The challenges of marketing demand a fresh perspective and open mind. As John Hayes of American Express likes to say, “The consumer is moving faster than most companies.” The lessons from the first six months of 2007 from the likes of Kraft Foods, AT&T Wireless, Safeway, Taco Bell, SprintNextel, and Starbucks are all too clear: There’s a steep price to pay for failing to keep up with the fast-changing tastes and needs of customers. And, on the flip side, those marketers who do stay ahead of the curve, both by knowing their customers and by working to keep the marketing organization aligned with corporate strategy, can become invaluable contributors to the company’s agenda and success.
In 24 years with Procter & Gamble, Jim Stengel has had 11 jobs. In 2001, he took on the assignment of global marketing officer for the world’s largest consumer packaged goods maker, and he has made a fierce focus on the consumer the organizing principle of P&G’s global marketing program — an emphasis that demanded a change in management perspective.
S+B: For well more than 100 years, P&G has been a marketing leader. Is there tension in trying to achieve balance between a manufacturing culture and a consumer culture?
We’re going to continue to really, really hit on that: The consumer’s at the center of all we do. We’re here to serve her. That mentality is really important.
S+B: How do you reinforce that mentality?
S+B: How does the marketing team work as culture champion?
S+B: There are plenty of companies that say, “We’re consumer insight driven.” How do you make that happen in a tangible way?
Another way to make a consumer orientation tangible is to walk the talk — up to (and including) the leadership. We do spend time as leadership groups engaged in issues that are very consumer centered. After the Gillette acquisition, for instance, we spent half a day at one of our quarterly top management meetings with very media-savvy moms. We wanted our senior people, who are digital immigrants, to understand how people are spending their time and getting their information. After four or five hours of an experience like that, you can’t come back and say, “Well, we’re going to do a media plan that is 95 percent TV.” You think about things differently.