What’s needed, what’s possible, what if? The three questions P&G asks to drive innovation

Procter & Gamble takes a startup approach to innovation, with more than 130 experiments taking place at any one time.

P&G’s skin analysis booth at CES 2019

When you’re the world’s largest advertiser, you can afford to test and learn at a much quicker rate than most, and the cost of failure is perhaps felt less than it would be within smaller businesses.

At Procter & Gamble (P&G), there are around 130 seed-stage experiments running right now, which chief brand officer Marc Pritchard says are like small startups exploring entirely new opportunities.

A number of these were showcased at CES 2019 – the first time P&G attended as an exhibitor – including a skin-printing device, which scans the skin and precisely applies tiny amounts of make-up to cover blemishes; a heated razor for its Gillette brand; an interactive skincare wall; and an AI-powered toothbrush, which was developed from thousands of human brushing behaviours to recognise people’s unique brushing styles and give personalised feedback.

READ MORE: How marketers can avoid a tech monstrosity

Pritchard says P&G is operating more and more like a startup to make sure it is at the cutting edge of consumer demand and creating products that can enhance people’s lives.

“We’re breaking down the boundaries of functions, and operating in a fast-cycle, integrated, multiskilled way, where speed matters and where every aspect of the consumer experience is created from the start,” he says.

“Marketers work with their teams to define ‘what’s needed’ to meet the needs of consumers, and develop ‘what’s possible’ by asking questions [like] ‘what if?’, to innovate and create an irresistibly superior consumer experience. Marketers are responsible for defining the brand strategy required to develop a superior product, packaging, communication, in-store and online execution, and value proposition to consumers the brand serves.”

Interestingly, and no doubt a sign of where things are heading, Pritchard says P&G is doing much more of its work virtually and using new digital tools to “innovate how we innovate”.

“Not only does this drive speed and productivity, it drives better innovation by simulating many more scenarios than can be tested physically,” he says.

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