P&G has become really good at emotional advertising



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In my generation, it was usually pretty easy to spot a P&G marketer. They are the type of marketer who had “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 exploited this execution through most of the 1970s and 1980s. Don’t get me wrong: I have 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 late 1990s. In this article, I will go through the shift P&G advertising has gone through over the past decade.

P&G advertising

Proctor and Gamble

P&G in the 1980s and 1990s

Here are a few examples of the classic 1980s P&G advertising, including the famous blue liquid type ads. All logic, all demos. 

To view, click on the > or volume controls to see the P&G advertising. 

By 2000, the P&G advertising formula seemed worn out and 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 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 overnight. 

Strategically, brands really have four choices:  

  1. Better
  2. Different
  3. Cheaper
  4. Not around for very long

In the 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 in the world of incrementalization of fast-acting tabs, quick-dissolving strips, or ultra powders. Yawn. More and more, what is winning is “different.” 

Core Strength: Four types of brands

  1. Product-led brands should invest in R&D while communicating the consumer benefits, features, and claims for what makes the brand better. 
  2. Story-led brands need to invest in advertising, with the story, idea, or brand purpose communicating what makes the brand different. 
  3. Experience-led brands have to invest in creating a culture with strong operations. Build your brand communications around the idea that, “Our great people make the difference in creating amazing experiences.” 
  4. Price-led brands must invest in operational efficiency. And, the brand communications explains how “We are smarter and able to deliver the same quality at a lower cost.” 

To illustrate, click on the diagram above to see how a brand’s core strength impacts P&G advertising. 

Dove advertising

Dove's "real beauty" campaign taught CPG marketers a vital lesson

Unilever was able to demonstrate the emotional side of their brand, giving them a much tighter connection with consumers. As Dove overtook P&G’s Ivory brand, it triggered new thinking for CPG marketers and seems to have awakened P&G marketers to emotional advertising.

To view, click on the > or volume controls to see how Unilever’s Dove impacted P&G advertising. 

P&G advertising

Watch the transformation P&G has made with its advertising

P&G Moms campaign

The P&G advertising from the 2012 Olympics jumped 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 many moms were shedding a few tears over this one. Whether it did anything for the business or not, it sure has opened up the way P&G is willing to communicate.

To view, click on the > or volume controls to see the P&G advertising. 

Emotional P&G advertising of the past decade

Since the “P&G Moms” campaign, P&G advertising has been some of the best over the past decade. At the heart of P&G advertising is the strategic shift from always being “better” to now being “different.” Instead of looking at unique product feature differences, they are looking at unique consumer insights that will help them connect with consumers. P&G advertising has shifted from pure product demos to connecting with moments within the consumer’s life.

Always "Like a girl"

The Always “Like a girl” campaign is an inspirational video that connects with true insight about the perception of how girls run changes as they hit puberty.  The ad starts by asking older teens and 20-somethings to run like a girl, and they depict a negative stereotypical overly feminine running style. Then, it asks 10-year-old girls to run like a girl, and they run in a highly athletic manner. It asks what changes to make the older girls see running as a negative. 

The ad challenges viewers to rethink their stereotypes. It inspires girls with an uplifting message to be themselves and encourages them to believe that, “running like a girl” is a good thing. The Always brand closely lines itself to the insights about the changes happening at puberty, just as moms and daughters will be choosing the feminine hygiene brand they will use. 

To view, click on the > or volume controls to see the P&G advertising. 

Old Spice

The Old Spice “Smell Like a Man” campaign’s quirky, over-the-top humor is so different it captured immense attention and helped P&G reinvigorate the Old Spice brand. The ad uses a series of quick cuts, putting the actor in crazy circumstances. His dry, over-the-top delivery adds to the humor.

To view, click on the > or volume controls to see the P&G advertising. 

It's a Tide Ad

I never thought during a Super Bowl game, I would ever say, “I’m looking forward to the next Tide ad” but that’s what I said when Tide created the perfect harmony of creative idea and media. Tide has always been one of the more trusted brands, but almost stoic and cold in its behavior. Fifty years of side-by-side demonstrations against every possible type of stain. With “It’s a Tide ad”, using the boring Tide brand added to the humor. 

With all eyes judging every Super Bowl ad, Tide decided to mock the typical ads and surprise you that it was Tide doing so. Full marks for attention, brand link, and stickiness. As Tide has 99% awareness of being the stain-fighter, they didn’t need to communicate much. Nice job, P&G!

To view, click on the > or volume controls to see the P&G advertising. 

Ariel (India)

A great ad for the Ariel brand from India speaks to the insight of the changing times for modern women, articulated by a father observing his daughter in action as she juggles her work life and home life. He speaks to his own guilt and uses that to alter his own behavior. It is a very emotionally engaging way to layer in consumer insight. Have a look. 

To view, click on the > or volume controls to see the P&G advertising. 

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Lessons to learn from P&G advertising

Focus on Different When You Can’t Win Better

P&G recognized that simply claiming superiority in product performance was often not enough, especially in markets saturated with equivalent options. They shifted toward highlighting how their products fit uniquely into the consumer’s lifestyle or addressed specific consumer needs that competitors were not emphasizing. 

