EP 219 – Triveni Rajagopal – Unilever – Brands Have a Big Role in Shaping Culture

by | Jul 27, 2022

The Asia Tech Podcast really enjoyed having Triveni Rajagopal, Senior Director, Personal Care Digital Transformation Lead at Unilever, on the show.  She humorously noted at the beginning of our conversation that she was “born into advertising, married into advertising, went into advertising, and is now in marketing.”
Some of the important topics that Triveni covered:
  • How technology plays a role in the way communication evolves
  • The impact of authenticity on imagination
  • Message construction as a science
  • The role that data plays in marketing
  • Democratizing access to technology and working with brands that do so
  • The oncoming metaverse and the potential impact on brands
  • Being attuned to popular culture and how it keeps her young
Other titles we considered for this episode:
  1. How the Shape of Communication Is Changing
  2. Every Day the Narrative Changes
  3. The Power to Change Ideas and People’s Minds
  4. We Make It Into a Science
  5. I Make All the Brands Young
This episode was produced by Isabelle Goh.

Read the best-effort transcript below (This technology is still not as good as they say it is…):

Michael Waitze 0:28
Hi, this is Michael Waitze. And welcome back to the Asia Tech Podcast. Today we are joined by Triveni Rajagopal, Senior Director, Personal Care Digital Transformation Lead at Unilever. I think I got it.

Triveni Rajagopal 0:43
Michael. Hi. Hi, Mike. This lovely to be here.

Michael Waitze 0:46
Awesome. It’s awesome to have you. And it feels like ages ago, when we sat down for coffee in Singapore. I mean, you were mentioned this before we started recording I was trying to think, was it last year? Was it just after I finished summer counseling? When was it like a while ago? No.

Triveni Rajagopal 1:01
See, that’s my time is relative, because it seems to have moved faster for you. So you probably had more fun in the time since we met. I don’t know about that. I’ve had downvote days but feels

Michael Waitze 1:15
great. All I know is I’ve been on a plane. And I feel like I’m in a different universe. Anyway, before we get into the main part of this conversation just for our listeners, can we get some of your background for some context?

Triveni Rajagopal 1:29
You want the boring bit or the interesting?

Michael Waitze 1:33
I definitely want the interesting. You can you can weave the boring bit in there. But I don’t think you can get away from the fascinating part actually.

Triveni Rajagopal 1:39
Oh, it’s not that fascinating. Your other guests have been far more fascinating. What can I say? So I was the shorthand of it is I was born into advertising. I married into advertising, I went into advertising. And now I’m in marketing. That’s that kind of shorthand. My dad was actually a bit of a market research pioneer. And we had a very interesting childhood because he was he was the Woodstock era child who never quite grew out of it. And so we grew up with those kinds of influences in a city called Bangalore. I met my husband, who was my boss, actually, a very short point of time.

Michael Waitze 2:36
I won’t tell if you don’t tell.

Triveni Rajagopal 2:39
And I’d like to think that I’m his boss now. Perfect. And, and then I did have a decent career in in advertising product continue there, throughout. But amazing that I’ve moved across to the marketing side of things. I’ve been with Pepsi I’ve been. And then with Unilever, on the marketing side. And when back in advertising, I was essentially the WPP Group. So I was for a short while with the low group and then with the Ogilvy group,

Michael Waitze 3:17
is it common to move from advertising into marketing? Do you know what I mean? In a way, it almost feels to me like, like moving from sales trading into a hedge fund, you know what I mean? Like you were covering all these different hedge funds, and then one hedge fund goes, Wow, you’re really good at this, you need to work for us kind of thing. Does that happen a lot.

Triveni Rajagopal 3:36
It happens, but I wouldn’t say a lot. Still, the primary kind of recruitment ground for marketing is still campuses. And you know, people who’ve done the kind of like the formal marketing courses, they, in countries in this part of the world, at least, they tend to be engineers, who then become marketers or business administrators. And then people are very, very, very smart. When you come in from advertising, you’re essentially, you know, in any T shaped organization, you’re on the vertical part of the T so you’ve kind of gone fairly deep on one aspect of mark of marketing, which is communication. And then when you come across you, you bring the I brought that speciality of understanding communications really well. But I’ve had to also go through the really challenging and very, very interesting journey of understanding business, which is something that you don’t learn back in advertising.

Michael Waitze 4:37
No, yeah, I mean, business you really have to learn in business. I don’t even think you learn that much about business at business school. But that’s just my own personal bias. There’s so much to unpack here to this idea of communication, right is super important. But also something you’ve been thinking about or like kind of practicing for a long time. Is that Is that fair? Like you’ve been interested in this ability to communicate at Scale for a while? No.

Triveni Rajagopal 5:02
Absolutely. I think it’s it’s the power to change ideas, right? It’s the power to change ideas to change people and to change behaviors. I, you know, that’s why communicating is so important on some of the conversations I have with my son even today. And I don’t want to get into this rant about kids these days don’t read and they don’t write, etc. Because fascinating the kids these days do, like my son’s vocabulary is excellent, because he listens to a lot of YouTube.

Michael Waitze 5:33
Can I make a point about this, right? We are a slightly different generations. And every generation that precedes whatever generation yours is always feels like, oh, this generation is either dumb or lazy, or do you know what I mean? Then the current then your own generation, and you’re right, like maybe they don’t read as much, but boy, they’re listening voraciously to things. Exactly. Anyway, please go ahead. Yeah, what?

Triveni Rajagopal 5:55
Yeah, what’s the difference? I mean, in the 18th century, books were what 616 17 Wherever the printer printing press was, the was done, it was thought by some to be the work of the devil, right? So it’s just the same thing. All right. So back back to back to the power of communication. I think, when as a child, I loved standing on stage and doing elocution, and theatre and things like that. And it’s not very much different. When what we’re doing now is a form of theater. What we do in at work, pitching an idea across to whoever is the stakeholder on the other side is a form of theater. So,

Michael Waitze 6:40
so yeah, you know, it’s really funny, you mentioned this, and I don’t talk about this a lot. But when I was a little kid as well, like, I never had any formal training and theatre or public speaking, or any of that kind of stuff. But I did love taking the microphone at parties. When I was a little kid, I’m not talking about 1819. I’m talking about like 11 and 12. If there was a video camera there, and there was a microphone, it was in my hand, I wanted to talk to people and get on camera. So I don’t think we far. Say it again.

Triveni Rajagopal 7:06
I’m not surprised to talk. Very good. Very good at this.

Michael Waitze 7:12
Do you think though, that the way technology has evolved, has changed the way that we communicate? I mean, you even mentioned with your songwriting, going all the way back to the beginning to the Gutenberg Printing Press. It’s like, we communicate by writing. And at the beginning that writing has felt like why are you wasting your time sitting under a tree reading the stuff on that paper? And yet every generation creates a new way to use technology to change the way we communicate with each other? Yeah. What is it like today? And I’m really curious in your current role, how that technology then gets used to communicate the message to then what did you say? The power to change ideas and to change people’s minds? Does that make sense?

Triveni Rajagopal 7:55
Yeah, makes make sense. I’m just trying to so many thoughts coming to my mind, you’re essentially trying to understand what is the shape of communication today, right? And probably even tomorrow,

Michael Waitze 8:07
it’s just changing so fast. When I look at that, and it’s not like a one thing, question. It’s not like, Well, the answer is blue, because it doesn’t happen that way. Right. But technology is changing so rapidly, but also the media landscape is changing really rapidly, too. And you have these things kind of happening at the same time together. So let’s just say, for simplification, in the old days, if you were marketing or selling or advertising, you put it out on TV, you put an ad in a newspaper, you put an ad, I’m simplifying it in a magazine, and maybe a billboard in New York kind of done. And that went on for a while. I know that simplified, right? But now, you know, and billboards didn’t change that much over time, and neither did magazines, really, maybe you change the copy, maybe you change the style, maybe you change the wording, but now the tech is changing at the same time that the message delivery system, so so much is changing at the same time, like, how does all that work in your mind?

