A Forge ARticle 

Unilever | Dove Refillable Deodorant

Helping Unilever deliver breakthrough innovation in deodorants with strategic insight.

The Background

The twin challenges of sustainability and more natural solutions are hugely important to pretty much all consumer businesses.

Unilever is no different.

It was against this context that in mid-2018, Unilever turned to The Forge for specific help with ideation in the overall deodorant (deo) category.

Unilever already knew that there was a significant opportunity to bring exciting innovation to the deo consumer; initial work in the broader personal care category had already identified 3 broad consumer typologies motivated by different drivers, exhibiting different behaviours and each with key unmet needs.

Unilever sought our help to drive a better understanding of these customer segments and turn that insight into real innovation ideas.

The Overall Project Challenge

There were 3 key aspects to the challenge for the cross functional team:

i. Gather deep and valuable insight into these audiences, understanding what truly motivates them and where behaviour is changing to reflect these motivations

ii. Co-create and validate a series of potential product concepts that would tap into the motivations and needs of these consumer types

iii. Explore which of the concepts that were generated were best suited to particular brands within the existing Unilever portfolio

It was also critical that the process was agile and efficient; rapidly moving from insight to prototype, maximising the resources available to develop concepts with the potential to bring interest and momentum to this hugely important global category.

The Approach 

Consistent with the challenge, we developed a streamlined process designed to take full advantage of the existing category and consumer understanding before using targeted interventions to fill specific gaps in the knowledge. This insight was then turned into the foundation on which internal (Unilever) and external expertise was layered through an extended co-creation development workshop.

We started with a period of rapid resight, leveraging existing information from the Unilever deos category team, as well as our own expertise about how to win in naturals. We forged all of this together, understanding the segments’ specific needs, attitudes & behaviours for deodorant (across the 5Ws). We then supplemented this knowledge via a series of depth interviews to fill knowledge gaps where they existed.

The insights generated in this initial phase were then developed into a comprehensive pre-workshop immersion for the Unilever and partner teams. Each segment was bought to life, with clear ‘jobs to be done’ to get them engaged in natural and sustainable deodorant, as well as inspiration that could help us learn from those who were doing this already. This ensured that everyone arrived at the session inspired and immersed in the challenge – ready and primed to create powerful innovation concepts.

During the 3-day workshop Unilever brought in a host of experts from a variety of different industries to lend their perspectives. We facilitated the team to engage and co-create concepts with real customers, whilst partner agency VanBerlo brought ideas to life with rapid prototyping, so that concepts were tangible and exciting.

The workshop was used to ideate, validate and stress test a whole series of credible and differentiating concepts that could be deployed to drive incremental growth across the category.

The Solution 

The workshop led to the creation of 14 discrete product concepts.

For each of the validated concepts, we documented a clear target audience, insight, benefit and reason to believe. We also gave specific guidance on how each concept could be taken forward and meaningfully developed, including how to utilise a series of previously identified ‘Naturals Narratives’ – specific ways of talking about naturals, that can build additional saliency with consumers. We also made clear recommendations around which concepts were best suited to each of the brands within the portfolio.

One of the most positively received concepts was based on the observation that the average US household throws away 30 deodorant packs every year. For one of our audiences, in particular, this was critical to them as they desperately sought easy ways to reduce their waste (and impact on the environment), but without having to dramatically change their lifestyle.

This enabled the team to work up a beautiful and elegant solution, develop a minimum viable product and into test market in a matter of months.

The Outcome

Fast-forward to Jan 2021 and we are delighted to hear that, following that successful test market with the sustainable retail platform LOOP, Minim will now be launched live in Target & Walmart in the US.

Minim is the realisation of that lead concept – now manifest as a sleek, ergonomic deodorant holder into which you insert a minimally packaged deodorant bar, giving you the protection you want without the waste.


The Forge is proud to have played a part in the development and validation of this ground-breaking launch. We believe the future success of this important innovation is strengthened by its foundation on clear customer insight made possible through meaningful co-creation and bringing the best of the different expertise of the cross-functional team.

If you want to get the type of deep consumer understanding that can lead to such successful innovation as Minim, then please get in touch.

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