Faster feedback: Using tech tools to speed marketing

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Managing a hot brand for Procter & Gamble Co. can be both blessing and curse. Vince Hudson learned that as brand manager for the 2000 launch of Crest Whitestrips, which hit $200 million in sales the first year. The experience helped him earn a promotion to marketing director, but it also meant lots of calls from colleagues seeking advice.

His solution was to post much of what he learned on Marketing Net, P&G's fast-growing online repository of marketing news and learning from around the world. Today, as marketing director for gastrointestinal drugs, Mr. Hudson uses mNet, as it's known for short, to help train brand managers and assistant brand managers. He also uses mNet to put some added weight behind what he's asking his ad agency to do, either by showing what's been done before or how the strategy fits with that of Global Marketing Officer Jim Stengel.

The intranet, combined with P&G's VideoNet linking marketers with their agencies, copy-testing services and post-production houses, is among the ways P&G is using technology to help its marketing operation move faster. "In a company the size of P&G, with 3,500 marketing employees, there's a challenge with the right hand knowing what the left hand is doing," said Joe Hensler, associate director of Marketing Xchange, the in-house unit that manages mNet and Video Net.

P&G hasn't forced use of the systems, but rather treats them like brands, doing focus groups and surveys and hiring an ad agency, Cincinnati's Creative Department, to produce posters and print ads to promote them. One ad for VideoNet directed at P&G agencies reads: "Now get feedback from your client faster. Sorry."

Of P&G's 3,500 marketing executives, 80% have used mNet in the past three months, and 1,000 use it weekly. Companywide, 14,000 of P&G's 102,000 employees are registered users.

videonet

VideoNet has a smaller 8,200 users, but is integral to TV ad production for many P&G brands, who use it to send work in progress from agencies and post-production houses, ship ads off for copy testing or even e-mail links to retailers to show upcoming campaigns. P&G marketing executives also use it to tap an archive of 25,000 ads from P&G, competitors and other marketers-including up to 15 years worth of ads for most key P&G brands.

Drake Simpson, marketing director for P&G fabric softeners, believes Video Net has trimmed days or even weeks off advertising development. He also sees it as a good way to keep brand teams apprised of competitive advertising without holding meetings.

Speed, more than reducing headcounts, is the biggest value of such "marketing automation" systems, said Jim Nail, analyst with Forrester Research. He cites the 1999 rollout of P&G's Swiffer cleaning system as S.C. Johnson & Son was rolling out rival Pledge Grab-It globally. Everywhere Swiffer launched first, including the U.S., it became the leading brand, but Swiffer trails everywhere it launched second.

"What if P&G had been able to use the technology to ... get to the market before Pledge in each of those cases?" Mr. Nail said. "How much is that extra share point worth? Now you're talking real money."

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