Triveni Rajagopal 8:59
Yeah, I want to just go back to your first question. Respond to because the first question you asked is, is a pretty broad question and find different perspectives. I think we spoke we already spoke about where you get your information and how you get your information from reading versus like listening to a review on YouTube, etc. I think what’s becoming super critical today is, is authenticity. Is this concept of what is real. And yes, we’re talking about we live in a world where one country can release a fake video of the the other country’s president kind of saying, Okay, I submit to you, which is which isn’t entirely untrue. But how does that affect imagination? I think that’s that’s the question. Today, we are a much more visual I An auditory, we will respond better to visual and auditory signals. So I can imagine my child and his cohort, their brains are probably, their imagination works in a very different way. And they’re probably needing to visualize ideas and concepts that you sent to them. So I think the visual visualization of ideas or capturing something that you would have taken probably a paragraph to write in a, in an image has become so it’s the power of the image and the power of the audio book that has become so important today. And you can express that in in real life and in virtual life. So I think that’s, that’s the other kind of fragmentation,

Michael Waitze 10:46
I want to get to virtual life in a bit. Because I do think it’s really important. And I have my own, like thoughts and ideas around what the virtual world is going to look like, and how things are going to change. And I’m really curious about your thoughts on this as well. But I want to get back to this idea about the different way that we use our senses to take in information and drive and drive our imagination. Because again, it’s going to change the way we believe in things and change the things that we trust and don’t trust right afterwards. At some point, you have to have a thought framework for what the leader of a specific country is going to say, or what some specific product is going to do for you either one, right? What that means is that you’re going to have to get better you’re hearing analysis, your site analysis is go and your senses around, you’re gonna have to get better around determining Is that really true or not? Because before, if you read it, like in The New York Times, or in some fancy newspaper magazine, like the economist, you would just believe that’s a fact it must be true. But now it’s harder? No,

Triveni Rajagopal 11:52
of course, it is harder and Mitel. The truth is that people will not make that effort, let me speak from a brand and marketer point of please, I don’t think we can take the luxury of assuming that our consumer is going to go that extra step to do verification, type checking and verification, okay, that’s, that’s not going to happen. So therefore, and we know that our consumer is of the person who buys our products is living in a world where they’re receiving tons of messages, which is why I think we, we made it into a science if we have to. And so much of discipline goes into an every second single frame of messaging that we send out to a consumer that it is simple to understand, and it is meaningful in their lives. And even if they listen to the message for anywhere between 10 seconds and 15 seconds, they’re able to kind of understand what we’re trying to tell them. So I think being very simple, at the same time without you know, over doing injustice over simplifying, is such a tightrope to kind of walk. And

Michael Waitze 13:04
I feel like we could have this conversation for the next six or seven hours. Because in a way, you know, you said this, right? Every word is carefully chosen, every image is carefully chosen, every message is constructed in a way like, like it’s science. Yeah. But if it’s scientific, then there must be some hypothesis. There must be some experiment, right? If you’re really using the scientific method, but there also must be some data there as well. Right? Can you talk a little bit about how data gets used to then build these stories and these images that turns the message or the science into a message?

Triveni Rajagopal 13:41
Of course, I’ll try and share what I can and what is probably publicly available, but maybe our listeners probably aren’t aware. We get companies like us, right? Like Unilever, Procter Coca Cola, etc, we’ve had what half a century worth of communication mass communication behind us. So obviously, we have a lot of data sitting behind us, but you can’t take the rules that worked in 1952. Now where the consumer is changed completely. I think however, some fundamentals still remain. I am surprised every day when I get you know, banquet insights from our partners, let’s say Google or Facebook, how some things continue to remain. So for example, the human face continues to remain to be the most one of the most arresting things that that you want to use in

Michael Waitze 14:41
your community My face is pretty arresting

Triveni Rajagopal 14:45
effectively so yeah, that’s why you know, that goes then that goes into the entire topic about casting and diversity in casting and things like that. But the the human the massage, the fact that we’re able to communicate so many emotions, I mean, that hasn’t chickens for what now we’ve been as homosapiens, for what, 40,000 years, that hasn’t changed. So the representation of certain colors and shapes, they all mean different things, certain shapes intuitively mean that they are more effective. Some colors intuitively mean the more effective. And then simple things like data again and again shows, I’m getting very, very basic things that are fundamental to what we do. Human beings need to see, and here are things the same thing at the same time. And then the processing skill is, is faster. I know, You’ve might’ve seen a lot of these, you know, Brain Games, which sort of, say half the word, and then you expect you to finish the rest of it. But when you do those brain games, you’re probably paying far more attention than you would to a marketing message. Right. So our job is to essentially do see and say, sing. So a lot of these fundamentals if you have in place, I think it makes the message more easier for them. Yeah,

