Learn from masters

By Published on .

I was especially proud of our industry, and of my company, Procter & Gamble, as Katharine Graham, Hal Riney, Charles Peebler and John Smale were inducted into the American Advertising Federation's Advertising Hall of Fame last month. They are remarkable people.

John Smale is the sixth Procter & Gamble leader to enter the Hall of Fame. No other company is as well represented. Beginning with Harley Procter in 1961, I found a common thread of perspective and vision that each of these marketers brought to his leadership at P&G. John Smale embodied these characteristics as clearly as anyone I've ever met.

John was and is a principle-and-value-driven leader. In difficult times and on difficult decisions, he always made choices consistent with our company's values and principles. He put the long-term strength of his organization ahead of the short-term impact of tough choices. And he embodied a commitment to improve the lives of our consumers in small and large ways and to have a positive impact on society. The best brands make a difference in consumers' lives more clearly and effectively than their competition. The companies that deliver those brands must also positively affect society in how they do business and in the integrity in which they deal with consumers, retailers and other stakeholders.

Understanding what brands mean in consumers' lives, how to change them to be more relevant, and how to market them most effectively is what has always distinguished Hall of Famers, and always will. Witness John Smale's impact on our Crest brand.

Future Hall of Famers will share with John, and others who have come before, a relentless passion for their businesses. They will ask fundamental questions and won't assume simple questions didn't need to be asked. They will stay close to consumers' lives. It's what kept John sharp and insightful and was a key part of what drove his very successful career.

The environment has changed much since John Smale's tenure at Procter & Gamble. Consumers are more diverse and fragmented, have higher expectations and more choices, and are less trusting of large organizations. And we, of course, have the uncertainty and anxieties triggered by Sept. 11.

Future Hall of Fame marketers must embody bedrock values more than ever and also pioneer some new directions. They will need to make breakthroughs in consumer understanding, where brands and businesses win or lose every day. This means new research tools, more innovative research strategies and new programs for consumer immersion. The Internet has opened up new ways for connecting with consumers that we are only beginning to fully understand.

Next, they will have to find new approaches beyond the tired mass marketing model. So-called one-to-one marketing is not the answer. It ignores the power of knowing how consumers come together as natural groups that share values and interests. Marketers must develop tools and strategies for identifying and reaching "prime prospect" segments, and then relentlessly focus on building trial and loyalty among these segments.

emphasis on basics, principles

Many of our P&G brand leaders are already bringing these principles to life. The recent growth of the Crest brand is built on breakthrough product innovation (WhiteStrips and SpinBrush) designed to meet the needs of specifically defined consumer groups. Old Spice takes the same "prime prospect" approach, combined with product innovation, to build a revitalized young person's brand. Similar work on our Gain, Olay and Pampers brands is creating growth rooted in deep consumer understanding and pioneering new approaches based on that understanding.

Finally, future Hall of Famers will need a redoubled emphasis on the basics: training, education, sharing ideas, new technologies for collaboration and recognition for long-term partners such as advertising and communication agencies, which are crucial to any brand's ability to connect powerfully with consumers.

Tomorrow's Hall of Famers must build on the values, principles and teaching that John Smale and others have left us. But they must chart new courses for new times. As we say at P&G, they'll have to recognize that "The Consumer is Boss" and put the needs and interests of consumers first in everything they do. Whether it's 1950 or 2050, that's a formula for creating a real passion for making a positive difference in peoples' lives.

Jim Stengel is global marketing officer, Procter & Gamble Co.

Most Popular
In this article: