We’re in London on our way to meet Fernando Machado, the Global Brand Development vice-president for Dove at Unilever.
“This guy is the walking definition of a brand guru,” says Anouk as we catch a cab outside the hotel. “He’s already won 27 Lions in his marketing career and he’s the brains behind that incredible Dove campaign.”
“Which one?” I ask, “there were many good ones.”
“‘Dove Real Beauty Sketches’, you know the one about women’s self-image that went viral,” says Anouk. “It’s become the most-watched piece of branded content in history with more than 170 million total online views.”
“I know the one – it’s really cool,” I say.
“That’s what this year’s panel at the Lions in Cannes thought too: the Sketches campaign won 19 Lions at Cannes 2013, including the Titanium Grand Prix!”
“Wow,” I say. “I’m curious to hear Fernando’s story!”
We’ve arranged to meet him at a café in Notting Hill and find him sitting at a table by the window. After the usual Brazilian hug, we sit down and order a round of coffees.
“Looks like you’ve lost some of your Brazilian habits,” I say, “you’re not only not late, you’re even 10 minutes early!”
Fernando laughs. “Well, after living in Mexico, the US and UK for so many years, I must have lost the habit along the way.”
“So how long have you been working for Dove?” Anouk asks.
“Three years,” says Fernando. “But almost 17 years for Unilever.”
“Wow, quite a track record!” I say.
“I started in Brazil, then moved on to Mexico and the US, then went back to Brazil again and now I’ve been in the UK for the past three years. The good thing about working for Unilever is that if you believe things can be changed for the better, they let you go for it. It makes 17 years seem like no time at all!”
“And why did you come to the UK?” I ask.
“There was this job opening at Dove, where they were looking for someone to work effectively with agencies. I saw it and thought: that’s me!”
“So what skill set do you need to work effectively with agencies?” Anouk asks.
“I think you need a good balance between your right and left brain. And you need to be ready to take risks. Nothing great was ever produced by walking in the middle of the road.”
“Is that your main goal in life, creating great things?”
“In a way yes,” says Fernando. “For myself, but also for the company. It’s important for Unilever to get recognition from the creative industry. It means agencies want to work with you, and that they deliver better campaigns and come up with better ideas. Basically I believe companies get the agencies they deserve.”
“That’s certainly paying off in your case,” says Anouk, “if you look at your results at the Lions.”
“Winning the Lions isn’t the goal,” says Fernando. “Nor is selling as many products as possible. Our job at Unilever is to create great brands. I firmly believe that brands have to be meaningful. They have to play a role in people’s lives.”
“Well, judging from the incredible success of the Sketches video, you apparently do a good job connecting to the consumer,” I say.
“What I like most is the interaction and the talk value on social media,” says Fernando. “People are super positive about Dove. And what’s even more interesting is that when somebody makes a negative comment, other consumers immediately step in to defend Dove as if it’s their own brand. And that’s where we want to be heading: to the point when the brand is no longer ours, but has been adopted by the consumers.”
Read more on Fernando and on the Dove brand: To be continued… Stay posted.