Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Help fight the seven signs of commodity categories

Does the mere mention of Procter & Gamble zap your will to live? I understand. I do. But I also think that's a sorta outdated mindset. I mean, look at this interview with global marketing officer Jim Stengel. Here's what struck me:

"I hate it when someone says they're in a commodity category. We don't accept that there are any commodity categories. We are growing Charmin and Bounty very well, and if there is any category that people could say is a commodity, it's paper towels and tissues. We have developed tremendous equities, tremendous loyalties from our consumers. So, no, I think that is a cop-out. That is bad marketing and an excuse. We are not in any commodity categories[....] If you go back at Procter & Gamble, and in a lot of the industry, we often thought of our brands in terms of functional benefits. But the equity of great brands has to be something that a consumer finds inspirational and an organization finds inspirational. You know, our baby-care business didn't start growing aggressively...until we changed Pampers from being about dryness to being about helping Mom with her baby's development. That was a sea change. Or look at all the different areas we are in at Olay. That's because Olay is not just about being a pink fluid that moisturizes. It is about helping women look better and feel better as they age."

Yes, "sea change" is a poor choice of words when discussing the diaper business but I take his point. All this reminded me of a Seth Godin post which I have taken to heart every single day since I read it. Really. Except for weekends.

And by the way, search Godin's blog for "how you make people feel" and, well, gosh. Seems to be important to the guy.


Make the logo bigger said...

Generally, I don’t need to find toilet paper ‘inspirational,’ rather just, there.

Irene Done said...

I know! And who would have thought those damn animated shit-in-the-wood bears would help build an emotional bond?

I admire the spirit of his comments -- it opens up creative possibilities -- but all you have to do is think of Iams to realize P&G's potential problems here. (Yes. I'm still hung up on the whole Iams recall.) Farming your manufacturing out, using cheap Chinese suppliers -- these are things that consumers tend not to find inspirational.

James-H said...

Great Seth link.

This is why one can't nail brand advertising with math. And why testing kills creative. Because people rarely stop to think about why they love or hate products. Unless the products truly over- or underdelivers its brand promise.

HighJive said...

Commodity category sounds like a phrase P&G might have created themselves in order to argue they’re not in any commodity categories.

P&G tends to be category crushers, successfully establishing monopolistic scenarios with its stables of brands. How many laundry detergents do they produce—in addition to the line of flavors within each brand? It’s a wonder the Charmin bears don’t go on a mauling rampage trying to decide which type of toilet paper to wipe their asses with (Charmin Plus? Charmin Ultra? Regular? Scented? Oh bother!). P&G continues to lead by dominating shelf space versus mind space. It’s also interesting that P&G regularly stuffs Sunday newspapers with its exclusive booklet of coupons (when’s the last time any of us bought Tide at retail prices?). Guess the emotional connections aren’t enough to make consumers choose P&G over the competition.

Irene Done said...

highjive -- your first sentence made me laaaauuuggh. It seems so dead on. Also, great point about shelf space.

After I wrote what I did about the Iams recall, I got to thinking: focusing on only brand messages, does P&G really live up to Stengel's talk? I don't know how he can characterize Olay advertising as being anything other than a list of "functional beneifts." (And by the way: when will P&G brands let go of their "signs" formula? Iams gave us the 7 signs of a healthy pet; Olay fights the 7 signs of aging; Swiffer delivers the 5 signs of clean. For the love of God! Stop!)

But. Back to Stengel. It's the right kind of talk, isn't it? If I just look at Pampers and Tide TV over the past few years, it's sometimes been quite engaging and human. Which for P&G, is unheard of.