Five lessons on brand building from Jim Stengel, P&G’s former Chief Marketing Officer

October 20, 2008

Jim Stengel, former P&G CMO

Jim Stengel, P&G ex-CMO

This month, Jim Stengel officially retired as Chief Marketing Officer of Procter & Gamble.  As the leader of the largest spending marketing organization in the world, Jim was often named the most influential marketer and brand-builder in the industry.  Last week, he gave his final speech as P&G’s Chief Marketing Officer, speaking at the Association of National Advertisers Masters of Marketing conference in Orlando, FL.

Here is Mediapost’s summary of Stengel’s five lessons of brand building:

Lesson One: Put people at the center of all you do.

Treat your people the way you would want your customers treated. “We too often forget brands are people. It’s the collective intent of people behind them,” he says.

“I have learned in my career that the most important legacy is the impact you will have with the people you work with. We all have rough months, rough years, which blend together, but what you will remember is relationships and people.”

Lesson Two: Engage your heart and mind in everything you do.

Says Stengel, “We need balance. Too often as an industry we approach everything with head, not heart. We often talk within P&G of personal relationship as a metaphor for marketing. How many of us internalize that and apply it to how we approach business and customers?”

“If we thought about everything we do in marketing, if they all tried to emanate from this idea of great relationship we would do and measure things differently.”

He offered brands other than P&G’s as examples: Apple, Southwest Airlines, online shoe company Zappos, and “What we find with the strongest brands is they have strength and competitive advantage in emotional areas that drive brand,” he said.

Lesson Three: Results.

“In our industry we tend to make things complicated, focusing on activities that don’t drive brand,” said Stengel. “Why are CMO tenures short? Look at organization designs across companies; they are all over the place Too much spend goes to short term and tactical that doesn’t build loyalty and relationship with consumers.”

He asked, rhetorically, why many CEO’s and CFO’s don’t value marketing. “Because too much we focus on a bustle of activities, not the few things that drive growth of brand. Sales are important but if you don’t look at other measures of brand health, you are being short sighted.”

Lesson Four: Creativity is about solving problems.

We too often have the wrong discussion with agencies. We talk fees, etc, short term stuff, not how to come together about how to create a powerful brand.”

Lesson Five: Have a purpose.

“I am devoting the next chapter of my life to this mission. He cautioned that, by purpose, he doesn’t mean cause-based marketing, but an inspirational, motivational reason for being. “For example, Nike’s purpose is to build self esteem, to be an inspiration for athletes around the world.”  The purpose of Pepperidge Farm Goldfish? “To bring optimism to children. Old Spice? To help guys navigate the seas of manhood,” he said.

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Upcoming guest writers on Hard Knox Life

September 28, 2008
Cincinnati skyline

Image by joseph a via Flickr

Over the next week, I will be making the move to Cincinnati to start my new assignment in Procter & Gamble Corporate Marketing.  Since I haven’t yet mastered the art of mobile blogging, I have asked a few of my peers and closest friends to keep the fires the burning here at Hard Knox Life with a series of guest posts.  Special thanks in advance to these guys for lending a hand during the move.  I have a feeling you are really going to enjoy reading what they have to say:

Depending on how long it takes to get everything set up at the new home, I should up and running again by October 6.  In the meantime, these guys will do an amazing job of providing interesting reading and I should be relatively active on Twitter.

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What I Believe In: My Personal Leadership Philosophy

September 15, 2008


I have written before about the importance of writing down your Personal Leadership Philosophy (PLP).  It is your statement of what you believe in…the principles that guide how you make your decisions in life and business.  However, just as important as writing down your PLP, is taking the time to revisit it regularly.  As I get ready to move into a new role, I decided to do just that.  Below you will find my most recent Personal Leadership Philosophy.  I would love to hear your thoughts.

Rules I Live/Work By:

Be passionate – James Michener wrote that “The master in the art of living pursues his vision of excellence at whatever he does, leaving others to decide whether he is working or playing.  To him he’s always doing both.”   A friend once referred to it as work/life blend instead of work/life balance.  It’s about being passionate about what you do for a living and loving every minute.

Don’t be afraid of taking risks or failing – I once read a quote from Doug Hall that said “Don’t be afraid to take risks. Corporations have an amazing array of checks, balances, and safety nets to prevent you from hitting the wall at ninety miles an hour. Be bold and brash. Develop a reputation for it.”  I believe wholeheartedly in this.  A strong team won’t fail in the end thanks to these safety nets…but it will fail along the way.  Let’s fail good-naturedly and learn from our mistakes.

