Humble Try

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Long known for its confidence-some would say arrogance-Procter & Gamble Co. wants again to be known as the undisputed global marketing leader. But to do that, new Global Marketing Officer Jim Stengel is taking a surprisingly humble approach-seeking wisdom from other vaunted marketers and even bargain-hunting lower-middle-class moms.

It's hard to be humble at P&G, where the top marketing job has produced such legendary figures as Robert Goldstein, namesake of the Association of National Advertisers award for top marketers, and Robert Herbold, who later helped build Microsoft Corp.'s dominance as chief operating officer.

By comparison, Mr. Stengel, who in August took charge of the country's No. 1 household-products company and third-largest advertiser, might at first seem the mild-mannered journalist he was during four years at Time Inc. But in his quest to make P&G global uber-marketer, he's brushing aside the kryptonite dust left by years of often-declining market shares and shaking off insularity in P&G's culture.

"I want to make sure in my tenure that we are the best branding company in the world and the best trainer and creator of marketing in the world," said Mr. Stengel, 46.

In a renewed emphasis on training P&G's 3,000-plus marketers started under predecessor Bob Wehling, Mr. Stengel has invited into his workshops top marketing officers from the likes of Wal-Mart Stores, Volkswagen of America, Lexus and Visa International.


He's putting pressure on agencies for the best work and demanding the best people from roster shops-something he said P&G warrants and mostly gets as the No. 1 or No. 2 account at its four main global agencies. But Mr. Stengel also wants to see the work they're doing for other clients. For example, he recently visited Bcom3 Group's Leo Burnett USA, Chicago, to hear case studies about building the Altoids brand nearly from scratch into a $180 million business; he also viewed the agency's current advertising for the U.S. Army.

As one of P&G's top 30 officers, Mr. Stengel is also part of an effort to put teeth in President-CEO A.G. Lafley's "the consumer is boss" mantra by making quarterly visits with ordinary families in their homes and on shopping trips. "We read the data, look at the charts and hear the presentations," he said, "but to shop [with consumers] and see how the woman is changing retailers to save 10 cents on a loaf of bread and see how far they are stretching their money so they can spend it on the things that are important to them-[that's] important to us to keep front and center."

`back to basics'

Mr. Stengel talks up store-level marketing more than his predecessors, mentioning P&G's pioneering efforts there in the same breath as leadership in radio or TV advertising. P&G now has 40 brand managers working with retailers on co-marketing programs, he said, producing such results as a program that gave Pur water filters leadership in Wal-Mart despite trailing Clorox Co.'s Brita by more than 20 share points elsewhere.

While he acknowledges P&G is in a "back to basics" mode, Mr. Stengel said that's not about scurrying back to the security of the 30-second TV spot. TV remains important, he said, but the "basics" are really about getting brand propositions right using a scorecard that looks at everything from pricing to product to copy effectiveness.

Beyond basics, he said, "We have to be asking what is the next marketing model, and we have a lot of people working on that."

Among key frontiers for P&G today is what he calls "prime-prospect marketing," based on the notion that no P&G brand is really a mass brand, not even Tide, whose top 18% of consumers drive 80% of sales. He points to last year's launch of Crest Whitestrips, which focused first on teens, brides-to-be and gay men, who research found were the best prospects. To drive home the importance of target marketing, Mr. Stengel in November launched an annual "Bullseye Award" for the P&G brand that does the best job of it.

"The era of pushing a message broadly on lots of consumers and having them receive it and act on it is over," he said. "It's about finding consumers when and where they're receptive to getting a message about our brands."

Fast Facts

Name: Jim Stengel

Title: Global marketing officer, Procter & Gamble

Age: 46

Goal: To market smarter by getting closer to consumers, retailers; learn from marketers in other categories

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