Why brand building must be a digital discipline

Marc Pritchard, global marketing and brand building officer at Procter & Gamble, reveals how the Olympics sponsor is using a digital first strategy to communicate the values of the company alongside the benefits of its FMCG brands.

Marc Pritchard

“This is probably the most profound time of change that has occurred in brand building since the end of Second World War when mass marketing really took off,” asserts Marc Pritchard, global marketing and brand building officer at FMCG giant Procter & Gamble.

The change that Pritchard refers to is the advent of digital channels and social media, which has radically transformed marketers’ roles. “We are at an inflection point,” he continues, “and I’m committed to make a difference.”

In February, P&G announced a dramatic change in strategy to meet the digital needs of the 21st century, which Pritchard claims will require “fundamental shifts” in its approach to marketing.

The new strategy will see P&G cut $1bn (£630m) from its marketing costs by switching to lower cost digital activity as part of a drive to save $10bn (£6.3bn) over the next four years.

Marc Pritchard

The strategy will also include the loss of 5,700 jobs, including a number of marketing roles. And considering P&G is the largest spender on TV advertising in the UK and has a worldwide TV ad expenditure of £136m, according to Nielsen 2011 figures, there will inevitably be considerable change in the media landscape. P&G is using YouTube and Facebook to launch its first global corporate marketing campaign, which started on Tuesday, to mark 100 days until the 2012 Olympics starts.

Pritchard claims that this new focus has already changed the marketing culture at P&G – a company that is often heralded as a training ground for tomorrow’s top marketers.

“The culture’s changed dramatically,” says Pritchard. “But what hasn’t changed is the necessity of big ideas.”

He says the huge challenge for marketers is to develop a culture where the big campaign ideas are driven by new media. “The most challenging part of my job is that it’s a 24/7 role,” he adds. “That means grappling with what it takes to operate in a 24/7 world, and more importantly a world in which consumers are harnessing the rapid pace of technology. We need to be able to really leverage that technology in the most effective way to build brands.”

Pritchard cites P&G’s Smell Like A Man, Man campaign for Old Spice as an example of the new ‘always on’ culture that he is trying to instil in the business. Starting with an ad that ran before the Super Bowl (and amassed 140 million hits on YouTube), the team then frequently refreshed the campaign, developing new and surprising creative to generate a viral effect.

Pritchard, who is based in Cincinnati, explains: “In the US, we did a commercial with the line ‘Smell is power’ that actually combined several brands. The smell of the Old Spice man is so powerful that he couldn’t even be contained in his own ad so he was showing up in ads for [fabric softener] Downy and for Febreze. That ended up getting 5 million views on YouTube within a month.”

Similarly, this mentality has been taken even further with a recent quick-thinking US campaign for laundry brand Tide. During the Daytona 500 Nascar event, a crash caused a delay to the race because an oil spill needed to be cleaned away by detergent – in this case Tide.

marc Pritchard

Spotting an opportunity to talk to a large and most probably frustrated audience in a meaningful way, P&G developed an ad using footage of the clean-up with the tagline ‘You keep inventing stains. We’ll keep inventing ways to get them out’, which ran for the next 72 hours. The TV ad spread through social media, and news teams in need of material to fill the gap before the race restarted gave the unexpected use of Tide a large amount of media coverage.

Digital-first thinking, coupled with product tie-ins that resonate with consumers is also something Pritchard is keen to drive in P&G’s worldwide sponsorship of the Olympic Games until 2020. The umbrella concept of P&G as ‘Proud Sponsor of Mums’ resonates with all parents, but has particular significance with regard to athletes, he claims.

“There are a lot of people that help an Olympic athlete but the one that doesn’t get thanked enough is their mum. They’re with them every step of the way. They’re often overlooked, and so we thought why don’t we use our voice to thank them?”

