P&G's Mums campaign
This week Marketing magazine named Procter and Gamble the Marketing Society’s brand of the year. It looks like a resounding vindication of P&G’s $100m investment in the Olympics which it explained or amplified through the emotional “proud Sponsor of Mums” campaign which has run for much of the year.
According to P&G’s global brand building officer Marc Pritchard, it was the largest and most ambitious campaign the company has ever carried out and generated an extra $500 million in extra sales for brands like Ariel, Fairy, Pampers and Flash. Good business then.
But speaking to Marketing, Roisin Donelly, P&G’s UK corporate marketing director said something strange. “We only launched the corporate brand a year ago in the UK. Before that there was very low awareness.”
Awareness? Can that really be the Marketing Society’s measure of a brand? Writing in Ad Age recently on the topic of confusing company brands and product brands, branding guru Al Ries defined a company brand as ‘a powerful motivating force …for buying ..product brands’. “How many consumers go out of their way to buy Proctor and Gamble products,” he asked?
Good question. Obviously awareness is not the same thing as a proposition. I am aware of all sorts of things, -Adolf Hitler, world hunger, BMW cars, but that doesn’t necessarily mean I’m motivated to buy one.
It’s yet more evidence that ‘marketing’ and ‘branding’ are increasingly being reduced to (or confused with) ‘communications’.
Clearly awareness and brand strength are related. Obviously, if a brand resides in the minds of consumers, the more minds the brand is in, the stronger it will be. But as Ries points out, it’s not the awareness per se that matters, but the ability of that awareness to influence buying decisions.
So to what extent does P&G’s corporate brand influence buying decisions? We don’t know because neither marketing nor the Marketing Society saw fit to tell us if P&G achieved its highly ambitious $500 million extra sales target.
Instinct suggests that corporate brands don’t influence buying decisions very much. Especially for long established products in mature markets. Will more people buy Fairy Liquid more often because it carries the P&G stamp? Even with the halo effect from all P&G’s good deeds and sponsorship, it’s hard to see why they should.
On the other hand you can imagine that a well respected provenance should make launching new products easier. Given that P&G is embarking on ambitious innovation programme, communicating the corprorate brand makes perfect sense.
In a more connected, more transparent world, it is often argued that consumers care about the company behind their brands more than ever before. Yet if the company itself is not a proposition, what’s the point of turning it into a brand?
The key to success, says Ries, is focus. “If you want to build a strong company brand, you have to have narrow focus,” he writes. The trouble with companies like P&G, Unilever and Nestle is that their focus is necessarily too broad.
I cant help feeling that the real reasons for creating a company brand are not to do with the consumer at all. Like global brands they seem to be more connected with efficiencies in management and communications, than anything else.