Combining Brand Awareness with Social Programs: Case of P&G

For marketing students at IIM Ahmedabad, 9th of January, 2011, is anything but a typical Sunday. They have resisted the temptation to join their batch mates in a lazy basketball game and appear oblivious to the cheerful riotous frenzy of the kite festival on the banks of the Sabarmati.

Instead they have been pitted against each other all morning in a brand exercise organized and masterminded by P&G. The prize is a dinner date for the teams with the man responsible for running the marketing function of one of the most powerful FMCG companies on the planet.

However, even students who do not make the cut get a chance to experience Pritchard (the Marketing officer) firsthand when he addresses a respectably packed hall that evening. Soon after he’s done, the questions fly thick and fast. These include some potentially embarrassing posers. How does P&G feel, one student wants to know, about its campaigns being ambushed by its archrival HUL?

Few people have forgotten the teaser campaign about a mystery shampoo last year (that was revealed to be P&G’s Pantene) being hijacked by Dove from the HUL stable. Pritchard opts to take the high road on this one: “We can’t prevent any competitor from ambush. But if you focus on the consumer, what your brand is doing to serve the consumer and if you have a big idea, you will win most of the time.”

And that’s a running theme through pretty much everything that Pritchard has to say. Whether he’s addressing students at IIM-A, the media or an audience at the Cannes Lions Festival, he’s a tireless champion of brands serving consumers or “purpose driven branding.”
P&G spent most of the 1990s establishing a global footprint. Now, according to Pritchard, it finally has the chance to live up to its purpose. The first step was getting senior management to define a purpose for each of the brands in the P&G stable: a blueprint on how the company could touch and improve lives. Pritchard explains, “We still have a core benefit but are thinking more broadly on how we can deliver it. We are very focused on sharpening what the brands stand for, identifying human insights that can translate into big ideas.”

However those prepared for a lofty chronicle of CSR and corporate do-gooding are likely to step back, a little disappointed. Pritchard’s show reel of purpose driven work from P&G includes pretty much every big campaign the FMCG has come up with recently.

This includes the highly awarded work on Old Spice with its cocky ‘The man your man could smell like’ tagline. Pritchard says, “Purpose is much more than a cause or a corporate responsibility. We deliberately focused on making people define purpose as how brands improve everyday lives. A cause is just a piece of it as opposed to the whole thing.”

This helps take purpose out of an ivory tower. It’s no longer something that resonates only with consumers in developed markets, fed up with hard sell, looking for corporates to do something more. Instead it could even be used as an effective go to market strategy. Which is pretty much the case with Pampers. Pritchard defines the brand’s purpose as “to improve a baby’s healthy, happy development.

Its benefit is dryness and comfort that allows babies to sleep, play and explore more. When they do that, they develop better. By the way, it’s also making their mom’s lives a lot better if they sleep through the night.” To bring this purpose to life, P&G sends pediatricians to villages with tips on how to help the baby sleep and advice on immunisation, besides using this interface as a sampling opportunity.

The one pack = one vaccine program run in association with the UNICEF is tied into this larger purpose too. “It helps bring the community of moms together since they like to help other moms,” says Pritchard. Even ‘Women against Lazy Stubble’ for Gillette, a homegrown campaign, has something larger driving it. “Purpose takes on a more meaningful role in developing markets. The vans that propagate the program give young men tips on shaving, how to dress, handle an interview and talk to women.

Purpose coincides well with P&G making a concerted push into non-city markets not just in India but in other countries like Brazil and China that have a yawning urban-rural divide. P&G is focusing on stores because it’s the first moment of truth for the rural consumer. Pritchard says, “We market back from there to create awareness to get them to that point.”