Michael Waitze 16:07
I mean, to be fair, like if I go like this and say, yes, it’s really confusing to the brand, right? And you’re right, it’s not fair to say, here’s a brain game, look at this word with like six letters in the middle of missing and then tell me what it’s like, that’s easy to do. But the reality is, in your real time life, you’re not playing a game, your brain is processing things faster than you may consider it to be processing it. But you’re right. If it says green and the colors red, it’s super confusing to the brain. Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. I think so. Um, with all this technological change taking place, right into our 50 years of data, and I love this idea, shapes, colors faces, it’s so interesting from a data perspective for me. But as tech continues to change, right? How do how do you keep changing? Like, how do you stay on top of this, we spent a lot of time on some of my other shows, talking about digital transformation, right? So you have these big incumbent insurance companies, that again, I’ve had access to data for 5060, some of them 100 years, and yet haven’t used them a lot over time. And now they’ve been poked a little bit by some insurtechs, or in some cases, fintechs, to say, you know, either join the modern world or don’t because the rest of the world is moving super fast. How does that apply to what you do?

Triveni Rajagopal 17:24
I think we recognize three or four fundamental principles. So I’m not going to talk about digital like digitization.

Michael Waitze 17:33
I don’t care about that, in a way. Yeah.

Triveni Rajagopal 17:35
Yeah. So I think there are a couple of fundamental principles, at least which I am talking completely from a personal perspective, the first principle is that I am so proud that the brands we work on actually helped to democratize technology with key with we play a key role in democratizing technology. And let me kind of tell you why. Today on if you go on Instagram, you’ll see, Mark Zuckerberg has announced some kind of his the integration with of AR or VR with Ray Ban glasses, right? That’s at the kind of like the bleeding edge of technology. Right? Interesting. That’s probably something we are not going to kind of adopt. Right now with, with our with our big brands. What we do actually, is we help me because we have access to billions, not millions, but billions of people and billions of people use our products every day. I think we play a key role in democratizing access to technology. So let me give you one or two very simple examples. You go is there is a person let’s say there’s a person in some secondary town, small town in Indonesia, or small town in India, right. And they’ve never used QR code technology ever in their lives because they’ve never had a reason to. But when a QR code appears on a bar of soap of act package of a bar of soap, or a box of toothpaste, or tube of toothpaste, scanning, the QR code gives you access to something gives that person access to something opens a world something, suddenly a consumer who’s never access that particular technology, which may think is a small thing opens up what they’re able to, they’re able to kind of realize that, hey, I can open my camera, and I can

Michael Waitze 19:30
drop you for a second because this is kind of so cool. I actually just got to chill. We spend so much time sorry, talking about this in relation to financial products, right in digital distribution and stuff. And we forget this idea that people brush their teeth every day or wash every day. No, I’m not. I’m not joking, right. And that to do that they have to buy a physical product, but you’re right. The digital transformation is actually happening right there on that physical thing because they go What is that thing? And they open their camera they click got in. It’s just like, where did that magic come from? Right? So you don’t need Google Glass to tell people that there’s this whole trove of digital information somewhere. Everyone’s carrying a cell phone, right? With a smartphone. Yeah. And at some point, their niece or nephew or their son, or their daughter is gonna go, Hey, grandpa, or mom, like, just click on that thing. Whoa. And then the life is different. No,

Triveni Rajagopal 20:24
exactly. And don’t get me wrong. I think the hardware does play a very, very important. Sure. I couldn’t say what I’m saying now. No, perhaps 1015 years ago, and maybe 1015 years, hence, everyone’s gonna be wearing augmented reality

Michael Waitze 20:38
they Well, we can talk about that in a second, too. But go ahead.

Triveni Rajagopal 20:41
Yeah. And at that time, then we’ll help in the further democratization of access to that. So I think, you know, our brands have played, have played and continue to play a big role in shaping culture. I always say that second to maybe movies, there’s movies, there’s music, there’s literature, and then there’s advertising. We are, we are mass, and we are actually popular culture. Examples

Michael Waitze 21:10
are sure. I mean, the whole first Apple commercial for the the I’m sorry for the iPod, right? Is iconic, because you didn’t even need to hear it. All you needed to see was the silhouette with the white headphones and thought, Oh, my God, and it was cultural. Right? Because different types of people you could tell who was who like that was super cool. But it’s pop culture too. Because if you weren’t listening to it, it was music in the background. And I’m guessing in every country in every city that music was different. Yeah.

