P&G marketing alumni have gotten together before-most recently in 2000 and 1997 in Chicago. But this time was different in several ways. It was the first such reunion held in Cincinnati and, in part, at P&G headquarters, and the first to open the invitations to non-marketing alumni.
Among the attendees were P&G friends and competitors, suppliers and customers, including former Microsoft Chief Operating Officer Bob Herbold, former AOL Time Warner Chairman Steve Case, Clorox Co. Chief Operating Officer Jerry Johnston and Home Depot Chief Marketing Officer John Costello.
In a speech at the last reunion in Chicago, P&G Chairman-CEO A.G. Lafley urged the alums to gather in Cincinnati this time. Mr. Lafley, who in 2000 was the first P&G CEO to address a reunion, had been on the job less than a week at that point, following the resignation of his predecessor Durk Jager after two quarterly earnings disappointments.
This year, Mr. Lafley acknowledged that the rousing reception he got three years ago helped buck him up during one of P&G's darkest hours. It wouldn't be the last time he would leverage the P&G alumni network.
Within weeks of the last reunion, Mr. Lafley had sent handwritten notes to many of the alums in attendance. Within three years, he had peppered P&G's board with three of them-Intuit founder Scott Cook, 3M Chairman-CEO James McNerney, and eBay Chairman-CEO Meg Whitman, who joined Mr. Lafley in a CEO roundtable that was part of the event.
While alums got the chance to schmooze with big decision-makers, P&G also got a chance to sell its wares. Among workshops was one titled "How to Do Business with P&G," led by P&G VP-External Business Development Jeff Weedman, who talked about opportunities to license brands and technology from P&G, and vice versa. Representatives of P&G's Tremor teen viral marketing program touted the 275,000-member community to would-be clients.
More than half P&G's partners in external ventures are alumni, Mr. Weedman said. "They understand us and we understand them," he said. "They don't need the magic decoder ring."