Q&A with Unilever’s Bea Joson on Segmenting Brand Portfolio

Bea Joson is the Deodorants Lead for Southeast Asia of Unilever. She won the Mansmith Young Market Masters Awards (YMMA) in 2020. In this interview, she shares her insights and experience on how to develop, manage and grow a portfolio of brands for maximum effectiveness and efficiency.

Q1: How do you ensure that each brand has a distinct target market and positioning?

A1: To ensure that each brand has a distinct target market and positioning, it is crucial to have a clear brand portfolio strategy. This strategy should define the role of each brand in every aspect of the marketing mix, including its proposition, benefits, price point, format, lead, channel, and source of business. By segmenting the market in this way, you can minimize cannibalization and ensure that each brand serves a unique purpose and resonates with a specific group of consumers.

Q2: Has there been unexpected overlap between brands? How do you address cannibalization?

A2: Absolutely. As the Deodorants Lead for Unilever, I have firsthand experience managing a portfolio of three brands that collectively hold over 50% market share. Inevitably, there will be some overlap between these brands, but it’s crucial to minimize cannibalization by having a clear portfolio strategy that covers every aspect of the marketing mix. This approach helps ensure that each brand has a specific role and target audience, ultimately leading to more effective and efficient marketing.

Q3: Can you share an example of a particularly challenging brand portfolio you’ve worked with and how you navigated it successfully?

A3: Rexona Men and Axe are the top two brands in the men’s deodorant category. Both brands are part of Unilever’s men’s deodorant portfolio, and to minimize cannibalization between them, we ensure they occupy different price points, formats, and benefit stories. Rexona Men is positioned at a lower price tier, emphasizing its efficacy attributes and leading in Deolotion and Rollon formats. Meanwhile, Axe is a more premium brand, renowned for its fragrance proposition, and is primarily led by its aerosol format. This differentiation in the portfolio strategy helps to target specific consumer segments and minimize overlap between the two brands.

Q4: How do you manage the complexity of maintaining multiple brands across the region, and what tools or processes do you use to streamline the management process?

A4: To effectively manage complexity across different regions, it’s crucial to simplify the brand portfolio by launching the same brands across all regions, except in cases where there are significant country-specific nuances. By implementing this approach, we can achieve economies of scale in our marketing campaigns, promotions, and supply chain capabilities. Furthermore, having the same brands across regions helps ensure consistency and efficiency in portfolio management. To ensure we have the right portfolio for each region, we utilize a single innovation process that cuts across all markets, enabling us to identify and develop new opportunities more effectively.

Q5: How do you communicate the overall brand portfolio strategy to internal and external stakeholders, and what methods have you found to be most effective?

A5: It’s essential to be clear about the source of business, specifically the target audience for each brand and how we plan to grow the business. For example, in the Deodorants category in the Philippines, our goal is to increase deodorant usage among Filipinos, as penetration is still low. To achieve this, we segment our brand portfolio based on gender, formats, benefits, and price points, ensuring that we offer a range of options that cater to different consumer needs and preferences.

Q6: What advice would you give to young marketers on the steps they have to take to develop successful brand portfolios?

A6: Developing a successful brand portfolio requires marketers to conduct thorough market research to identify consumer needs and preferences, define a clear brand portfolio strategy, segment the portfolio to minimize cannibalization, strategically innovate, and communicate the strategy clearly to stakeholders. By following these steps, marketers can create brand portfolios that meet consumer needs, drive growth, and achieve long-term success.


Bea Joson will talk about “Measuring the Effectiveness of Pull and Push Marketing” during the 4th Mansmith Brand Summit on July 5-6, 2023. For details, please visit https://brandsummit.com.ph


Josiah Go is Chairman and Chief Innovation Strategist of Mansmith and Fielders Inc. 

See more articles on Branding Portfolio.

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