P&G’s Roisin Donnelly: Marketers too hung up on platforms will lose focus on consumers

Procter & Gamble’s Northern European brand director Roisin Donnelly believes marketers are allowing themselves to be distracted by new digital platforms and are using “technology for technology’s sake” rather than actually focusing on consumers and their needs.

oystercatchers modern marketer

Speaking at an Oystercatchers event last night (17 May) on ‘How to be a modern marketer’, Donnelly said while P&G has “changed constantly” since she joined one thing has remained the same and that is its focus on the consumer.

“[P&G] is not the company I joined but the consumer is still at the heart. We talk about digital and the pace of change but you have to put people at the heart to be successful. Marketers are too hung up on platforms and the latest things coming along,” she said.

She advised brands not to “change for change sake” or to use “technology for technology’s sake” but to instead follow the consumer. Donnelly described TV as “great”, pointing out its reach and power but said that is being lost amid a rush to newer media.

“We don’t always have to move on,” she said.

Her comments mirror findings from exclusive Marketing Week research which found that the fundamentals of marketing have remained the same despite changing media consumption habits. When asked how their role had changed over the past five months, 83% of respondents said customer experience is now much more central to their role while 74% believe brand strategy plays a bigger role.

By comparison, just 30% believe advertising has become more central and indeed 27% say it is actually less important.

Read more: Brand strategy, data and customer experience are marketers’ new priorities

The fundamentals of marketing are the same as ever despite changing media and consumption habits. However, the new Marketing Week research shows customer experience, data and brand strategy have gained in importance while advertising has become less of a day-to-day priority.

Donnelly said the role of a marketer is changing in other ways too. She explained that P&G used to spend up to five years testing products before bringing them to market but that it is now “braver and takes risks”.

Brands should not be afraid to run with a great marketing idea, she added, citing P&G’s recent ‘Thank you mum’ campaign. That was based on a “great insight”, she claimed, and having first run it four years ago will be returning for this year’s Rio Olympics.

On the role of a CMO, she said the big change has been that now “no one knows it all”. This has meant that where before a marketing leader was an expert and could command all control, they must now be a “servant leader”.

Barnaby Dawe, global CMO at Just Eat who was speaking at the same event, agreed with this assessment and said marketers must not be afraid to admit they do now know everything.

“Key is knowing what questions to ask. We don’t have to know all the answers but we do need to know the right questions.”

Barnaby Dawe, global CMO, Just Eat

That, said Ash Tailor, global brand and marketing director at Britvic, means brands are looking for a new relationship with their agencies. Britvic is looking for “complete collaboration” to ensure that the internal marketing team and its partners operate as one.

“There are still agencies chasing the brief. We don’t want to talk to them,” he added.