Procter & Gamble (P&G) is pivoting its digital marketing to deliver more personalised messages on a mass scale. To lead this transformation, it is also looking to champion an increasingly diverse set of marketing skills.
The consumer goods giant, which claims to reach five billion consumers every day, has set its sights on building brands digitally that “meet and exceed consumer expectations”. It looks to do this by using ‘big data’ to determine what people really want, according to Sophie Blum, P&G’s vice-president of marketing for Europe and IMEA (India, the Middle East and Africa), speaking at the Festival of Marketing last week.
“This depth and intimacy of understanding every single consumer is very new. That is what’s transforming the profession. You either get overwhelmed, or you embrace it with tools to be able to interact with and answer [consumers] in a way that is better than your competitors,” she tells Marketing Week.
What follows this focus on big data is mass one-on-one marketing – something the company’s chief brand officer Marc Pritchard briefly referenced in a speech at Dmexco last month.
One example is Pampers. The moment mums-to-be start searching for pregnancy-related information on Google, P&G gets a signal that someone is starting their “journey” and will target them accordingly. During a woman’s third trimester of pregnancy, for example, it might offer advice on what to put into nappy bags, or once the baby is born it will show consumers different nappies to buy as the baby grows.
“At P&G we have this ongoing understanding of one-to-one [messaging]. It’s a day-to-day journey. We are there to accompany consumers by having the right message at the right time,” she says.
It’s not about the channels or tools that are transforming. For us it’s important [to focus] on the way we go about it.
Sophie Blum, P&G
When asked how P&G ensures it gets the right balance between personalisation and mass messaging, Blum says staying true to a brand’s purpose is key – and points to feminine hygiene brand Always.
“Always is about female empowerment, no matter what age you are. What will change are consumer expectations. I have different expectations of Always compared to my 14-year-old daughter. The moment I’m in touch with Always, the product [on show] is going to be different. But there are things we don’t compromise on; the brand is the brand,” she says.
P&G has also had a focus on cleaning up the “murky” digital ecosystem after Pritchard’s now seminal speech in January. But when asked if these issues impact the company’s ability to use digital as a brand building tool, Blum instantly refutes this.
“No – it just forces us to be extremely rigorous and disciplined in what we do and how we measure things. We are serving our consumers, it’s not about the channels or tools that are transforming. For us it’s important [to focus] on the way we go about it,” she explains.
The marketing team of the future
Overhauling the company’s culture to become more digitally-focused hasn’t been easy, however. Blum claims one of the biggest challenges has been to create “talent for tomorrow”, where marketing leaders are expected to be able to work across multiple disciplines, understand mathematics and algorithms, while also being able to empathise with people.
“You have a base and then a unique human understanding of what is behind data that is telling the consumer story. You need both the human and tech-savvy side. That’s the new level of recruitment, and a whole new ballgame of leadership,” she says.
As a result, Blum’s plea to young people in the profession is to adopt a diverse set of skills, and to think of brands as a “force of good and growth”.
She concludes: “That’s the role of big brands. The weight on the shoulders of marketers today has never been so heavy; not only to change behaviours and change the conversation, but to be a force for good.”