Triveni Rajagopal 21:38
Yeah, yeah. i You’re, you’re you’re given a great example of, of Apple, which is at a certain which talks to a certain level of consumer, I want you to imagine if you go really further down, right down strata, and you are thinking of a family, let’s say a family in Indonesia, where very strict kind of traditions and rules, say let’s say gender roles are observed. And then you have advertising, which shows the warmth of a family, even during a brushing like this, like a picture vision that you have behind you, where the father plays a very active role in the family, where the dentist is a woman wearing a hijab, right? Suddenly, you’re able to and that piece of communication is getting seen by millions of people millions of times over. And you’re therefore you’re able to kind of influence positively influence social mores. Because this

Michael Waitze 22:35
is really important to right, because the not the only way. But one of the ways that advertising or marketing is effective is by seeing yourself in a product or seeing yourself in the situation where that product gets used. And to be fair, when I looked at that thing that you’re seeing behind me, I thought, Okay, I see myself, but who doesn’t see themselves in that right. And I want to dig a little bit deeper on this, if you don’t mind. Because we do talk a lot about democratization, particularly in Southeast Asia, where the access to certain things, whatever they are, is not as prevalent as it is in other parts of the world. Right? And I want to I want to show you this thing, because this has actually become quite important to me. You see that circle on the map? Yeah, yeah, there are more people inside that circle than outside that circle. This was built. This was a map that was shown by the World Economic Forum, I think back in 2017. And this is the reason why the democratization of things is so important to me. And you’re right, whether it’s a woman wearing a hijab, or a father helping his son brush his teeth, as he as you, I don’t want to say go down. But as you go through sort of the types of people that exist in the world, and things get more democratized, it’s really important. And I’m curious why it’s so important to you.

Triveni Rajagopal 23:54
I think this is essentially it comes to this point of behavior change. Yeah. So if I talk about the products that we mark, the brands that we market, the powerhouse brands that we market, then their everyday products, and we know that nobody’s waking up in the morning and say, Oh, I’m gonna have a bath with life boy, or today I want to smell beautiful, so I’m gonna use laps to help have a shower. No one’s waking up with that intent. But I’m so glad that while some of you but as as kind of society progresses, access to more comfortable lives, I think two lives where people are able to enjoy the standard of living that they are working so hard for fall, and we’re giving them access To that, and I think, to your question on why is it so important behavior change is so important is because I mean, why this is so important is because it’s about education. So we’re educating people that you know what, if you shower with this product, then you’re going to be feeling a bit fresher. Even as you travel jostle through the crowds in public transport, to get to work, you’re going to feel a bit fresher. If you use if you brush your teeth with teeth with this product, not just in the morning, but remember at night, because brushing at night is very important. And you don’t do that, then we’re teaching you. And finally, you need to wash your hands these five times a day, are you forgetting the fifth time? Wash your hands. So these kinds of behavior changes just help people live better lives.

Michael Waitze 25:49
I love the fact is that is one of the things that I put in my notes was we talk a lot about financial literacy, right. But there’s this idea that I just wrote down called product literacy. And, and to me that the reason why democratization of all these things to me is so important is just like you said, it’s about providing comfort. In other words, if I’m living this air conditioned, well traveled clean life and somebody else, like you said gets access to it. It makes the whole world a better place. I think and I think that’s incontrovertible. To be fair, you also. And you also use the word inclusion, which again, you know, part of the reason why I want to talk to you right was to try to make equivalencies between all the other conversations that I have on the financial and insurance products to just physical products to CPG products that people use. People do need to be included in there in them as well. Yeah, yeah. It’s just super, super important.

Triveni Rajagopal 26:41
Yeah. And I think on that, in when it comes to inclusion, look, there is so many facets of inclusion and diversity and inclusion, I think, depending upon where you live, and the culture you’re growing up in one or two may take precedence over the other, right? The West, they have very many different issues in our part of the world, Southeast Asia, we have very many different issues. So I think for example, a brand like one of the brands I work on, called Lux, is, has this stands for this amazing, if you can call it inclusion stance with this amazing philosophy. It basically says it basically says that he recognizes the brand is all about recognizing that yes, while extreme forms of sexism and assault and things like that have do happen to women. There’s something called casual sexism, which is even more insidious, which happens on a daily basis, right? To women at home in the workplace everywhere. So this brand stands is trying to kind of promote the message that of giving women the confidence to rise over these casual sexist remarks that they may they may face. So that is a form of inclusion in a way, right? Because you’re you’re elevating and in a sense of elevating an entire cohort of people who otherwise would have been discriminated against.

