P&G’s New Approach to Digital

When Procter & Gamble speaks, the marketing world listens. The world’s biggest advertiser has a new message, and it should rattle many in the digital media world.

During its Signal P&G event in Cincinnati, Marc Pritchard, global marketing and brand building officer of P&G, talked about how brand building has changed since the proliferation of Internet technology and about how important it is for brands to keep up. Pritchard put a big emphasis on the influx of mobile devices in the market and the pace at which consumers are adopting mobile technology. He also focused on social media and consumers’ dependence on social to talk with one another and also to talk with brands.

Pritchard emphasized the importance of one-to-one relationships in today’s always-connected, always-on digital environment. He said that brands need to be less focused on making money and instead place more emphasis on improving the lives of both existing and potential customers. P&G’s strategy here on in will focus on one-to-one relationships and meeting the needs of technology-dependent consumers.

“To address these [technology] forces, our vision is to build our brands through lifelong, one-to-one relationships in real time with every person in the world,” Pritchard said. “The power of everyday people is driving monumental change and people power favors brands like ours. We have trusted brands that are part of everyday life. We genuinely care about serving people with superior benefits and doing good.”

Obviously today’s technology-dependent society is making big brands like P&G understand that they need to change the way they operate, advertise and reach people. So what does that mean? It means that the old-school broadcasting spray-and-pray approach that we have seen with some brands’ digital efforts is not going to work. It’s time to wake up and smell the coffee. Digital marketing efforts should be focused on building relationships, not driving a one-time sale. If a brand is doing all it can to build relationships with consumers, sales will follow. But, when consumers feel that brands are just trying to sell them products, they feel turned off and may move to a competitor. The best form of marketing is the kind that does not feel like marketing. I’m going to buy from the brands that sell to me the least.

On the creative end, agencies too need to rethink the types of experiences they’ll be pitching their brand clients. Stop it already with the “click here to get 15 percent off of your next purchase” ads. They aren’t doing much in terms of building the brand. Marketing efforts need to focus on building communities and giving loyalists cool tips, recipes, tools, whatever it is, just to make them happy. Then, when they are walking down that grocery isle, that’s when they will remember you.

“Technology will mean that people will increasingly expect brands to understand their unique needs and deliver,” Pritchard said. “We want P&G to be the first to create this trusted, indispensable relationship because it will create greater loyalty, more purchases across categories, and more sales at lower costs. Achieving this vision requires some fundamental shifts in how we operate.”

What does Pritchard mean by “fundamental shifts?” P&G will now focus its efforts on creating integrated brand experiences instead of focusing solely on products. The company will be thinking differently about how it approaches the digital marketing landscape. It will shift away from its everyday static marketing to using digital in ways that actually engage people. Pritchard said this shift will begin with P&G moving away from mass broadcasting as it creates more personal conversations with consumers. The company will also be placing a focus on “anywhere, anytime shopping.”

What this all means is that P&G will be placing a greater emphasis on its mobile and social strategies, using these channels as ways of engaging and, most important, interacting with consumers. Right now P&G’s Facebook page has about 71,000 followers. Although this sounds like a hefty number, there are brands out there — Coca Cola, Havaianas, Ford, to name a few — whose numbers are way higher. I’m talking in the millions here. It is obvious that P&G is now playing catch-up, realizing it isn’t where it should be when it comes to social.

Although active in the mobile space, P&G is mostly known for its mobile ad campaigns that focus on branding for specific products. None of the campaigns to date have been really engaging or a great example of building loyalty. From Pritchard’s speech, it is obvious that we’ll be seeing a difference in the way that P&G uses mobile to reach consumers. Likely, messaging will be about cultivating loyalists and building loyalty among consumers and less about specific product launches and such. With more than 93 percent mobile penetration worldwide, P&G has set its sights on the right channel. Mobile is growing at unprecedented levels and consumers are more and more comfortable engaging with their favorite brands via their mobile devices.


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