International Advertising: P&G flexes muscle for global branding

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Procter & Gamble Co. is taking a more flexible approach to the global branding that has driven its marketing strategy for more than a decade.

"Developing global brands is not an end in itself, but a means to an end," said Global Marketing Officer Jim Stengel. "Our goal is a global brand leadership in the categories in which we choose to compete. Sometimes we can do that with one brand name and brand positioning, and sometimes it takes several brands with different positionings." The remarks from Mr. Stengel, speaking via satellite from Cincinnati to the International Advertising Association 38th World Congress in Beirut on May 24, were his first public statements about global branding philosophy since taking P&G's top marketing job last June.

In an interview following his talk, he said P&G's organization is flexible enough to work between the extremes of standardized global brands and total local control. P&G is at roughly the midpoint of its Organization 2005 reorganization, which created global business units with global general managers and, in some cases, global brand managers and marketing directors.

Mr. Stengel said he couldn't attend the convention in person because he was meeting with President-CEO A.G. Lafley to discuss the future of P&G's marketing organization. Among changes Mr. Stengel favors is one that could help give a very local spin to the thinking of brand managers by having all marketing executives serve at some point in their careers on retail sales teams in the company's regional market development organizations.

"We got on a kick where we tried to go too far [on global standardization] with some of the brands," Mr. Stengel said in the interview, "even to the point of changing names." He pointed to Safeguard, a strong bar soap brand in Mexico under the Spanish name Escuda. "As we were trying to standardize more, we changed it to Safeguard. Volume dropped precipitously, we changed it back to Escuda and volume went back up."

faster flow

While numerous P&G agency assignment shifts in recent years have put most key global brands under a single global agency, Mr. Stengel said he doesn't think that will be necessary for all brands.

"What you certainly get with one agency is faster flow of information," he said.

He showed commercials to demonstrate varied approaches can work, including Pampers ads, all from Publicis Groupe's Saatchi & Saatchi, with widely varied copy from Middle Eastern, Latin American and South African campaigns to Charmin ads from Bcom3 Group's D'Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles using essentially the same copy and bear icon in the U.S., U.K. and Mexico.

How to make global branding work is a question that has long perplexed global marketers, as Coca-Cola Co.'s moves in recent years from "think globally, act locally," to "think locally, act locally"-and then back-illustrated.

Mr. Stengel said in his speech: "Think of global branding on a continuum that has absolute standardization on one end, and total local adaptation on another end. Be comfortable putting your business or brand somewhere on that continuum.

"There are hard points you want to keep consistent across geographies, like the kind of machine you use to make Bounty," he said. "But if you want to put different colors, patterns or brand names on the towels, that's a soft point. It doesn't cost us a lot extra. It meets local needs. I think we're getting better at deciding what are the hard points and what are the soft points."

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