In Search of Consumers' Pulse - Procter and Gamble Going Digital

It is no accident that P&G is a global marketing giant. It continually pushes innovation and learning across the entire organization, constantly seeking ways to extend its competitive advantage. Any of us who have worked with P&G (and most firms in the MR industry have at some point in their lifespan) can attest to their rigorous standards and relentless focus on consumer engagement.
It is therefore not surprising that the consumer goods giant has made great strides towards becoming more digital – in its quest to extend its competitive advantage.



Indeed, the company whose sponsorship and production of daytime TV dramas helped create the term soap operas, has discontinued some of its ‘soap opera’ ads after seven decades of continual reliance on the medium. The big push is now on YouTube, Twitter Facebook and other social media. A case in point is the launch of a P&G pilot store on Facebook last year (run by Amazon) followed by new stores for Tide, Gillette, Olay, Gain, CoverGirl, Luvs, and Febreze. In fact, “shop now” buttons on each brand’s pages allow consumers to buy goods without ever leaving Facebook.

In the November issue of McKinsey Quarterly (Inside P&G’s Digital Revolution), P&G CEO Robert McDonald is quoted as saying:

“We want to be the company that creates those indispensable relationships with our brands, and digital technology enables this.

One way is through consumer feedback. In 1984, when I was the Tide brand manager, I would get a cassette tape of consumer comments from the 1-800 line and listen to them in the car on the way home. Then, back at the office, I’d read and react to the letters we’d received. Today that’s obviously not sufficient—you’ve got blogs, tweets, all kinds of things.

And so we’ve developed something called “consumer pulse,” which uses Bayesian analysis to scan the universe of comments, categorize them by individual brand, and then put them on the screen of the relevant individual. I personally see the comments about the P&G brand. This allows for real-time reaction to what’s going on in the marketplace, because we know that if something happens in a blog and you don’t react immediately—or, worse, you don’t know about it—it could spin out of control by the time you get involved.”

This exemplifies how the digital revolution has opened up new opportunities for engaging with consumers and how it has lead to a re-ordering of the priorities of those leaders (such as Robert McDonald) who are visionary and make consumer relevance and engagement their top priority.

Integrating  and e-commerce is fraught with challenges but global leaders such as P&G are certainly making a big push in that direction. The arrival of commerce on Facebook may have surprised many, but may mark a significant inflection point for social media. Whilst the line between commerce and social activity is somewhat more blurred in sports (Barcelona’s global fan base on Facebook numbers an incredible 23+ million, compared with the LA Lakers at 11 million) fast moving consumer goods were not as obvious a target - until now.

How and when rewards will materialize, and to what degree, remains to be seen, and there are still some sceptics who feel the power of social networks is over-rated when it comes to ‘monetization’. But can we afford to be sceptical when Facebook alone has more than 800 million users?

 

Nicos Rossides - CEO MASMI RESEARCH GROUP
Advisory Board Chairman – DigitalMR




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