Who the Heck is P&G?

For about 150 years, the name P&G was in the far background, nowhere to be seen. The only people who knew the name P&G were business people, new business school grads and retail buyers. Consumers never knew that a lot of the brands they loved and used every day–Tide, Crest, Pampers, Downy–all came from the same company. P&G definitely used the House of Brands to the best of their abilities. And yet, in the lasts two years, we are seeing a shift to a hybrid approach between the House of Brands and the Branded House. Both P&G and Unilever have begun ending each TV ad with a little sign off from the corporate brand name. Part of the rational for P&G is they believe that having the corporate brand name will help the weaker brands in the portfolio, giving consumers some added re-assurance that the brand comes from the same great company that makes so many of their favourites. The issue with that logic is won’t the very healthy brands be held back, having two brand names at the end of ads? It might be especially true for a brand like Gillette where it’s already very healthy and seen as its own company. If I was in charge of the Gillette brand, I might be asking “does this make sense?”

For the last few decades of the 20th century, P&G advertising was relying so heavily on the side-by-side demonstrations that all the ads started to all look the same whether it was Tide, Downy, Mr Clean or Crest. Extremely non-emotional.

I hope everyone understands that for a guy like me, who believes that creating love for your brand makes your brand more powerful and in turn more valuable that it would make sense that while I have always respected P&G, I just have never really loved or admired them. I was more of a fan of Unilever work, especially Dove’s “real beauty” campaign. Then all of a sudden, the light went on with the Pampers “Forever Young” TV ad. At first, I was stunned it was a P&G commercial. Hats off to whoever got it approved.

Then I started to notice more and more attempts by P&G to get emotional in their work. Even the emotionless brand leader Tide was trying to be emotional. Not yet fully successful, but an A for effort, on a very difficult brand to be emotional. It looks like P&G gets it and in a big way is starting to make a difference.

With the 2012 Olympic Games, I have to fully confess that the one brand that jumps out is P&G. I saw them announce to a room of Moms of the Olympic Athletes that they were sending them to the opening ceremonies and there were tears everywhere. And they have done one of the best TV ads, appropriately titled “Best Jobs” where it showcases how hard Moms work to get their athletes to the games. As P&G makes the move to a hybrid approach to a master brand, this is an amazing start. I love this ad.

And they are trying very hard to link each of their brands into the Olympics.

  • Gillette – “A Great Start Every Day” campaign featuring Swiss tennis player Roger Federer, British cyclist Sir Chris Hoy, Chinese Badminton player Lin Dan, Brazilian swimmer Felipe Franca, and American swimmer Ryan Lochte
  • Ariel & Tide – “Proud Keeper of Your Country’s Colours” campaign featuring Turkish runner Nevin Yanit and Mexican pentathlete Oscar Soto
  • Pampers – “Celebrating Babies’ Unique Spirit of Play” campaign featuring U.S. beach volleyball player Kerri Walsh Jennings and British marathoner Paula Radcliffe
  • Pantene – “Keep Shining” campaign featuring Argentine tennis player Gisela Dulko, Mexican diver Paola Espinosa, and American swimmer Natalie Coughlin
  • Head & Shoulders – “Wash in Confidence” featuring American swimmer Michael Phelps and French handball player Nikola Karabatic

Way to go P&G, whoever the heck P&G is.

About Graham Robertson: I’m a marketer at heart, who loves everything about brands. I love great TV ads, I love going into grocery stores on holidays and I love seeing marketers do things I wish I came up with. I’m always eager to talk with marketers about what they want to do. I have walked a mile in your shoes. My background includes CPG marketing at companies such as Johnson and Johnson, Pfizer Consumer, General Mills and Coke. I’m now a marketing consultant helping brands find their love and find growth for their brands. I do executive training and coaching of executives and brand managers, helping on strategy, brand planning, advertising and profitability. I’m the President of Beloved Brands Inc. and can help you find the love for your brand. To read more about Beloved Brands Inc, visit http://beloved-brands.com/inc/

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9 thoughts on “Who the Heck is P&G?

  1. An interesting observation, Graham.
    I wonder, would P&G have considered this shift in strategy if they had not jettisoned the food & beverage portions of their portfolio? Seems to me to be more acceptable/ lower risk for a focused personal care/cleaning, chemicals-based branded products company to promote their corporate umbrella that when they were prominent in food & beverage.

  2. I don’t think anyone who grew up in the fifties wasn’t familiar with the name, and which products they made. You couldn’t escape them, especially if you watched a lot of daytime TV and family-related comedies.

  3. Graham,
    There is also the possibility that an enhanced awareness of P&G’s strength across many blue chip brands will add to value for P&G on the stock exchanges of the world

  4. Graham – great piece…but have to agree with Hugh – marketing the product isn’t the only reason for advertising – although your rationale for P&G’s overall brand strength as a blanket of approval for weaker brands appears sound to me – there are also millions of P&G shareholders who will feel better about their investment, including major funds, as a result of this. I’ve seen many case studies where investor relations has been remarkably impacted by brand advertising – reducing swings in share price and volume, and providing more stability to the market cap of a company during economic crises.

  5. Graham a great over view and your comment on the rationale is valid on a number of levels but my gut feeling agrees with Terence in light of the huge swings in business confidence on the back of the European economic crisis and the fluid global financial position.

  6. P&G are recognizing the inevitable effects of the interweb. Now when a consumer sees a brand with a few clicks they can see what other people say about it, where it is made and by whom. Further, the whole concept of the “consumer” is becoming outmoded. We are parents, students, teachers, employees, investors and social activists all at the same time. The idea that the Tide brand is just a detergent that washes whiter is no longer enough. I am not alone in wanting to buy products from companies and people I like.

  7. P&G’s objective is simple: leveraging scale and reducing cost. Under a typical House of Brand approach, they would have needed 4 different ads for the Olympic campaign, for instance. Now, under the same “touching lives, improving life” concept that is the core of the corporate P&G brand, they can regroup 4 iconic trusted brands (Tide, Pampers, Gillette, Duracel) that all have terrific equity in a single add to create an amazing emotional corporate campaign. They probably cut cost in half – at least – and the strong equity of the other brands can halo on each other and encourage trade-across (people willing to buy a brand they don’t usually buy because they realize it’s from the same company as one of their most trusted brand). If they launch a new brand, they’re not forced to mention P&G as the mother company. They can select some truly global brands that can be part of a big corporate campaign to create synergies (Branded House), and keep the House of Brands approach for most of their other brands. That’s a smart approach IMHO to make global initiatives bigger and at a lower cost. To master such an hybrid approach you need to know your brands (equity) and P&G does that better than any other company. My two cents…

  8. good read. agree with most of it. has always been a marketer’s dilemma when you have a vast range of products in your portfolio. the best mom creative is nice, but isnt it too long for a TVC?

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