What? The company which pioneered brand management doesn’t understand brands. You must be joking? Provoked? So was I. But then I saw reason.
In late 1999, over a year out of P&G, I was sitting next to our Global Marketing director for dinner during a training program. We started talking and I soon discovered that he too was a Procter alumnus. I asked him for his reasons for leaving P&G ( mine was not a reason, it was more a punt which turned out well). He said, “they don’t understand brands”. Stunned for a moment, I recovered enough to ask him why he felt so. Here is the story.
He was working on Pampers and he went to his business head with a complete business plan for extending Pampers into baby care products taking on J&J’s virtual monopoly on a fat (make that humungus) margin business. His boss said, “You don’t understand. We are in the paper business”. At that moment I had to agree with his provocative statement.
1999 was the peak of P&G’s struggle to redefine and re-invent itself. Everyone was taking a perverse delight in taking a swipe at them. However that delight didn’t last long and the elephant learnt to dance, and how ( for details read the previous post).
It still took P&G a few years after this dinner conversation to move from a functional benefit/ technological superiority led approach to a truly consumer centric approach to brands. The new P&G brand bible is aptly titled, “Consumer is boss” brand building. Crest is no longer just about “cavity protection”. Its biggest recent hits have been whitening strips and spin brush. There is a crest floss and also a (kind of ) co-branded mouthwash with Scope.This was unimaginable earlier. “We need to focus on our core equity – protection”, would have resonated loudly in the Asst Brand Manager’s ears if he had dared to suggest that . Its about total oral care now ( my interpretation) delivering “healthier brighter smiles every day”.
Here is what Jim Stengel, P&G CMO has to say on the topic,
“If you go back at Procter & Gamble, and in a lot of the industry, we often thought of our brands in terms of functional benefits. But the equity of great brands has to be something that a consumer finds inspirational and an organization finds inspirational. You know, our baby-care business didn’t start growing aggressively [in the early 2000s] until we changed Pampers from being about dryness to being about helping Mom with her baby’s development. That was a sea change. Or look at all the different areas we are in at Olay. That’s because Olay is not just about being a pink fluid that moisturizes. It is about helping women look better and feel better as they age.
It all begins with this idea that we want to make life better. We want to serve better. We want to make a difference. That leads you to a different place than a functional benefit. That has been one of the transformational things about P&G over the past seven or eight years. Our equities are much broader, and our people are much more inspired. That’s why you see so many of our brands growing. “
My 2 pennies worth: While Pampers has moved on from “superior dryness” to “helping moms with baby’s development” (in P&G CMO’s words), the product range is still paper based products ( e.g wipes). How about other baby care products e.g body lotions? P&G knows babies, P&G knows skin. What is holding it back? Maybe I am missing something. Similarly, IAMS can be about total Pet care and not just Pet Nutrition. Even while staying within the nutrition umbrella, accessories like self dosing feeding bowls which can actually aid nutrition can be explored.
That is why I said in my previous post, “not fully there yet”.