More than just a creative concept, the Proud Sponsor of Mums idea has been translated into very practical terms around the Olympics. P&G’s Nearest & Dearest campaign will see the company support athletes’ families during London 2012 by providing them with a family area to relax in and, more importantly, providing them with tickets to see their children compete – something that research told P&G most worried Olympic athletes.

Brand ambassador: Distance runner Paula Radcliffe

And it’s not just Olympic mums that will gain access to the Games through P&G. More than 90% of the company’s allocation of 6,000 tickets will be given to the public through a number of campaigns, including on-pack giveaways that Pritchard claims generated $20m of extra sales for P&G after the company’s Mother’s Day campaign in 2011.

This year’s activity around Mother’s Day marked the first major online campaign since the company revealed it was to shift a large chunk of its marketing activity to digital channels. The activity centred on giving people the opportunity to upload a Thank You Mum video to a microsite, and in return were entered into a draw to win a family ticket to London 2012. Olympic brand ambassadors, including runner Paula Radcliffe, featured in an online video thanking their own mums, and all print and PR activity drove traffic to the digital campaign.

This change to a digital-first culture has seen the structure of P&G’s marketing departments alter. Three years ago, marketing, market research, external relations and design – including packaging and in-store creative – were brought into one group, both in terms of in-house staff and agencies.

Pritchard explains: “We started by creating what we call brand franchise leaders, who manage the brand on a global basis. They have all four of their functions working for them. Agency-wise, we established a brand agency leader and they have to have a creative advertising agency, a digital agency, a PR agency, design agency and market research agency.

“We’ve changed the organisation to be a lot more integrated. We’re adding people who can manage the community at all times and make sure that they’re staying focused and looking for new creative ideas that are more entwined with pop culture.”

And it’s a cultural change that has also been reflected in Pritchard’s position within P&G. In 2009, he was promoted from global marketing officer to global marketing and brand building officer in order to head up new ‘marketing and brand building’ responsibilities of marketing, market research, public relations and design.

Pritchard’s own journey through P&G is a long and varied one. Joining the company as a finance graduate in 1982, Pritchard worked in the company’s finance and manufacturing departments before landing marketing roles in P&G’s cosmetics businesses. It’s a route that Pritchard feels was integral to what he sees as his proudest achievement – turning around P&G’s cosmetics brands more that 15 years ago to make it a “business worth having”.

Pritchard’s drive to make P&G more agile and integrated, and his new role, stems not only from this broad path through the company, but also echoes his personal philosophy, preferring the term “brand building” to “marketing”.

He explains: “Marketing is often perceived as traditional TV advertising, and maybe a little bit of promotion. Brand building is looking at the purpose of a brand. It’s about identifying how that brand can touch and improve lives with its benefits and how you can then take those benefits and express them at the store level, in public relations, in digital, TV and print. It’s how you create experiences for consumers that include services, information, education and entertainment, so you build that entire brand experience.”

But pushing the term brand building is also something that Pritchard hopes will help P&G’s 5,000 marketers focus on their mission. He says: “When people think about marketing they think about what they want to do – ‘I want to market to consumers’ – but we want to shift that mindset to ‘I want to serve people with our brands’. Marketing to consumers is a very company-centric activity, whereas serving people with our brands is about brand building that makes people’s lives better. That’s a different mindset.”

Keeley Hawes
Clean sweep: Actress and model Keeley Hawes is the face of the company’s Capital Clean Up

Pritchard hopes that his greatest impact on P&G will be leading the business into the new digital age where social media, transparency and corporate responsibility combine to improve the lives of P&G’s consumers. A large part of his legacy will be the movement towards introducing consumers to the P&G masterbrand, rather than just its products like Pantene or Fairy, something Pritchard believes there is a great demand for by the general public.

He says: “In the transparent digital world people want to know which brands belong to which company. Trust in institutions has eroded, so people are looking for brands and companies that they trust.”

