In my generation, it was usually pretty easy to spot a P&G marketer. They are the type that has “the” answer. The “P&G way” used to be: find something (almost anything) that you’re better at than your competitor and then make the most of it, by showing a side-by-side demonstration, naming the “next leading brand” and quite possibly add some blue liquid to the TV ad. P&G managed to exploit this execution through most of the 1970s and 1980s. Don’t get me wrong: I’ve always respected P&G for what it is. They did a good job for decades using that same trusted formula. They just stuck to the same formula a bit too long, and it caught up to them by the mid-to-late 1990s.
Here’s a great example of the classic 1970s P&G advertising looked like, including the famous blue liquid.
But by 2000, the P&G formula seemed worn out they suddenly appeared to hit a brick wall. Growth dried up, several key brands lost their leadership of the market to rivals, and new product launches proved disappointing or even to be downright failures. Competitor products had caught up, and in some cases surpassed them. Colgate was beating Crest, Listerine was beating Scope, Finish was beating Cascade, Dove was beating Ivory and others were catching up or passing the trusted P&G brands., the stock price fell dramatically from $120 to $85 almost over night. A consumer driven brand mainly has 3 weapons: 1) new products 2) communication and 3) go-to-market execution through retailers. P&G stepped up on innovation and even acquisition to bolster the product roster. And they have made a dramatic change in how they communicate with their consumers,. They also found that the same Advertising formula wasn’t working anymore.
Strategically, brands really have four choices:
- Not around for very long
But in the current crowded Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG) world, “Better” has become increasingly difficult. Every category is so cluttered, everyone has copied every non-patented product feature, claims are getting even harder to gain separation from competitors. We are into the world of incremental-ization of fast acting tabs, quick dissolving strips or ultra powders. Yawn. More and more, what is winning is different. The brand that taught all of the CPG marketers a vital lesson is Dove, with “real beauty” demonstrating that different is a powerful way to connect.
At the base of P&G’s communication is the strategic shift from always being “better” to now being “different”. Instead of looking at unique feature differences to build the benefits around, P&G is now looking at unique consumer insights that will help them connect with consumers. The ads have shifted from pure product demos to finding moments within the consumer’s life. Also, P&G has a new respect for the power of Advertising–even sending people to the Cannes awards. Yes, Unilever has been doing this type of work across their brands for decades now, with the most inspiring CPG brand being the work on Dove.
Here’s a few P&G spots that have really captured the emotional marketing.
I thought P&G did a very nice job at the 2012 Olympics, the one sponsor that seemed to jump out. “Thank You Moms” showed everything that moms did for their athletes, and just as Mom is an enabler, so is P&G to the Moms. I’m sure quite a few moms were shedding a few tears over this one.
The second P&G ad spoke to the idea that “they’ll always be kids” and it showed the athletes depicted as little children.
With Old Spice, it was a dead brand. It was so old that P&G had liberty to completely re-invent the brand. And this campaign just jumped off the screen a few years ago. (it’s a bit worn out now)
To me the symbolic P&G unemotional brands that P&G has is Tide and if you watch this Ad for “stay at home dads” you would never know it’s a cold brand.
Some good lessons for other brands to learn.
- Focus on different where you can’t win on better.
- Instead of product features, move to consumer insights
- Story telling and Moments connect more with your consumers than claims and demos.
You’re doing a Great job P&G connecting with consumers. Now it’s time for your competitors to catch up.
Here’s an article that goes a little deeper on the ABC’S: How to Judge Advertising Copy: Approve the Good. Reject the Bad.
To see a training presentation on Get Better Advertising: