Unilever has set up a programme that helps brands engage with startups to run trial projects and provide mentoring.

Launched in 2014 The Unilever Foundry and has now vetted 3,000 startups, with over 60 successfully securing their first pilot project with a Unilever brand.

Following the success of the first year of the programme Unilever recently announced its Foundry 50, a list of 50 top marketing technology startups. Many of these 50 startups, featured here, highlight clear trends in five areas that will shape the future of marketing:

Internet of Things

Mobile has undoubtedly caused the most significant step change in marketing since the internet, but we are now entering the next era of smart products, be that wearables or other things that have embedded sensors, processors and connectivity.

This is already a focus area for retail in particular where startups are continuing to advance product tracking and proximity marketing technologies. For example:

  • NewAer has developed proximity advertising capabilities without the need for beacons, enabling brands to deliver contextual information and rewards to customers on-site.
  • Shopperception uses 3D motion sensors to analyse consumer behaviour and product interaction at shelf to analyse and inform a range of decisions from store layout to products stocked, and to trigger real-time advertising in-store.
  • RainCheck can notify consumers of products they have found online and saved to their wishlist when they enter physical stores.
  • SyncSpot drives footfall by offering consumers access to exclusive content when they enter a geo-fenced area such as a store (typically a song from the consumer’s favourite artist, a book by their favourite author, or a video from their favourite TV show). 


Start-ups are helping marketers make headway with this fast growing medium.

They are disrupting the traditional video production model by facilitating connections between brands and video creators, and are developing the tools and technology to support more interactive content creation and advanced analytics. For example: 

  • Vidsy provides a platform where brands can outline a creative brief for the Vidsy creator community who will respond with a variety of short-form video entries. The videos selected and used by the brand receive financial rewards. The new model provides a lower cost alternative to traditional production with the benefits of diverse content and a faster turnaround. 
  • Describing itself as an influencer marketplace, Reelio provides a platform to connect brands and their creative briefs with influential YouTube creators. Videos cost from $250 and, unlike Vidsy, are only commissioned once the brand has approved a particular creator. 
  • WIREWAX offers a video creation and editing tool, including the technology to create interactive hotspots in video content. Havaianas used the technology as part of their #SambaInTheRain campaign earlier this year to showcase their rain boot collection, allowing consumers to click on products in the video for more information and the option to buy now.
  • Graymatics analyses video and image content to understand consumer interests through the content they have liked, shared and pinned.  


Social media & messaging apps

Social media trends reflect those seen in video. Startups are helping brands to identify and connect with influencers, and to use social media and consumer generated content to add authenticity and diversity to their marketing. For example:

  • Little Bird is a platform already used by Comcast, Cisco and IBM to find top influencers on social media, understand their network relationships and identify the most relevant content in their communities.
  • Function is a service which specialises in identifying influencers for brands and industries and using paid media to deliver customised 1:1 messages to those individuals. The individually tailored ads are delivered via platforms including Facebook and Twitter to each of the influencers identified, which can number from 25-100 influencers per brief.
  • Olapic and Chute provide platforms which help brands to discover and amplify consumer content from social networks such as Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, Pinterest and YouTube, including securing the rights to use the images and videos. Brands are then able to use the content on owned media (for example, on commerce product pages) and in advertising.
  • Seenit helps brands to use consumer video content taken on smartphones and other connected devices. Content will be captured by the private community who have downloaded the branded studio app, with a rewards system in place for footage that the brand uses. The private community creating the content can be consumers, influencers or team members giving a behind-the-scenes look. Check out this Grazia example:  


Messaging apps warrant a separate mention within social media. They are fast becoming a mainstream channel for marketers to engage with consumers due to their reach amongst younger audiences and startups are helping to enrich this interaction through the creation of branded content. For example:

  • Jifi enables brands to create interactive branded video and GIF based stories to share online, specifically designed with mobile and messaging apps in mind. 
  • Snaps allows brands to create custom branded keyboards enabling branded emojis, stickers and GIFs to be shared across Facebook Messenger, Whatsapp and other messaging apps. Here are two examples available to download – the #PepsiMoji Keyboard and the Jaguars Emoji Keyboard, which includes emojis, stickers and GIFs relating to the NFL team:


Multimedia analytics

Analysing and segmenting audiences is not a new practice for brands, but has traditionally been limited to using transactional, behavioural and demographic data.

Startups are looking at innovative ways to understand and target consumers through different media, namely images, video, advanced text analytics and musical tastes. We mentioned Graymatics video analytics earlier, other examples include: 

  • Pixoneye segments consumers by analysing the photos saved on their phone and is able to then use this information to personalise mobile advertising.
  • Relative Insight provides advanced text analytics to better understand and target the consumer using their language.
  • Preceptiv profiles and segments consumers by scanning the music on their devices and analysing their musical tastes. The profiling methods are reported to have the same accuracy as personality tests requiring consumers to answer 50-100 questions.

Empowering consumers to own and monetise their data 

Startup Powr of You has put forward a model for data collection and value exchange, whereby consumers opt-in to have data from the apps on their device stored and are paid every time the data is used, anonymised and aggregated by third party companies.

An additional draw for the service is the consumer’s ability to mine their own data to keep up to date on their online habits and social networking activity.