Michael Waitze 28:09
Yeah, completely. Can we talk about this virtual world that you that you mentioned earlier, I kind of passed over it. There’s all this noise around, you know, NF T’s in the metaverse and all this other stuff. Yeah. But I do think in some kind of reality, right. You talked about democratization. And I will have huge conversations about Metaverse for the masses, right. Yeah. And there needs to be some kind of like you mentioned the QR code, which I think in a way, it’s kind of an on ramp for a technological evolution. For people that don’t have access to tech. It’s part of the democratization process, right. And I think on ramps are actually really important because you can’t just wake up one day, right? And have glasses on that gives you access to a whole host of information. But we used to. I used to joke that the smartphone ruined what I call the bar fight. Right? Two people standing at the bar go no, no, that was definitely Marlon Brando. No, that was you know, Al Pacino, you’re like, well, just give me one second. I’ll just solve that right now. Before we started punching each other. No, it was Brando kind of thing. Right? And you’re right today. And the

Triveni Rajagopal 29:11
bar fight could have been two people who knew each other’s names.

Michael Waitze 29:15
Yeah, exactly. It wasn’t to strangers are never gonna have this argument. But But to get to the point where everybody’s wearing a pair of Ray Bans that have access to the world’s entire catalog of information on it, you have to start somewhere, right? So you go from like the flip phone to the smartphone, Android phones. And you’ll get to this point where people have literally have contact lenses, and I believe that have access to all this information. But there has to be an on ramp to that. Yeah. And I think it’s the same thing with the metaverse as well, right. Like if we believe that virtual worlds are going to create, again, back to this idea of democratization of just people’s communication with other people. Yeah, I do think that that’s going to happen and I’m curious if you think about this in the context of the brands and the brand coming Vacation. And just like what kind of work you can talk about doing? As it relates to the metaverse when it comes to your CPG products.

Triveni Rajagopal 30:10
I probably think of it at this point in time, for half of the day, every day, do you really not? Because it’s well, because it’s interesting. And then every day the narrative changes, right? One day, it’s a view of the world. And the next day, it’s crashing economies and things like that. That’s,

Michael Waitze 30:28
that’s the normal state of the world, by the way. Exactly.

Triveni Rajagopal 30:31
Exactly. Right. I think, to your question on how do I think of our brands, very difficult, very, very challenging, because, unlike, let’s say, a game that my son is buying, or an app that we download, which is essentially not a tangible product, there are all kinds of intangible products, our products are very much made of atoms and molecules, and they have mass. So they live in the real world, and I can’t get away from that. And my job, our company and our kind of industry is to make soaps and shampoos and toothpaste. That’s what we do. We do that very well. So what can we do? What can we do in this world, where there is no point in getting someone to go onto the central land and start buying virtual to pay? So virtual deodorants, right, that’s just not going to make any difference to my real products sitting on the shelf. So I think, at this point in time, and I’m sure things will evolve. You got to have horses for courses, right? You can’t just jump in because it’s cool. Well, it is cool, but you need to do it the right way. At this point in time, go ahead. At this point in time, I see the biggest use case for our brands is education and behavior change. So is education. So let me let me give you an example of what I what I really mean. So we spoke about laughs If I’m going to talk about encouraging women to say, Hey, don’t worry about all those ridiculous casually sexist comments. Just you don’t have the confidence to rise over it. There. Is that happening every day in gaming today? Right? percent of the world’s gamers are women 50%, including mobile gaming also, but 50% of the world’s getting trolled every day on a daily basis. I

Michael Waitze 32:22
mean, GamerGate GamerGate was the thing, right? Sorry. Go ahead.

