Procter on Purpose (Hub Magazine)

Procter on Purpose


Marc Pritchard of Procter & Gamble seeks deeper brand meaning.


No longer is it good enough to make the best products. At Procter & Gamble, a brand is not a brand until it makes a difference in your life. A P&G brand must have a purpose that transcends its benefits.

This is why Pampers are now thinner, Tide is doing your dry cleaning and Mr. Clean wants to wash your car. Believe it or not, it’s also why you can smell like Isaiah Mustafa if you want to.

It may not be a new idea that a brand should solve your problems or make your life happier. But as Procter & Gamble marketing chief Marc Pritchard suggests, it is transforming the way marketing — if the term even still applies — is done at Procter & Gamble.

In Marc’s eyes, consumers and shoppers are people, not demographic profiles. Marketing is communications, a two-way (or more) conversation. It is more about providing a service than sending a message.

This perspective — coming as it does from the most influential brand-building organization in the world — clearly has huge implications not only for those who create products but also those who bring them to market.

In other words, it has huge implications for the way we think about retail, and “shopper marketing”… if the term even still applies.

Indeed, while Marc says that P&G’s approach at retail is still “technically” shopper marketing, he also says the company is “moving that whole shopper-marketing craft to a new level.”

This entails re-thinking retail in terms of design, navigation and emotional connections. Perhaps that brings a whole new dimension to the meaning of “touch-points.” At a minimum, it demands approaching the retail experience on “purpose.”

What distinguishes a purpose brand from other brands?

Procter & Gamble’s purpose is to touch lives and improve the lives of the world’s consumers. We expect each brand to define how it uniquely touches and improves the lives of the people that it serves.

Purpose-inspired brands look more broadly at consumers as people and how we can make their everyday lives just a little bit better with our brands.

That drives us to find insights that are not just about the product benefit but go beyond that to look at a broader human insight that really motivates people and motivates action.

We look for insights that represent human truths, motivations and tensions that only our brands’ benefits can solve. That spark can create big ideas that can then invite their participation. At its best, it can inspire movements where people advocate on your brand’s behalf.

Didn’t your brands always have a purpose?

Our brands always had a purpose because our implicit purpose as a company has been to improve the lives of the world’s consumers. That’s something that we first stated explicitly a little over 20 years ago. In the past, we’ve thought more of equity benefits that brands have had, which was a bit narrower.

How do you decide which purpose goes with which brand?

We ask a simple question: How does your brand uniquely touch lives and improve life for the consumers and the people it serves? What you then have to think about is: Okay, what is it about my brand that’s unique? Does it uniquely touch lives and improve life? That depends a lot on its heritage, the roots of the brand.

Joey Reiman, who has helped us on some of our “purpose” work, says, “the fruits are in the roots.” We look literally at all of the creative work and the history of that brand from its very beginning to see the inflection points along the way. We then use that to more precisely define the brand’s purpose and the equity benefits that go along with that, which helps guide the creative expressions of it.

Does the purpose change based on geography?

Actually, we have found that a purpose is a common element of the brand around the world. We have brand-franchise leaders, who are essentially global brand-managers for close to our top 50 brands, who define a purpose that is pervasive around the entire world.

They also define the equities, which would be the ways in which the benefit is expressed, the character of the brand, and even some executional assets. What’s different is the way that’s expressed at the local level, in terms of language, for example.

So, the execution can be somewhat different, but the common elements are the brand’s purpose, its equity, and benefits.

Is there also a connection between brand purpose and social issues?

That’s an element of it. How a brand touches and improves lives addresses social and environmental issues because people are looking for brands and companies to help solve some of these big problems. Pampers, for example, has chosen to partner with Unicef to provide vaccines to about 47 developing countries to eradicate neo-natal tetanus.

Which P&G brands have changed the most by virtue of having found a purpose?

I can’t say which brands have changed the most. But I can say that Pampers has certainly been one of our shining stars in terms of how it addressed purpose and expanded into different ways of expressing its purpose.

We also have a major program in Tide’s Loads of Hope. We found that whenever a disaster strikes, food and water obviously are the first two things that people look for, but in many cases the third most important thing is clean clothes because they provide dignity and normalcy.

We literally go in and do people’s laundry. We started with Hurricane Katrina and then moved to Haiti and other places around the world where they’ve had natural disasters. That’s one of our better examples of broadening the way the brand has thought about itself.

Is brand purpose more about the way people think about the product than the product itself?

Its purpose certainly gets people to think about the brand differently, broadens their thinking about how the brand fits into their lives and is more relevant.

However, the purpose also does inform how we design products. So, when thinking about a brand like Pampers, where the purpose is a baby’s happy and healthy development, you want to make sure that a baby can sleep, play and explore.

To do that, they need better fitting diapers, thinner diapers, diapers that allow them to move more freely and absorbent diapers so they sleep through the night. That causes you to think about a diaper’s purpose a little differently.


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