go about employing that strategy without over-shadowing your sub-brands like Lynx/Axe or Dove.

In a word; yes, you should be embracing social media to further your cause – whether it’s highlighting the fantastic work that your sub-brands are doing across the world, finding new ways to humanise your corporate image or simply engaging with those showing an interest in your company culture – this is an easy win.

Keeping Unilever as the example for a second (and using the highly scientific method of typing ‘brandname on twitter’ into Google), you can see the following

There they are, top three results all seem to be Unilever branded presences each pushing out their own necessary messages.

The number one result, Unilever Global Media.

Branded and official, the presence hasn’t tweeted since April 21st 2010. Up until that point, the stream is mainly made up of RTs of various Unilever stories and has little to no actual engagement with its 900+ followers. Now admittedly, the Unilever Press team do a good job here, but the global media presence is being severely overlooked.

Must try harder.

How to make it better?
Re-start the feed, get someone from the global media team (and who cares about social) behind it and start engaging with the community. From just a cursory look around their website, Unilever has some amazing stories to tell; both from an umbrella/global perspective and on a local/sub-brand level. Come out and tell us about them!

A brief interlude —

Before we go any further, we have to make one thing clear:


However, it is a good litmus test on where a brand’s social strategy (if it has one) is at. From the Unilever perspective it seems like someone thought it might be a good idea to start a Twitter account and then has either let it die off or has been slapped down by corporate comms (this happens more regularly than we’d like to think).

Either way, something has been started here and it would be a shame to see it go amiss.
Moving on.

Looking elsewhere, to Diageo for example, the world’s leading premium drinks company has a top three ranking also –

Number one is @Diageo. Perfect, right? Wrong. But, before we get to that, let’s look at what comes in at number two – @boycottdiageo!

Even though they haven’t tweeted since 2009 AND the fact that their blog presence doesn’t seem to be linking through any more, this is isn’t exactly a great look for the Johnnie Walker brand owners.

Coming back to the top entry for a second, with a paltry 53 followers and zero activity to date, @Diageo is another wasted opportunity for another large umbrella brand. This time ’round mind there’s extra losses with the ‘Boycott Diageo’ name appearing at number two.

Potentially problematic (but easily solved)

How to make it better?
First, kick start the Diageo Twitter feed with a proactive ‘telling our story’ engagement strategy [linking to both corporate comms and any ongoing marketing efforts], as well as a super hot reactive strategy that not only nullifies any untruths being communicated about the company as a whole, but also has a keen eye out for potential long term advocates/new business.
Yes, B2B over Twitter. Amazing, I know.

Second, roll out departmental streams reflective of those that live front and centre at, i.e.: News & Media, Careers, CSR etc… The benefit here will be two fold: not only would it sharpen the messaging but it would also help push down that nasty (and dead) ‘boycott’ stream that currently lives in Google’s search rankings.

Let’s try one more —

@UnitedBiscuits are the manufacturer of biscuits, savoury snacks and crisps including McVitie’s, Penguin, go ahead!, Jacob’s, Twiglets, Hula Hoops, Mini Cheddars, McCoy’s, and KP. I know this because they have it in their bio.

Perfect! That’s a start guys…

In comparison to the other large multi-brand corps I’ve covered so far, United Biscuits actually seems quite active – their stream includes a healthy mix of Corp PR, HR shouts and the occasional customer care fix too.

A great foundation (now it’s time to build)

How to make it better?
The recommendation here would be to more clearly define the objective of this channel and then, once this is in place, amplify and engage accordingly with clear owners defined by industry-wide accepted standards.


In conclusion –

OK, so I know the methods involved here aren’t the most scientific in the world and I also know that social media engagement is not judged on Twitter alone. We’ve kind of established that already.

However, if you’re asking yourself should multi-brand FMCG companies have their own online strategy? Then the answer has to be a clear YES.

Day in and day out these multi-national businesses face communications battles that have to be fought across many different fronts both online and off. Making sure that your social media channels are both owned and active is should be par for the course for the brands listed above and more. Be it PR & corp comms, CSR, HR & recruitment (grad schemes etc) or simply highlighting the latest and greatest sub-brand work.

This is one trick that you cannot afford to miss.

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Author: James Whatley

Experienced advertising and communications strategist working in brand, games, and entertainment. I got ❤️ for writing, gaming, and figuring stuff out. I'm @whatleydude pretty much everywhere that matters. Nice to meet you x

4 thoughts on “FMCG: Getting social with multi-brand corporates”

  1. Great article! You would think that this would be a no brainer for brands like Unilever, which started promoting the Unilever brand a few years ago. Seems to be that even big brands are missing the social media trick (having a social media team?).

  2. It's amazing that Unilever, who have made a conscious decision to position the corporate brand on a platform of 'vitality' ( has still not embraced Twitter. Others, like Kraft and P&G (who follow a more brand-led strategy) however, are doing it brilliantly, knowing that they can connect, listen, react and resolve across the whole business.

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