You Have to Dream It Before You Can Achieve It –  Be bold and audacious in setting goals. Get comfortable with being uncomfortable, outline the barriers, craft a plan, and get on with the journey.  This ones comes from Kenny Shields, a great P&G leader who left us too soon

Be a cultural anthropologist with a finger on the pulse of culture – Be a sponge of learning about technology, entertainment and culture.  Learn what makes others tick and where things are going in society.  A great marketer is at heart a pop culture junkie.

Have a childlike curiosity for learning – Gordon Gecko had it right in the movie Wall Street when he said that information is the most valuable commodity in the world.  And the best way to get information is to act with childlike curiosity by constantly asking “why?”  You never learn if you don’t ask.

Work hard, play hard, have fun – If you’re having fun, the job becomes that much easier.  Take time to grab lunch away from your desk.  Have drinks with you co-workers.  Play your music in the office.  A great culture can only exist if the environment and people encourage it each and every day.

See the potential in everything – Too many people take the easy way out by saying something has been done before and didn’t work.  Innovation is a process and begins with you building on an idea by saying “Yes, and…”

Take the time to be a Good Samaritan – Always be there to lend a helping hand, whether it is to a co-worker or someone from another company that has a question about P&G.  Sadly it surprises people when you go the extra mile.  You’ll feel good if you can help someone out and on the plus side, you never know when that favor will be returned.

What I Ask:

Respect the time of others – Everyone we work with is busy…don’t think you have anything more going on than anyone else.  Being on time to a meeting means you are there before it begins, not walking in the door as it starts.  And this applies to interacting with everyone including vendors, agencies, and even a random outside company.  Same principle applies for responding to e-mail…don’t let things slip through the cracks because you don’t think it is a priority.  Respond to an email and let someone know you are working on following-up so they don’t think you are just ignoring their question.  And finally (and most importantly), this applies for our family and personal lives.  We need to respect the time of each other and the personal priorities every sets for themselves.

Don’t lie…don’t make excuses…don’t cheat – If it wasn’t right in Kindergarten, it still isn’t right now.

Be upfront with each other – It is always best to get things out in the open instead of letting them simmer unsaid.  Along those lines, be open about your personality and ask your team to help you overcome your weaknesses.  For instance, I know I can be a little too strong willed at times and need my team to call me out when it happens!  None of us are perfect and we need the help of friends/teammates to help us get better.

Be decisive – Our training and experience has resulted in a “gut” that it is usually pretty dead-on.  If your gut tells you it is the right thing to do, then make the call and be decisive.  There is nothing worse than debating for the sake of debating when someone in the room has the problem already nailed.  And keep in the mind, that person in the room with the best gut isn’t necessarily the highest ranked person either.

Be each other’s best advocates – Our team needs to advocate for each other at all time.  P&G is a place when a strong reputation can snowball into better things and if we have each other’s backs, our team will come out on top every time.  Another part of this is always supporting each other to the outside world (P&G and likewise).  We can disagree all we want in our offices, but when it comes to outsiders, we should appear to be one team supporting each other.

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My new gig – P&G Digital Brand Strategist

August 7, 2008

So I can officially announce that as of October 1st, I will be P&G’s new Global Marketing Digital Brand Strategist.

So what exactly is a Digital Brand Strategist?  Well frankly a lot of that is going to be figured out on the job since this is a completely new position for P&G Marketing.   At the highest levels, the job will be helping drive P&G’s capability in digital marketing, branded content, social media, mobile and a host of other “digital areas”.  My job will be helping guide and equip my fellow Procter & Gamble Brand Managers / Marketers across the company with the tools to develop their digital marketing strategy.  Here is part of the job description:

Accelerating the company’s Digitial Marketing expertise and efforts across the globe is one of the current top priorities. Our commitment is to equip our brand building community with the knowledge and capabilities to create and execute a Digital Marketing Strategy.  Specific responsibilities will include:
– building & running the global digital marketing network
– leading digital marketing training program (content & delivery)
– ‘collect & connect’ of best practices & inspirational case studies
– demonstrating use new digital capabilities for internal communications

This role will involve strong external networking and communication to bring the outside in and keep us in close touch with leading edge capabilities and expertise.

I am super excited about this new role because it allows me to dive headfirst into two areas that I love: Digital Marketing and Brand Building.  It will also allow me to meet and work with many of the people in the online community who I have grown to respect and admire while writing Hard Knox Life.  And with our changes at the top of our marketing leadership, the job will be even more interesting.

As part of the job I will be relocating back to Cincinnati so I’ll be getting ready for that move over the coming 2 months while finishing up some major projects on the Walmart Team.  If anyone is looking/wanting to buy a house in Fayetteville, Arkansas, I can get you a great deal on mine!

