As we approach 100 Days to Go until the London 2012 Olympic Games, the big swingers are arriving in town. Earlier thias week Gideon Spanier, media/business correspondent at London’s seminal newspaper The Evening Standard, captured his conversation with Marc Pritchard, chief marketing officer at Procter & Gamble, in this piece.
Pritchard is in charge of a global £5.9 billion budget and is the man charged with making P&G’s official sponsorship of the London 2012 Olympic Games earn its crust this summer.
There are a couple of key insights that reveal how a global brand like P&G now thinks, plus details on a nice tactic recently deployed to capitalize on the news agenda.
1. Transparency & Internal Unification. Transparency has been a key buzzword over the past few years and one that has become ever more important as brands (and consumers) take to social media. P&G owns a swathe of household brands – Gilette, Pampers, Fairy etc, but no one knows the mother-ship. Increasingly consumers care about provenance and ethical goods, so it is important for them to know who they are buying products off, how do they treat their employees etc and as Pritchard says, ‘What are the values? Are they interested in more than making money?’ This is an key insight. Every point of the consumer journey is now important as consumers voice their brand experiences live on Twitter, Facebook and beyond – from buying something on a shop shelf to ordering online and/or calling customer services. Huge brands like P&G need to be transparent and internally unified in how they deal with consumers at every juncture. They need to have a social strategy for dealing with their customers, not just a social media strategy that deals with conversation, as and when it comes about. Pritchard’s remit has changed over recent years to encompass other parts of the business – brand building, PR, research, even design, as everything is brought under one roof. Why? Well, says Pritchard: “It’s 24/7 — we’re always on, constantly scanning the landscape, listening to consumers.”Only if Pritchard can have eyes on all these other parts of the business, can he be sure that transparency is an enabler, not a handicap. If the left hand doesn’t talk to the right hand and something goes wrong, the power of digital & social media will take you to pieces.
Ultimately, Spanier says it is about trust: “ Uniting the different consumer brands under the P&G umbrella should also make it easier to sell to shoppers if they know and trust the parent company”. In an environment of consumer empowerment, this makes it quite clear that brands cannot own the social media conversation, they can only contribute to it and this contribution needs to be honest and cohesive because ultimately, without transparency, you get found out. Just ask Claire’s Accessories, who got into a bit of a PR disaster earlier this year when they allegedly copied designs from another jewellery maker but offered no response to media or consumers in the melee that followed.
2. Creativity & Response. Pritchard talks about how having a big idea is now so important to ‘punch through’ in a complex and fragmented media world. However he cites one example that isn’t big, but is certainly clever:
“….When there was an oil spill during the [Daytona 500 car] race at around 10.30pm, organisers took the surprising decision to clean the track with Tide, a P&G laundry cleaning product. Within minutes, Pritchard’s team picked up the online chatter, tweeted about it and created a video. “PR has taken on a higher level of importance than before because it’s the influencers who are really creating conversations with people,” he says.
This quick thinking is a simple example of the growing trend in newsjacking – reacting quickly to the news agenda and producing content which adds value or a brand message to that same conversation that is happening in real time. In this case, P&G were gifted the opportunity – it literally fell into their lap. Although their video response (below) wasn’t hugely creative, it was still a speedy follow up to a news story and one that showed nimble feet by the brand. The time elapsed between indecent happening and response posted was about a week – not bad for a company of P&G’s size and further proof that Internal Unification can help a brand react around the social media/consumer eco-system.