Archive for January, 2011

Who is Right: P&G or Unilever?

Our “CMO Experience” class last week at UCLA Anderson was an epic one.  The class topics were the importance of business/brand frameworks, and how you begin to reveal the Ideal behind your business that will drive growth.

But the real sizzle was from the guest speakers for the week:  former Chief Marketing Officer of Unilever, Simon Clift, and Marc de Swaan Arons, the co-founder and Chairman of EffectiveBrands, a global marketing consulting firm.

They were fabulous in the classroom,  and my colleague Professor Sanjay Sood (who teaches this course with me) and I are so very grateful they came from Sao Paulo and New York to be with the students at UCLA Anderson.  We had cocktails with students the night before the class, and then we had more “formal” dialogue in the classroom. Both Marc and Simon illustrated how they approach brands, outlined their frameworks, and told stories from their experiences.   Cases included Dulux, Nike, Johnnie Walker, Dove, Omo, Axe/Lynx.

One very interesting, and controversial issue, emerged from the discussions:  how did Simon and Unilever feel about the juxtaposition of Dove’s Brand Ideal of improving women’s self esteem with Axe/Lynx’s Ideal of helping geeky guys get the girl, with a “tongue-in-cheek” sexist portrayal of girls?   Wikipedia reports that a few years back the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood claimed that the work on Axe “epitomizes the sexist and degrading marketing that can undermine girls’ healthy development.”

One of our bright UCLA Anderson students wrote me a note after the class, here is an excerpt from that note:

“While Dove in the Campaign for Real Beauty was trying to correct the distortions in the industry and improve women’s self-esteem, the Axe brand was continuing to perpetuate the distorted image.  Granted they are 2 brands with different targets, but for the parent company, doesn’t that create a bit of conflict in its values?  A more cynical person might think it was all an ingenious overall company masterplan, yet a sustainable plan since one brand brings down women’s self-esteem and another tries to bring it up.”

When this came up in class, Simon remarked that the issue only came up in the U.S.   He feels the light-hearted nature of the Axe/Lynx work is not inconsistent with Unilever’s core values, and that it does not represent a conflict with the Brand Ideal of Dove.  These are two different brands, trying to bring some joy and meaning to two different groups of people.

Simon and I agree on most everything these days, our views of the world and on brands are very similar.  But on this issue, I am in a different place.  I totally support that each brand in a multi-brand company needs its own voice, its own Ideal, its own “subculture.”  But I feel each brand in a multi-brand company needs to not only live under the parent company’s beliefs and values, it needs to actively trumpet them in its own voice, in its own style.

At P&G we had two brands in these very same categories, Olay and Old Spice, and they competed head-to-head with Dove and Axe/Lynx.  We found a way to reveal their individual Brand Ideals, or Purposes, in a way that brought to life P&G’s purpose with no inherent conflict. And, by the way, Olay’s and Old Spice’s Brand Ideals grew those businesses competitively with Unilever, often outpacing them.

This is not an easy blog to write.  These are grey areas.  These issues are amplified within certain cultures, certainly the U.S., but not only the U.S.  Unilever is a great company that has done, and will do, a lot of good for the world.  Simon is one of the most intelligent, caring and kind human beings I have ever met.

I teach again at UCLA Anderson this week, and the discussion will continue.  Sanjay and I will ask the guest speaker for the week, Roy Spence, to weigh in on it.  Simon, we will miss you!

Categories: Business, Marketing

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The Best Marketing Idea of the New Year

Our new year is off to a roaring start in the business world … the Consumer Electronics Show looks more interesting than ever, Discovery and Oprah have launched a new, ideals-driven network, and iconic Motorola is now two independent companies after a historic split on January 4.

But I think the biggest marketing idea so far in our new year was announced by Netflix — they are collaborating with a host of consumer electronics companies to put a one-click Netflix-branded button on remote controls.

This is so simple, and so profoundly smart.   Great brands become part of life with the people with whom they serve.  They become, in a way, a welcome ritual, a habit people look forward to.  Netflix, through this effort, is making it easy for people to enjoy what that innovative brand offers.  Personally, my family and I are loyal users, and this remote control idea will make it even easier for us.

Netflix is borrowing an age-old idea in marketing, and doing it in a way that makes sense for them and their category.  At P&G, my alma mater, we built many great brands by becoming part of people’s lives through simple but highly effective marketing ideas:  putting Tide samples in new laundry machines, ensuring the first hospital diaper on babies around the world is Pampers, supporting education via Crest on oral care in schools and clinics.  Helpful, non-intrusive, clutter-breaking marketing, the kind that leads to loyalty and “brand habits.”

Watch Netflix continue to grow behind this excellent application of an age-old marketing idea. And Happy New Year to all of you!

Categories: Business, Marketing

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