This strategy has its roots in the 19th century. Pritchard says: “Back in 1837, we marketed as P&G. William Procter and James Gamble wrote ‘An honest weight at a fair price’ on their shop window because they wanted to make sure that consumers viewed it as a good deal. It’s still the core value of the company.”

Honesty and fairness may have different platforms in 2012 but the same principle of improving people’s lives is something that remains integral to the P&G brand, argues Pritchard, whether that’s transforming ‘wash day’ as it might have been in 1937 into a washing machine load or committing to eliminate maternal and neonatal tetanus by 2015 (see Marketer 2 Marketer, below).

Pritchard says: “People expect brands and companies to do more than just sell products. They want brands to make their life a bit better everyday. We’re very much an everyday company – we brush your teeth, we apply your mascara – so we have the responsibility and opportunity to bring about real change.”

Marketer 2 marketer

Ben Jones, founder of Graze.com, asks: The upcoming generation believes business is not just about the bottom line but also about humankind and the chance to make a difference. How are you evaluating P&G’s CSR programmes in reaction to this quiet revolution?

Marc Pritchard (MP): In 2010, we announced our new sustainability vision for P&G. This embedded sustainability in every part of our business and this is absolutely the case in our brand building and communications. We recognise the opportunity we have as a company to improve lives, and both environmental and social responsibility are fundamental to this. We can drive sustainable consumption through our brands like our cold water washing campaigns on [US laundry brand] Tide and Ariel or through innovative packaging like on Pantene Nature Fusions or Gillette Fusion ProGlide.

We can form far-reaching partnerships between our brands and NGOs like Pampers and Unicef, which has already provided 100 million vaccines to protect 300 million
women and their babies in the developing world against maternal and neonatal tetanus. And we can take our purpose of improving lives all over the world with our Children’s Safe Drinking Water campaign. More than 1 billion people on the planet don’t have access to clean drinking water and we’re tackling this with our P&G PUR water purification technology.

We’ve already provided more than 4 billion litres of clean drinking water to the developing world and in disaster relief efforts and we’ve pledged to ‘Save a life every hour by 2020’ by providing up to 2 billion litres every year. It is both a responsibility and an opportunity for companies like P&G to broaden how we touch and improve people’s lives and to continue to do so now, and for generations to come.

Helen Normoyle, departing BBC director of marketing and audiences, asks: Over the last few years we’ve seen Unilever increase the use of its masterbrand on packaging and now P&G is following suit. What are your thoughts on how to effectively communicate the P&G brand alongside its respective sub-brands to consumers?

MP: The best way to do that is to ensure people know the company behind the brands. What we did for the Olympics activity is to introduce the company behind the brands with the Thank You Mum programme, which shows that P&G is the proud sponsor of mums. You come up with an idea that people can associate with and then you activate it across multiple touchpoints.

The best way to do that is to come up with a big idea that you can unite your brands behind, then communicate the values of the company alongside the benefits of the brands. You can see this with the Olympics, P&G is in the business of helping mums, and then all the athletes can communicate a particular benefit of each product.

Q&A: The Olympic Games

Marc Pritchard

Marketing Week (MW): Why did P&G decide to sponsor the Olympics for the next 10 years?

Marc Pritchard (MP): We realised pretty quickly that the purpose of P&G – to touch and improve lives – is pretty congruent with the purpose of the Olympics, which is to make life better through sport.

Our sponsorship allows us to both create a big idea that unites our brands under a P&G umbrella, such the Proud Sponsor of Mums campaign, and develop Olympic-themed ideas around our individual brands.

Our journey began when we got US rights to the Vancouver Winter Games and put some brand programmes together for that. They looked quite good, but we thought we could have more impact, so we challenged our agency to unite the purposes of the two organisations. That’s when we came back with the idea that every Olympic athlete has a mum, and it went from there.

MW: You have talked about London 2012 as the first truly digital Olympics. How has that influenced your approach this time?

MP: Beijing 2008 was just the beginning. Vancouver was a little bit more digital, but this time our broadcast partners are truly looking to extend across all platforms so that has affected us.

