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In an interview with the Times of London, Unilever chairman Michael Treschow says that the biggest challenge facing the manufacturer is coming up with “wow” products that will capture consumers’ imaginations. According to the story, Treschow satisfied with the company’s sales and marketing apparatus, but believes that Unilever has to give it better things to sell.

“The single most important thing is that we speed up our innovation machine, which means that we bring more highly appreciated products to the consumer so that they say, ‘Wow, this is really something I would like to have',” he tells the Times

For example, Treschow says, “How can you convince the Asians to use deodorant? There are a couple of billion there not using deodorant. It's not good enough to say, ‘Guys, use a deodorant'. You have to figure out the key that says, 'I want to do that as well'.” Or: “Asians prefer to make their own soup; they don't buy ready soup. How can you make a platter of components to make it easier to make soup?”

According to the piece, Treschow is also working to be very clear about responsibilities and accountability at Unilever:

“It is management that gives proposals,” he tells the Times. “If we are not happy with the proposals, we ask for new proposals. It is in your court, you come up with proposals. If we are not happy, we ask for new directions or higher ambitions. We will continue asking until we are happy and then you have to deliver what you said you wanted to do … We can ask why you didn't deliver. That is what we call the assessment ... if we are not happy about either the direction or the result, then we have to find another you,” he says.

KC's View:
What interested me most about this piece was the notion that innovation has to be connected to the “why,” not just the ”what.” And that the “why” cannot just be the province of sales and marketing – which, of course, have to make the ultimate argument to shoppers – but also be intimately connected to the promise and premise of the product.