P&G redefines brand manager for MDO days

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Being a Procter & Gamble Co. brand manager doesn't necessarily mean managing a brand anymore, as the company now heads toward "market development organizations" to market P&G's portfolio of brands in new ways.

In July, dozens of P&G marketing directors and brand managers will be assigned to eight geographically organized MDOs under the Organization 2005 restructuring.

Among their duties will be working on "customer business" or sales teams, developing co-marketing programs with retailers, redesigning stores, forging partnerships with other marketers and even developing "a whole new creative approach to the Hispanic market," said Robert L. Wehling, P&G's senior marketing officer.


One role they won't have is managing what Mr. Wehling describes as the three key elements of brand equity--advertising, product development and packaging. Marketing directors and brand managers in P&G's global marketing units will be the guardians of brand equity.

An MDO marketing job "is not what I signed up for if I joined the company three years ago, before any of this [reorganization] started happening," admitted VP-Marketing Denis Beausejour.

But he expects most P&G executives assigned to the MDOs to embrace their new role of looking at consumers on a broader, multibrand, household basis.

"They will be thinking about the consumer as a shopper," Mr. Beausejour said. "They will be thinking about the consumer in terms of what their media habits might be in that particular geography."

But the move to what some may see as less glamorous, less strategic and more "tactical" jobs has some P&G managers grumbling, said executives close to the company.

Traditionally, P&G has competed for MBAs against investment banks and high-tech companies with the prospect of "running their own business as brand managers within a few years," said one ex-P&G brand manager.

MDO jobs won't quite fit that bill.

But Mr. Beausejour sees the new position as creating opportunities for marketing with broader scope and deeper impact than what brand managers or marketing directors traditionally have done.


A good example of what P&G envisions MDOs doing was a project last year in the Philippines aimed at boosting sales of several P&G brands by putting washing machines into more homes, Mr. Beausejour said. In a joint venture with a manufacturer and a bank, P&G gave consumers low-interest credit cards they could use to buy washers.

"If I'm talking to the guy who did that in the Philippines, he's on fire for market development organizations," said Mr. Beausejour. "He loves the idea that you're out there looking at more cosmic marketing issues than just what your little brand might be in the life of that consumer. And he feels pretty good about improving those consumers' lives."


During the past year P&G already has had marketing executives assigned to MDO-like roles on customer business teams with major retailers, he noted.

"They're working . . . to redesign the [retailers'] marketing strategy of their own brands," explained Mr. Beausejour. "They're working on redesigning entire sections of stores. They're working on new store formats. They're working on all kinds of marketing issues . . . and getting huge leverage for our business out of those changes."

Rather than a permanent career path, MDOs will be a rotation that could help managers move up, the executive added.

"We're saying: Hey, a career path that has some brand work and some market work is going to produce a better general manager long-term than anything we've done historically," he said.

The move puts P&G, already well ahead of peers in trade marketing and category management, even further ahead, said Ken Harris, partner with consultancy Cannondale Associates.

While Coca-Cola Co. and PepsiCo have integrated marketing personnel into sales teams for years, most other package goods companies haven't, and none have gone to the lengths P&G has, Mr. Harris said.

"The reason why Procter & Gamble is ahead of the curve is executing bold moves, and this is a bold move," he said.

"They've looked out five years and realized there are going to be 20 retailers who make a huge difference to their business across all trade channels. If they've not aligned properly with those retailers in the next six months, year five is going to look fairly bleak," said Mr. Harris.


Putting marketing executives into MDOs should also help P&G deal better with emerging local issues, such as the growth of the Hispanic market in the U.S., said Burt Flickinger, a consultant with Reach Marketing, Westport, Conn.

At least to some extent, he expects to see more P&G spending follow the brand marketers into the MDOs, with a growing emphasis on the practice of co-marketing with retailers.

"That clearly benefits agencies like J. Brown/LMC Group," P&G's lead co-marketing agency and a division of Grey Advertising, Mr. Flickinger said. "It also ought to be a real concern for P&G's other roster agencies.

"They may need to reconfigure . . . with field offices in order to support P&G's marketing managers in a field-based way," he said.

Copyright April 1999, Crain Communications Inc.

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