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Talking the (Internal) Talk at P&G

Not so SIMPL: P&G Is a Place Where Terms Like ER and GO Don't Mean What You Think

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Business and marketing already have more than their share of jargon and abbreviations, but nowhere is this truer than at the granddaddy of marketing, Procter & Gamble Co., which speaks its own language. This was true to the point that when P&G acquired Gillette Co., incoming executives were given lexicons similar to this one, albeit without some of the more unofficial entries such as "coached out." While far from exhaustive, here's a listing of key P&G acronyms and code phrases.

AMJ: April, May, June: P&G's fiscal third quarter

BAL: Brand agency leader: the executive at an agency (generally one of the creative, non-digital-specialist and not-otherwise-specified agency) that serves as a sort of general contractor overseeing the work and helping select other players on the marketing-services roster. The BAL works closely with the BFL (see below).

A.G. Lafley: The father of the phrase 'the consumer is boss.'
A.G. Lafley: The father of the phrase 'the consumer is boss.'

BFL: Brand franchise leader: the P&G executive -- sometimes a general manager, sometimes a marketing specialist akin to a VP-marketing for one of P&G's giant global brands -- who functions as the point person for agency relationships and, ostensibly, if not always in practice, the final decision-maker on ads.

CBD: Customer business development, or what other companies might call sales.

CIB: "Consumer is boss" is the business-focusing rallying cry popularized under former Chairman-CEO A.G. Lafley, who certainly created his share of lasting P&G acronyms (see FMOT).

Coached out: This is a land that lies somewhere between getting fired and quitting, where a supervisor coaches an underling to realize that his or her dreams would be best pursued elsewhere. It can be such a gentle and subtle process that targets don't immediately realize they've been asked to leave, according to some P&G alums.

P&G alum and Intuit founder Scott Cook, at a 2000 alumni reunion days after Durk Jager resigned as chairman-CEO, famously read fake results of an attendee survey showing those who'd been "coached out" had the highest incomes, adding snarkily that this was a good sign for Mr. Jager.

Company-encouraged termination: This is the formalized language of being "coached out" that has found its way into P&G's annual proxy statements since 2007 as a third designation, beyond termination and voluntary separation. It's a phrase that can be found in no other company's proxy statement, at least per Edgar and Google search. Executives deemed to go through "company-encouraged termination not for cause" at P&G are treated in benefit, stock and severance packages largely like those who retire voluntarily.

CMK: Consumer and market knowledge -- this is the department that other companies call market research or other fanciful names such as "consumer insights."

EOTS: Employee opinion trend survey, which has tracked P&G employee satisfaction since 2002. When things aren't going so well, it might also stand for the more common meaning attached to this acronym -- eye of the storm.

ER: External relations, known elsewhere as public relations.

FMOT: First moment of truth, popularized under Mr. Lafley to describe the time when people decide whether to buy the product.

By way of context, the second moment of truth is when people try the product at home. Advocates of social media eventually popularized a third moment of truth -- when consumers decide whether to tell their friends, family and world at large about their experience.

Google VP-U.S. Sales and Service Jim Lecinski took the ball and ran back in time with it to coin "ZMOT," for the zero moment of truth, when people research a purchase online before shopping. Somewhere deep in the R&D organizations at P&G or Google, researchers are no doubt discovering a fourth or minus-one moment of truth.

Former Colgate-Palmolive Co. Chairman-CEO Reuben Mark, always one to enjoy publicly tweaking his bigger rival, once said that truth came in increments larger than moments at his company.

GBBO: The global brand-building organization headed by Global Brand-Building Officer Marc Pritchard. Oversees in at least a dotted-line fashion and through training the brand management, ER, design and other marketing functions as well as leads corporate-branding efforts such as those behind the Olympics.

The Procter & Gamble GO in Cincinnati
The Procter & Gamble GO in Cincinnati

GBU: Global business unit, or the organizations with full profit-and-loss accountability and oversight of brand management, advertising and product development.

GBS: Global business services -- providing back-office support encompassing 170 services centered in six low-cost global hubs.

GLC: Global leadership council, made up of heads of GBUs and MDOs (see next column) and functional leaders such as the GBBO, the CEO and CFO.

GO: General offices, or what other companies might describe as HQ. P&G's is at Sixth and Sycamore in Cincinnati, marked by twin towers with discs where the old man-in-the-moon logo would have gone had there not been unfounded rumors linking it to Satan worship.

JAS: July, August, September -- P&G's fiscal first quarter.

JFM: January, February, March -- P&G's fiscal third quarter.

MDO: Market development organization -- the regional organizations such as the North American MDO vested with limited profit-and-loss responsibility but full responsibility for sales (CBD), regional multi-brand marketing and media.

MSU: Millions of statistical units, otherwise known as volume. Moving MSU is key to generating NOS (see below) and fulfilling the OGSM (see next column for help).

NOS: Net outside sales, which subtracts the cost of trade and consumer price promotion from gross sales and excludes sales between units of P&G. NOS was popularized during Mr. Jager's tenure as a way of discouraging promo spending and focusing on selling to consumers and away from internal transactions.

OGSM: A P&G brand manager should have one at least annually. It's a plan that encompasses "objectives, goals, strategies and measures," spelling out what you plan to do, why you plan to do it and how you plan to measure what you did.

OND: October, November December, or P&G's fiscal second quarter. You might use this in a sentence like this: "Your OGSM had best be done by OND so it can be implemented by JAS."

SIMPL: Simplified initiative management and product launch -- the name for stage-gate process for approving product launches. P&G once trademarked the term, but ultimately abandoned it. "SIMPL is anything but," said one Gillette vet who left P&G.

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