P&G thanks our agencies while poking fun at ourselves

June 30, 2008

I came across this interesting site from P&G thanking our agency partners as we won Advertiser of the Year at Cannes.  Honestly at first I wondered if this was an officially sanctioned P&G effort but it appears to be.  I need to find out who did this internally to applaud them since it does a good job of not taking ourselves too seriously, while still talking about Brand Purpose through our efforts like HERO/Proctecting You, Protecting Futures. Check it out at:

Can P&G build “real brands” with soul, history & substance?

June 13, 2008

When Piers Fawkes at PSFK writes a post entitled “How Long Can P&G Last“, you know it is going to catch my attention. Piers drives a very interesting question when he writes:

More and more consumers appear to be attracted to ‘real’ brands – brands with soul, history and substance – brands like Innocent Drinks or Method soap. These brands live because they reflect the values of the management and staff and the transparency generated by the web helps fuel the love of them.

Meanwhile over at P&G and Unilever brands appear to still be run from brand books by an army of brand managers who aren’t connected with the values each brand is supposed to contain. They sell faux brands that were created in an age of control – control of media and message.

Pretty bold statements to challenge the company that built the concept of Branding and Brand Management over 75 years ago. But you know what,

I agree with his stance completely

As I write about “Brands I Love“, I am actually writing about many of the concepts that Piers references. Brands like Method, Innocent Drinks and Help Remedies are real brands that mean something more because they have a story behind them. The love consumers have for theses brands is the same love the company employees have for the brands. They were able to do this because they started small and they started from scratch. They were able to build the brands up from the ground up.

But will they be able to hold this special feeling as they grow?

What I question is if these real brands will be able to stay real as they grow. Brands like Snapple had this feeling over a decade ago but they grew too big. They sacrificed their story for growth and greed. Will Method or Innocent suffer the same fate? Will the next generation of managers be able to carry the same ideals as the company founders? After all, look at the stumbles of Apple and Starbucks when they grew too big and the founders had to step aside for more “experienced” management to take the reins. That’s the great business/branding question of the ages and not one with an easy answer.

But back to the point of P&G and Unilever. Can these branding “houses” continue to grow in the face of “real brands”. Of course, they can but it will take a change. …and a big one at that.

Brand Managers and Big Brands have to start thinking differently

The age of control is over for Brand Managers. Our job for tomorrow is to be a Brand Steward. We need to guide our brand but the control needs to be in the hands of our consumers. We need to open the doors of our marketing to be about engaging these fans in a dialogue. We need to create products that make their experiences better. We need to invite them into designing our future product innovations. We need to stop interrupting them and help them start living.

But unfortunately it isn’t that easy

Making this change isn’t simple. Method and Innocent have a strong advantage as private companies. They don’t have shareholders to please and their people usually have skin in the game as part owners of the company. This lets them take more risks…it enables them to think a little differently. But that isnt an excuse…its merely a fact we have to overcome.

And we will overcome it. Maybe the future is in using our logistical power like Piers suggests. Maybe the P&G’s of the world should become Brand Venture Capitalists. We start making an investment in new brands, giving the access to resources (money, intellectual capital, retailer access) that will help them to grow. But we dont take a direct management control and instead let them operate independently. It would be a very different way of doing things but it might just work.

Consumers will vote with their wallet

In the end, this challenge of branding is what makes it so exciting to be in marketing right now (and for the future). We don’t have the luxury of living in a control world where we can just make a :30 second spot and watch sales grow as a result. We are challenged (both at big CPG’s and little start-ups) to build brands that consumers will vote for with their wallet. Branding is an election season that doesnt just come once every 4 years.

NOTE: I wouldnt question the passion of P&G Brand Managers, even if we are just working for a big company and old brands. When I started at P&G, I actually met a fellow marketer who had a tattoo of the brand he worked on…and it just happened to be a fabric softener brand. Tell me that isn’t passion for your brand!

I blog to find the 1 percent

June 4, 2008

I had a very interesting conversation this evening where someone asked me “Why do I blog?”….”Why am I trying to do the whole Hard Knox Life thing?”  It’s a question I have seen plenty of other bloggers answer.  Some do it for creativity, some do it to vent and some do it because they just love to write.  Frankly I do it for all of those reasons but for one important reason:

I blog to knock down walls and find the 1 percent

Anyone that has worked with P&G (or tried to work with P&G) knows that we have tons of walls keeping outsiders on the outside.  It is done with a good reason because it keeps Brand Managers from being pitched every idea under the sun…it keeps out the 99% of ideas that aren’t worth our time to evaluate.  But the problem is, it also keeps out the 1 percent of ideas that could be really worthwhile and breakthrough.  We’ve built this moat to protect us and basically no one can get in. Read the rest of this entry »