Digital gives us a chance to connect with people on a one-to-one basis. Digital technology is making it inevitable that you’re going to create conversations with people rather than broadcasting to them. We are developing Facebook communities and already have a Thank You Mum Facebook site. We’re also working with Twitter and both the athletes and brands will be tweeting. That will allow us to create deeper content that will engage people and generate participation in the games as never before.

MW: How do you choose the right Olympians to represent P&G as brand ambassadors?

MP: We talk with the British Olympic Association about great athletes who would be good spokespeople, not only for P&G but also for them. We want them to have good stories, or be athletes that people will get excited about. We then tie that in with one or more of our brands. So Paula Radcliffe is a mum, and she’s got a great mum, Pat Radcliffe, who’s supported her throughout her career. She’s going to help us represent Pampers and Fairy because it takes about 20,000 meals to build an Olympic athlete over their life. That’s a lot of dishes [to wash]!

Cyclist Sir Chris Hoy and swimmer Liam Hancock are representing Gillette because to be a great cyclist or swimmer you’ve got to get off to a good start. You need to think who would be a good ambassador for the country, who would be a good ambassador for the brand and P&G, and then you come up with an idea that fits with the particular athlete.

MW: Is that the same strategy you’re using with Capital Clean-up, where you’re tying in particular brands with parts of the activity to clean London before the Games?

MP: Exactly. That’s another great UK-specific activity that we’re doing. It was developed from insight that London wants to look its best because the whole world is coming round.

We looked at our cleaning brands, including Ariel, Fairy, Flash, Febreze, and worked out how they could fit into the Capital Clean-up. Febreze, for example, will make London a greener place by creating a number of leafy ‘Fresh Havens’.

We’re going to clean all the way through the Olympic Games so we can make London an even better place.


2009-Present Global marketing and brand building officer, P&G
2008 Global marketing officer, P&G
2006-2007 Presidential roles in the P&G global strategy, productivity and growth departments
2000-2006 Led global cosmetics, personal care, deodorants, retail hair colourants businesses at P&G
1988-2000 A range of marketing roles in P&G’s cosmetics businesses
1986-1988 Roles in the controller’s division, P&G
1982-1986 Financial roles in the paper division, P&G
1982 Graduated with a finance degree from Indiana University

My last 24 hours

21 March 2012

At 7am, I got off the plane from Chicago, where I was keynote speaker at the 29th Annual IEG Sponsorship Conference.

Once through Heathrow Airport, I went with UK colleagues to visit some stores in the South East. I go into markets all the time as I like to see what the consumers are doing. I want to see what the stores look like and what the people in our organisation are working on. I like to be useful, and use my experience to help them.

In the stores, we look at the displays, how the prices of our brands compare with other brands, whether our brands stand out, the effectiveness of the packaging and what the competition is doing. It’s a good opportunity to learn about how the business is doing on the ground.

I then came back to P&G’s head office in Weybridge and carried out an Olympic review. We looked at activity that we’ve already launched and planned future projects. We brainstormed some ideas about what we can do to make it bigger, including pushing a few digital and PR activities.

We then conducted a business review and talked about the big ideas that are being led on in the UK. I saw some great work that has been done on Pampers and the Oral B launch – something that’s been extremely successful and has yielded some really good digital activity – and some more experimental ideas. For example, we’ve got some Thank You Mum photos going into [online content sharing service] Pinterest.

I then led an organisational review, so we looked at what we were doing, how we were doing and how can we operate more effectively.

That was followed by dinner with Irwin Lee, P&G UK and Ireland vice-president and managing director, which gave us the opportunity to talk about the business and organisation.

Then I went into second shift. I had a lot of phone meetings – something I do a lot of as I work with people from all around the world. It mainly covered Olympic projects and some organisational work. I knocked off at about 11pm, and then I got up this morning and caught up on emails.