Unilever continues to increase digital investment following €500m boost to marketing in 2022

After adding half a billion euros to its marketing spend last year, Unilever says it will reaffirm its faith in digital’s ability to generate growth with continued investment in 2023.

Unilever has doubled down on its commitment to digital marketing, pledging to continue investing into 2023 after revealing it increased its brand and marketing expenditure by €500m in 2022.

The FMCG company revealed in its year of results that 2022 saw it invest in 29 digital marketing, media and e-commerce hubs (DMCs) by way of promoting continued growth for the business.

With a turnover of just over €60m for the year - a 14.5% increase - and underlying operating profit also improving slightly to €9.7bn despite margin decline driven by input cost inflation, outgoing CEO Alan Jope said Unilever delivered a year of “strong topline growth in challenging macroeconomic conditions”.

He said: “Underlying sales growth was 9.0%, driven by disciplined pricing action in response to high input cost inflation.

“Despite sharp rises in material costs, we have prioritised stepping up our brand and marketing investment.”

In the face of higher profits, Unilever warns of continued price rises

Part of the reason why Unilever feels confident to increase its media investment in the year ahead, is the company reported a 24.9% increase in net profit in 2022, hitting ​​€8.3bn. However, despite the strong boost in profits and a predicted ease in inflation ahead, Unilever warned of continued price rises for goods in 2023, just as they increased in 2022.

With inflation constraining consumer spending, total volume of sales for the FMCG giant in 2022 was down 2.1% and in the final three months of the year, price increased by 13.2% across all business groups.

Jope said: “There is more to do, but the changes we have made mean that we start 2023 with momentum, setting us up well for delivering another year of higher growth, which remains our first priority.”

This data follows on from a significant restructure of Unilever’s business in July of last year, separating it into five units - Beauty and Wellbeing (20% of group turnover), Personal Care (23% of group turnover), Home Care (21% of group turnover), Nutrition (23% of group turnover) and Ice Cream (13% of group turnover).

While the restructure is still in its infancy, Jope claimed it has aided in making “further progress in the transformation of Unilever” as it continues to deliver on strategic priorities.

He added: “Our new operating model is already unlocking a culture of bolder and more rapid decision-making with improved accountability.

Jope announced his forthcoming departure from Unilever in September of last year and Hein Schumacher, formerly of Heinz, will take over as CEO in July.