Unilever's Tugce Aksoy: How Purposeful Marketing Can Shatter Bias For A Richer, More Diverse Society

23 Apr, 2021

Tugce Aksoy, Senior Global Brand Manager for Magnum Ice-cream at Unilever, on how our ingrained stereotypes have driven marketing and product development and what we can do to change it.

Tugce Aksoy is the Senior Global Brand Manager for Magnum Ice-cream at Unilever. She says she wasn’t “born a marketeer” but she has combined her engineering degree with a passion for writing to harness her practical and creative side in her role. Her Shiny New Object is breaking bias with tech and marketing, specifically looking at how our ingrained stereotypes have driven marketing and product development and what we can do to change that.

Tugce is an avid reader and constant learner. This is why she enjoys working at Unilever, as it is “like an academy that pushes you to learn forever.” Through her love of books, she has been undergoing an eye-opening journey around consumer stereotyping, innate biases in product development and technology and the role that marketeers can bring in changing these.

One of the books Tugce recommended in our conversation is Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed for Men by Caroline Perez. Learning about the data gap that causes products and services to be biased towards being created for and used by men, she has discovered that: “As marketeers, we live in a bubble, chasing the average consumer.” Instead, Tugce believes we should begin to challenge this “normal” and start thinking beyond the average – considering all market segments for richer, more inclusive marketing.

This is the essence of her Shiny New Object - breaking bias with tech and marketing. Tugce talked me through various examples in our world where products and services are designed with an average white man in his 40s in mind. In her view, brands should work harder to challenge that, by taking two actions. Firstly, begin to provide services and products that respond to all needs. Secondly, use communication efforts to change perceptions.

The second point refers to how successful advertising can be at confirming and entrenching stereotypes: “It’s not about selling the product and making people feel bad so they buy it.” Instead, brands should feature a richer society in their ads.

Tugce thinks there is already progress towards this. Brands like Dove are not only talking about skin and haircare differently, but also lobbying for policy changes such as an end to discrimination against black women’s hair in the US. Smaller businesses are creating products to help manage women’s hormonal cycles, a subject that has long been taboo. But there’s more to be done and we need to keep pushing for purposeful marketing.

To find out more about Tugce’s favourite marketing books, her top marketing tips and how she took career risks, listen to the podcast here.

Tom Ollerton is the Founder of Automated Creative.

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