Triveni Rajagopal 32:25
Exactly. So how can I get into that space and talk about educate people and change behaviors and change attitudes in that space? That’s one use case. Another use case could be for example, deodorant, you usage isn’t really something that people do very much the side of the world, it’s not a habit, the behavior that is that is kind of like par for the course, I can teach a whole cohort of young people how to use deodorant in the right way, and how to, you know, make it work to their best advantage in these virtual spaces. So I think there’s there’s a lot of functional product education or category education that I can do in these spaces, simply because the people I want to speak to and sell to are spending more time these spaces. And there is a lot of purpose education like what what is my brand stuff? How can we how can we together make the world a better place? I think these are the two types of education that I can do in these two, these two web three.

Michael Waitze 33:31
Is there a way for brands? We talked about distribution and digital distribution to take advantage of web three technologies? Metaverse to then create new economic models for people that have been left out up until now, too, because if I’m an avatar in the metaverse, right, even in a simplistic version, not in C central Atlanta, and to be fair, if you go into some of these places, the tech that’s there is pretty basic, like it almost looks like atari from 1975. If even existed back then you’re too young to remember that but anyway I would guess you’ve not played Pong. But anyway, um, and even if you have, like your older cousin’s house, but the point is that like, once you can, once you get people there, you can create an economic model where you don’t know who I am, you just know my avatar. And my avatar then again, getting back to this democratization, then it becomes an equal to somebody else’s avatar who lives in Beverly Hills, even if I even if Michael is living in a small apartment in Bangkok. But it also then allows me to understand which products are getting used globally that are great, right? And then to be able to market and sell those. It allows me to then change my entire life because I can use what’s happening in the metaverse to then say I can have a completely new business model because what I look like Again, like feeling comfortable with other people is not as important as what I appear to be. And if that’s the case, well, then I can do sales and marketing and other things. And I can actually sell things to people based on. I’m educated them to right use this deodorant or try this soap in your real life. And it opens up a whole new economy for people that didn’t have access to that before. And I haven’t even talked about the immersive aspect of it as well. But I’m curious what you think about that as a possibility? Because the new economic model to me is more important than the cool aspect of and I always wonder why the metaverse is purple, but it always is.

Triveni Rajagopal 35:37
That’s true bluish, purplish. I think Marvel is to blame for that. Altogether. Yeah, maybe.

Michael Waitze 35:44
But do you think about these new economic models as well, if you know what I mean?

Triveni Rajagopal 35:48
Yeah, I think we’re a ways away from that. From a purely business model, but But 100% It has to have ROI, right? Yeah, I think of it. Probably today, not as an economic model, but definitely as a new media channel and a new potential. distribution channel. Yeah. Right. And then it becomes therefore it becomes an economic model. The issue is that it’s not scaled. We love scale. At this point in time, it’s it’s just experiments that but you have to do these experiments, when you sink your teeth, and when you learn. So essentially, the way we look at it is, is as our brands, they do very well, they do very well amongst probably people of my age, but people might grow old and die. And then you get a whole bunch of people who are not that soon actually don’t know what a television is have no clue probably at that time. I don’t even know what a mobile phone is. They’re probably in a 3d world. Right? So it is my job. I often say Michael, I often say my job in a sentence is to make I can’t old brands Young. That’s my job. Because they’re in younger cohorts of consumer. So. So coming back to your question. I see this, it’s not yet a viable economic model, simply because it doesn’t have scale. But it will become in a decade or so it will become.

Michael Waitze 37:21
And this is why I talked about the on ramp, right? Because like, you know, where you can’t drive a car unless you’ve written a tricycle, right? That you understand the movement on wheels, right? But once you understand that, then you go to a bicycle, maybe if you’re insane, you go to a unicycle, although I don’t understand why anybody would do that. But then you get into a car. And you understand speed and momentum, and pacing and cadence and stuff. Like that’s the same thing for the metaverse. Like at first. You just kind of need an avatar to figure it out. And maybe your avatar goes to a virtual barbershop and gets their hair cut. But they’re probably not buying virtual shampoo because it doesn’t matter. Exactly, yeah. But over time, all that stuff changes. And I think it gets more immersive, right? Like in the same way you say you spend half your time thinking about this. I’m sitting in front of cameras, microphones, lights, I’m in the metaverse in a way right. Now, I can’t stop thinking about it either. Like I don’t ask

Triveni Rajagopal 38:11
you, though. You still have legs. So you’re not gonna have names. But as

Michael Waitze 38:20
you say that only because you’ve met me in person. But I’ll tell you something funny. When I was in Singapore, right, I met a bunch of people that I’d never met before. And they all said the same thing to me universally. And I won’t make you guess what it was. But I’ll just tell you, they all said you’re shorter than I am. Yeah, that’s, to me. It’s important for the democratization of height.