For example, P&G’s detergent brand Tide focuses on its unique ability to remove stains in one wash, but when facing tough competition, P&G advertising has shifted to emphasize its role in life’s pivotal moments, like ensuring a child’s baseball uniform is pristine for the big game. This example of P&G advertising creates a differentiating factor, making the brand stand out not by being better in a generic sense but by being uniquely suited to the customer’s life.

Instead of Product Features, Move to Consumer Insights

Moving away from a features-first approach, P&G advertising began to delve deeper into consumer insights to drive their advertising. This means understanding the consumer’s deep-seated needs, desires, and pain points and addressing those through advertising narratives.

For instance, P&G’s “Thank You, Mom” campaign doesn’t speak to the features of any single product; instead, it taps into the universal insight of a mother’s love and support. This example of P&G advertising uses consumer insights to resonate emotionally because it reflects a profound understanding of the consumer’s values and experiences.

Storytelling and Moments Connect More with Your Consumers Than Claims and Demos

P&G advertising has shifted towards storytelling, recognizing that narratives create a stronger emotional bond with consumers than traditional claims and demonstrations. Stories allow consumers to see the brand within the context of their own lives, creating a more personal connection.

For example, the Always #LikeAGirl campaign tells a story of empowerment rather than just demonstrating product use. By doing so, P&G advertising becomes more memorable and impactful, as it aligns the brand with moments and experiences that matter to its consumers, transcending the product itself to forge a more profound brand-consumer relationship.

I am looking forward to seeing what comes next from P&G advertising

Advertising Decisions

The Creative Brief defines the box.

At Beloved Brands, we believe the best creative people are in-the-box problem solvers, not out-of-the box inventors. This builds on our Strategic ThinkBox we used in our planning process. The box below demonstrates how we need creative work that is focused on the target, fits with the brand, delivers the message, and executes the strategy. 

As marketers, we kick off the advertising process using a Creative Brief to define the box the creative advertising must play in. The execution align with the brand positioning work and deliver the brand strategy statements you wrote in your marketing planMoreover, we show examples of the good and bad of the Creative Brief. And, we introduce our Mini Brief for smaller projects and the Media Brief as part of media decisions. We have a Creative Brief template you can use. 

As marketers, we kick off the advertising process using a Creative Brief to define the box the creative advertising must play in. The execution align with the brand positioning work and deliver the brand strategy statements you wrote in your marketing planMoreover, we show examples of the good and bad of the Creative Brief. And, we introduce our Mini Brief for smaller projects and the Media Brief as part of media decisions. We have a Creative Brief template you can use. 

Use our Creative Checklist to determine if the creative work is in the box.

Then, we introduce a Creative Checklist that is designed to help you make advertising decisions. When you see the creative marketing execution come back from your experts, use our creative checklist to make decisions. Next, use your feedback to your marketing experts to steer the ideas back in-the-box. Importantly, the Creative Checklist highlights the gaps you see. Your role is to provide your problems with the work, while avoiding providing a solution. Let your creative marketing execution experts use their in-the-box creativity to figure out new solutions that will fit the box. 

To illustrate, click to review how our Creative Checklist helps decide if the creative advertising fits the box..

Use our ABC's of Advertising: Attention, brand link, communication stickiness

Here are four questions to ask:

  • First, is it the creative idea that earns the consumer’s attention for the ad?
  • Then, is the creative idea helping to drive maximum brand link?
  • Next, is the creative idea setting up the communication of the main consumer benefit?
  • And, is the creative idea memorable enough to stick in the consumer’s mind and move them to purchase?

To illustrate, click on the ABC’s of advertising to see details.

Get comfortable with various advertising techniques.

Learn how to be better at advertising. Explore other advertising ideas such as emotional advertisinghumorous ads, feel-good ads, and ads that bring consumer insights to lifeMoreover, read how to conduct your own marketing research, social media plans, or using influencers.  

Video on how to use in-the-box creativity

Have a look at our video on how to use in-the-box creativity to ensure our marketing execution stays on strategy. We introduce how our Creative Brief defines the box the work must play in. And, our Creative Checklist to allow you to decide if the marketing execution delivers. To read more, click on this link: How to use in-the-box creativity. 

To view, use the ▶️ controls to play our brand strategy video. 

Coke advertising

Coca-Cola case study: Lessons from the best Coke ads of all time

Over the past 100 years, Coca-Cola has been the best advertising brand. Sure, Nike and Apple have battled for the best over the past 40 years, but they’d need to get to 2080 before challenging Coke. 

Coke ad

Apple advertising

What you can learn from the best Apple Advertising of all time

Apple advertising has delivered “simplicity” since the 1970s. Apple’s advertising has been relatively consistent for over 40 years and incredibly connected with consumers. You could build an Apple case study on the advertising alone. So we did!

Apple ad Think Different steve jobs the crazy ones

Nike advertising

Our Nike case study looks at 30 years of 'Just do it'

Nike case study Kobe Air Jordan Advertising that sticks

Our best case studies

Explore how these real-world examples demonstrate the effectiveness of our brand management tools. Click on the logo to read the case study.

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