ORLANDO, FL — Marketers today have to understand and find ways to work with the idea that consumers essentially own their brands.
This was a key message gleaned from a presentation made at the 2006 National Center for Database Marketing Conference at the Caribe Royale Orlando Resort and Conference Center from Kent Oldham, associate director and GBS consumer view solutions manager at consumer products giant Procter & Gamble, Cincinnati.
To illustrate his point, Mr. Oldham showed a clip of A.G. Lafley, P&G’s chairman and president/CEO, at the Association of National Advertisers’ annual conference in October of this year. In the clip, Mr. Lafley said that marketers have to begin to change their thinking, in a sense they “have to begin to let go.”
What this means to P&G, according to Mr. Oldham, is that “now more than ever, consumers are owning our brands, and we not only have to understand that they are owning our brands. But we also have to embrace that idea and understand the implications of [it].”
So, what is driving this let-go world? Mr. Oldham offered several things.
One is that consumers are feeling less secure and not as trusting of institutions as they have been in the past. Mr. Oldham noted the Enron scandal and a general distrust of politicians and political campaigning as reasons for this trend.
“Consumers have the need to be in control,” he said.
Another reason is that people are becoming more self-expressive on a scale not possible before — with family, friends and even strangers on the Internet, thanks to new technology.
“They have ways of networking with each other that they have never been able to before,” Mr. Oldham said.
And, he said people are very comfortable using technology to create consumer-created content. Here, he offered an example of an amusing video clip that basically promoted P&G’s Pringles brand that was created by a youngster in England who happens to be passionate about Pringles.
“We don’t control all of our touch points, and those touch points, as a result, impact us, “he said.
Mr. Oldham said that trust is an important part of the equation here.
“People have to trust your company,” he said. “If they don’t, they will hold back and not share things with us.”
Another point Mr. Oldham made was that the implication of not learning from every touch point a consumer has with your company or product or service can be costly.
“No matter how much great brand-building work you do, and how much equity your brands have, all it takes is one negative consumer experience to destroy all of it,” he said.
Mr. Oldham also discussed how the company learns from every consumer touch point. One way the company does this is by building media mix models.
“We are building marketing mix models effectively, and we learn what the effective rate of return is on television, print—pick your media of choice,” he said. “This allows us to learn on a macro level what works for consumers and what resonates [with them]”
P&G is also participating in Project Apollo, a market research joint venture between Nielsen and Arbitron. The project collects multimedia and product purchase data from a common sample of consumers. Mr. Oldham said this is another way the company can learn about its consumers via touch points.
The company is also improving how it learns from its touch points thanks to the fact that it now has one repository of customer historical and transactional data.
“This is a big deal for us because you are now able to answer questions you were not able to answer before,” Mr. Oldham said. “An example of this is [being able to learn] who is my Pampers consumer on global basis. I could not do this [when] everything was residing in different places…I can do that today.”
The company also learns how consumers interact with P&G’s Web sites, and is currently combining that information with how the consumers are responding to e-mail and direct mail.
“That gives you a kind of 360-degree view of the consumer,” Mr. Oldham said.