Triveni Rajagopal 38:46
Yeah, that’s, that’s another part of the diagnostic conversation.

Michael Waitze 38:49
I think so. I think so. Look, this has been great. I don’t think I’ve missed anything. Is that was there any other kind of tech thing or something that you want to talk about? This was awesome and super informative. And you remember when we first started doing this, I said, Tell me where I’m wrong. Right? Like I had a lot of ideas about where this conversation was going to go and what the outcomes were going to be. I think I was wrong on most of it, which means I learned a ton. I really

Triveni Rajagopal 39:15
hope so. I hope indeed, I think you went wrong and anything. I guess my what I found interesting about this chat was to try and kind of dispel the myth that 100 year old or 200 year old brands, because the brands that I work on, if you add up all their ages, they’re probably over 500 year old. Yeah. So 500 years between them. So how how can these brands kind of be keep up pace with modern tech? Is, is I think the myth that I want to dispel that we do, but we do it in the right way and with purpose and intent. Yeah, and we may not, and it’s not our business to make virtual glasses. That’s not the This model that we’re in, we’re in the business of making soaps and toothpaste, deodorants, and we’ll continue to do a great job of that. But we want to reach people who are in in these new in these new spaces, virtual spaces. I feel

Michael Waitze 40:14
like you’ve I feel like you feel like you’re in a space that’s filled with fun like you don’t you know, a lot of people have this thing called like, the Monday drives where everything like, Oh, God, I gotta go to work on Monday, but it feels to me like what you’re doing is so interesting and so exciting, and it’s changing so fast. It’s gonna be a ton of fun to do. No.

Triveni Rajagopal 40:30
is 100% 100% fun? I think idea creation is is so much. We’re really breaking boundaries, the things that I could have talked about, like, for example, telehealth, what we’re doing on driving access to health care. Assault, driving access to help to doctors, is like the most ridiculous thing I’ve thought of ever but that’s the program I’m driving. But toothpaste driving access to dentists again. It’s ridiculous like how

Michael Waitze 41:03
but it’s not a look, I want to save this for our next episode, right? But But this idea that it’s ridiculous a toothpaste drives to dentists actually should should not be so ridiculous, right? Because here’s the thing, if you haven’t had access to toothpaste before, and you start brushing your teeth, and your mouth starts feeling better, like as silly as it sounds, we take this for granted, maybe. But that feeling you said before, right? Like if you start using locks, and you start feeling cleaner, when you’re going about your day to day life, you start feeling better about yourself, if your teeth feel cleaner, you start feeling better by yourself, like how can I feel even better about my teeth? I need to go see a dentist. And in health care. Cleanliness is like one of the top two things you can do to be healthier. Absolutely. Right. So if you stay clean, the likelihood of you getting sick, or catching a disease or having allergies is so much lower. So it’s not that strange, right? Yeah, but we can have, we can dig deeper into that in another conversation. I want to just share something with you. I tried to take some something that the guest says and make it into the title. Okay, because I think it’s neat, right? And I was 100% Sure I was gonna make it. We made it into a science. And then you have to come along this with this thing about making old brands young, like can you stop this?

Triveni Rajagopal 42:23
Yeah, I think I think that’s the joy in it. I mean, I’m 45 I don’t 45 Recently, I know when you’re young I just generation that I’m talking to. But I think that’s what is so exciting. It keeps this job keeps me young, because it makes it pushes me to constantly be aware of what’s happening in popular culture, and kind of drive that.

Michael Waitze 42:48
Yeah. And I think that’s true for both of us. I mean, I’m a generation. I’m a Chinese calendar generation ahead of you. And that’s a test for people listening, by the way to know that that’s 12 years. But the point is that because I get to have conversations like this with you and because I get to get conversations like people that are innovating all the time. Yeah, I don’t feel like I’m getting older in a way I feel like I’m getting younger so maybe I am one of those old brands that’s staying young. Anyway, let’s end let’s really want to thank you. Triveni Rajagopal, Senior Director, Personal Care Digital Transformation Lead at Unilever was awesome.

Triveni Rajagopal 43:27
Lovely. Thank you.


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