Procter & Gamble (P&G), arguably one of the true behemoths of the FMCG world, turns 180 this month. Boasting brands from Gillette to Olay, Vicks to Braun, Fairy to Febreze, there are very few people in the West who have not owned one, or indeed several, of P&G’s products and even considered them a household staple.
What is it about P&G that has allowed them such longevity in an industry whose very name denotes the fast pace with which it moves? How has the organisation been able to sustain high levels of innovation and competitiveness on such a colossal scale? Here are three things all innovators could learn from P&G.
1. ASK WHAT VALUE YOU GIVE AND WHAT NEEDS YOU FULFIL
According to an article by marketing magazine The Drum, P&G’s ‘evolving innovation practices and culture throughout the years in the face of digital disruption and emerging technologies is one of many causes for celebration.’ Having recently spoken to Olga Lahuerta, P&G’s head of innovation and consumer insights, The Drum outlined P&G’s approach to innovation as one that combines adding real value with fulfilling a customer need.
The Drum argues that:
‘innovation at its best for P&G means that the company has defined the needs that often are not articulated and translated them into product experiences that are so irresistible, that consumers are willing to pay for them and come back again.’
Through investment in R&D and a strong company culture which sees innovation as ‘everyone’s job,’ P&G have been able to consistently define their target markets on a global scale and ensure that they are able to provide for their every need.
2. DON’T BE PHASED BY TECHNOLOGICAL CHANGE
There is no doubt that the marketplace, and indeed the world at large, is a wildly different place in 2017 than when P&G was first founded in Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1837. The sheer scale and volume of innovations and new technologies that P&G has witnessed over the course of its history is extraordinary, and that the organisation has stood to tell the tale where many others have failed is testament to its agility and capacity for change.
These challenges are ever present for any organisation, and so ensuring that your innovation strategy can embrace new technologies is vital for survival. For Bloomberg, the latest bid for P&G to maintain this impressive record of innovation can be seen in their inroads into IoT (Internet of Things) and smart technologies.
In a bid to practice “lean innovation” and bring smaller, incremental products to market quicker to meet instant-gratification needs, P&G has been experimenting with everything from an electric toothbrush that tells you how long and where to brush your teeth, to a diagnostic online tool that helps create the perfect skincare routine using its Olay products. While these products may not be household staples in the immediate future, demonstrating a willingness and ability to adapt to new technologies is a good act to follow for other innovators.
3. CHALLENGE CONCEIVED WISDOMS
Inherent in the definition of innovation is the notion that organisations and individuals are challenging the status quo and making changes to already established products and practices. As such, challenging conceived wisdoms should be an essential part of any organisational culture of a company wishing to innovate.
For AdWeek, this is exactly what P&G have shown themselves capable of doing at conferences and forums around the world when faced with tough questioning and mined for strategy insights. One example of this is Marc Pritchard, P&G’s Marketing Chief, who has frequently called the attention of the industry to waste in the digital ad space. He believes this waste is contributing to billions of dollars of misspent money, given that ‘only 25 percent of digital ad spend reaches consumers.’
Giving an insight into how P&G tackles such situations, for example by ‘focusing on transparency, ad quality, mass one-to-one marketing (i.e., serving you ads when it makes sense),’ the company has been able to challenge such orthodoxies that can limit growth. With a focus on high quality that is appropriate for the platform, viewing audience and likely attention span of said viewers, P&G is pushing the industry itself to reform by leading the way forward.
Happy Birthday, Procter & Gamble, here’s to another 180 years of innovation.
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