Thursday, 26 July 2012

P&G. Will this gamble work?


Only a day to go. My penultimate pre Olympic post is about P&G's, Proud Sponsors of Mums campaign (or Moms in the original US). This is their global branding for the event.

Much of this is well conceived, in that it is emotionally based. So that's good.There is a  fundamental if axiomatic insight, that the competitors are all children of some mother. This is at the core of the campaign, a relationship that is of potentially enormous significance, not just at the time of winning, but also during the time of early awareness of the child's potential, its upbringing and through the dark days of constant training.(You famously see this relationship at first hand when you watch the tight lipped Mrs Murray at Wimbledon).So that's good too.

It is well shot series, perhaps over-sentimentalised even by American schmaltz standards: they find it difficult to move beyond Fame or the Spielberg style of direction, and never quite get the John Lewis factor, but this may be a quibble.
It is also good that they have tried to find a creatively consistent theme that builds beyond the reality of track and field and takes us into family and feelings.
Many other brands that I have written about, eg Omega watches, have created such obvious "Olympic" ads that they blend into each other and merge with the broadcasters' own material.Thus the branding is lost and the money goes down the gurgler.
The irony in these instances is that at the time of creating these wasteful commercials (say 6-9 months ago) they might have appeared exciting and uplifting to the companies creating them, and the research companies testing them. They might even have researched quite well. But they would have been researched in the pre-Olympic environment before people had been exposed to all the other identikit ads.So a good research result then will almost certainly result in a poor commercial result when it's all over. This might be borne in mind by marketeers when the next big bonanza comes their way - project yourself into what other people ( inc broadcsters) are likely to do and avoid it.

(It is understandable, possibly even slightly commendable, that the loopy spin-mistress Siobhan in Twenty Twelve tries to promote the women's football team by specifically not mentioning either women or football, because she is aware of the overload already built up).

So P&G have cleverly sidestepped the first trap and set their own agenda. The campaign is also a fairly major departure for a company who have generally made their money on before-and-after, or comparison style ads, that use reason as the key selling platform: we took this half of  a meerkat, washed it in X and then compared it with the other half washed in Z.

Finally, of course, Proud Sponsors of Mums, as a campaign, is a logistical challenge of mind boggling proportions as P&G weave a plethora of their global brands through the campaign, in most of the 100 countries they operate in.

Creatively, then, this is new territory.

Is it wise territory? Will the departure pay off?
Given what I suggest in about the positive effect of emotionally based advertising approaches, I cannot but endorse the overall intention of the P&G campaign even if the saccharin aftertaste is strong. This is not to say that  an emotionally based route is per se self-justifying. It will only work if the background strategy is based on a truth that fits the overall brand or corporate need going forward, resonates with the target, is well branded and has direction associated with leadership into the future.What it asks people to believe and do as a result is the bit that matters.
This allows a few queries,quibbles and observations to be ventured. No more than that.
The campaign marks the first step into a corporate branding approach for P&G: up until now, it has generally, quite rightly, kept its corporate credentials obscured from view, in favour of its individual brand names. It has kept its bog cleaners and batteries apart.
If you make Pampers as well as Max Factor, and Tampax as well as Oral B this is wise so that people don't confuse which goes where.

The imagery of each brand has hitherto been marketed in a discrete, not corporate, manner. Indeed, most consumers would not know which brands P&G make and might be rather miffed if they did, preferring to revel in the image of say Vidal Sassoon shampoo as a stand alone entity rather than knowing it came out of some factory in NW England courtesy of  a monolith that also churns out Silvikrin next door.
Corporate brands like L'Oreal can leverage their corporate strength to consumers because they only make one group of products, all of which have the same emotional flavour. And this is in the glamour rather than the bog cleaning department. By unifying their disparate brands under one flag, might P&G risk a revelation that may back fire on them? It's just a question.
The theme, and its wording, are also worthy of quibble.

Whatever else P&G are they are not sponsors of Mums.
The idea of sponsorship is that the sponsor pays the sponsee; but the reality in the day to day relationship, aka when you go shopping, is that Mums pay P&G. Supporters of Mums might be nearer the truth but then it would not have quite the Olympic ring desired. It's a quibble but quite an important one.

(It is true that P&G are doing something on the ground at the Olympics to provide free hospitality/shelter/water for the mothers (and fathers?) of competitors but this is not what their ads are about).
To sum up, my conjecture is that this has strong elements to like, but  that  Marketing might have over-ridden Sense in some areas on this one. And that in the interests of manageablity a certain line has been crossed that may turn out to be pointless.

That line is the difference between a brand and a company.
Someone at High Command Cincinnati in 2005 just could not resist committing to a 7 year programme that would "put the company on the global stage like never before" ( I can imagine hearing some such words from the Chief  Marketing  Officer). Nice 7 year job if you can get it.
By creating a campaign linking it all back to P&G the thing became manageable, but I am not convinced it meant it became commercial. Or, word of the moment, sustainable: are we increasingly to see more P&G branding of pack?

Will people be searching for the magic logo before buying their batteries?
Will Mums be the main target from now on in?
Will men be out of the running?

My guess on all four would be no.
And that the campaign was (just) a major tactical exercise, of no real lasting value consumer-wise.
Because, when it comes to it, P&G punters buy the individual brand not the company. Someone simply blinked when the sponsorship deals for 2012 came round this time round ( P&G did not get involved majorly in Bejing) and that set the fuse alight.
Where this campaign might work strongest is both at staff and at trade levels.Internal love-ins will have convinced P&G employees that they work for a great global philanthropist.
Further, if you're P&G you are constantly seeing your profits chipped away by supermarket and own label products. If you can reverse this by saying words to the effect of  "this family makes better stuff than any one, whether it's bog cleaners or batteries", you may be able to hold back the wall of own label at a trade level, where the corporate brand does have some sway.
But it is unlikely to be a great stimulant to the consumer.
Er, I mean Mums.

No comments:

Post a Comment