P&G on why the marketing industry will ‘never be able to do enough’ on diversity

European brand boss Sophie Blum believes diversity must be a “long-lasting investment in culture” and part of business strategy.

sophie blum p&g

Diversity is a big issue in marketing. According to a recent survey by Marketing Week, 26% of marketers report there are no people from ethnic minorities in their team, while 27% said there were no lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender people and 51% that their departments lacked people with physical or mental disabilities.

Yet Procter & Gamble’s European brand boss Sophie Blum insists diversity is a “game changer” and key to her own company’s business success. Speaking specifically about gender diversity after her talk at the Dmexco ad tech conference in Germany last week, she cites figures showing that P&G recruits a 50/50 gender balance, while 45% of its managers are female and women make up 40% of its board.

She suggests diversity is not something new and that it has required a “long-lasting investment in culture” to achieve.

“Diversity is a measure, inclusion is a skill. The skill requires culture and it’s a topic for everyone. It is about creating this balance,” she told Marketing Week.

“Leveraging diversity on background, gender, ethnicity is a recipe for happiness and unleashing the potential of the personal and professional life. Since I joined P&G [diversity] was very anchored in the business strategy and it is proven that diversity delivers better results.”

READ MORE: Marketing’s diversity problem

Blum started out at P&G 25 years ago and has held a number of roles across the business, including running its hub in Israel for almost a decade. She admits there have been times when her job has been challenging, particularly when working in the Middle East where many teams are comprised mostly of men.

And she has some advice for women just starting their careers.

“Make sure you pick the right company to join. What helped me and I found very powerful, and I realise this looking back, is the fact we are a company driven by results so it’s very fair. You deliver results and regardless of who you are, your background, then you progress,” she said.

“Be the very best in the field you have chosen and then there is no discussion.”

Sophie Blum, VP of marketing in Europe & IMEA, P&G

Shaking off the ‘legacy of portraits’ in advertising

She admits it can be difficult for brands to shake off the “legacy of portraits” which sometimes leads to stereotyping in ads. However, she believes the way to overcome this is through “very deep consumer understanding”.

Blum cites the example of Always’ ‘Like a girl’ campaign, which she said was not based on a “dream” but on an “outrageous” insight that half of girls lose confidence during puberty and more than half never recover it. And she claimed business results have been “outstanding” on a range of metrics from brand equity to purchase.

Like a girl

“A brand like Always is rooted in deep consumer insight with a brand purpose that is to empower girls and women, there to challenge, to take a stand and to be the voice of millions of women. And it has been a fantastic success.”

READ MORE: How P&G is making Always a ‘giving’ brand

Yet she admitted that whatever P&G and the wider industry does there will always be more that could be done. “It will never be enough. At P&G we have taken our own responsibility with Ariel, Pantene and Always, to use the weight of our advertising to fight against bias in society. We take responsibility. You cannot be a leading brand and not take responsibility.”

Why authenticity matters

However, Blum believes this approach can work in driving brand and sales growth only if the advertising is authentic.

“If you want to drive brand awareness and recall, there are three things that matter most. The brand has to fit; it has to be part of the storyline. The second is context matters to drive effectiveness. And the last one is authenticity. Authenticity is about the job a brand does in a unique manner to solve a day-to-day task,” she explained.

Brands that get that right will be able to drive both short-term revenues and longer term brand building. “The sharper and more focused your brand strategy, the better off you are going to be.”

“If [your brand strategy] is anchored to consumer understanding, you are going to be able to define a strategy that in the short term will attract consumers and in the long term bring them back.”

Sophie Blum, VP of marketing in Europe & IMEA, P&G

She concluded: “With ‘Like a girl’ we triggered your attention, you are interested, you like the benefit, you need the superior protection that Always can give and you go and buy. If my product doesn’t delight and provide consumers with the superiority you expect, you are not going to come back. If it does, then you will. This is the art and the science.”