On the wings of Dove, exec extends reach

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When Unilever created global brand directors two years ago for its top brands, Silvia Lagnado was first in line. "I said it would be a killer job and [would take it] only if it's based in the U.S. and it's Dove," she says.

Now Ms. Lagnado, 39, is leading the next worldwide extension of Dove, into facial and body moisturizers, starting with a U.S. rollout in August. Just in the last three years, Dove has become Unilever's most category-crossing master brand as the traditional moisturizing bar became a deodorant brand, made a daring stretch into shampoo and now slathers on the moisturizer. In 2002, Dove hit $2 billion in sales that grow 20% to 30% every year.

"Dove crosses a lot of categories," says Ms. Lagnado, who runs three global brand teams and a master brand team. More than 620 people work on Dove at Unilever and global agency Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide, part of WPP Group, in more than 85 countries.

Despite a civil engineering degree, Ms. Lagnado joined Unilever's marketing department in her native Brazil in 1987. Within two years she was a brand development director at Unilever headquarters in London, later working on European regionalization of deodorant brands, including launching Dove deodorant in Europe. A long U.K. stint was followed by three years in Buenos Aires, as Latin America was reorganized on a regional basis. After two regional jobs on different continents, Ms. Lagnado was ready to step up to a global role.

Dove's last big move, into haircare, started in Taiwan and only arrived in the U.S. last year after a global rollout. And Dove deodorant's first countries were Chile and Italy. So debuting Dove moisturizers in the world's biggest market this summer is a huge step for Unilever.

"With hair, there were more doubts about whether it was right for Dove so we started small," Ms. Lagnado says. "Hair has done so well it gives us confidence it can play in a beauty category."

A key part of Ms. Lagnado's job as she develops Dove for the world is sticking to her vision. At a company where Dove is so precious that Chairman Niall FitzGerald recently spent 2 hours discussing the brand with Ms. Lagnado, everyone has deeply felt ideas about where Dove should go next.

"Can you imagine how many opinions there are about what you can and can't do with Dove?" she asks. "Like, should Dove do men? That was the easiest to say, `No.' In the end, I go with my view."

Ms. Lagnado is part of a two-career Unilever couple-husband Richard currently has a strategy job-with a daughter and son aged 9 and 7. In a family where everyone has an affectionate nickname, Silvia is called "Lovey Dovey" at home.

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