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CMOs can learn from P&G Brand Management’s “What Counts” factors

CMOs can learn from P&G Brand Management’s “What Counts” factors

Recently I wrote about having come across a fantastic one-page document: The Ten Commandments of Leadership. It was from the early 1980’s, early in my tenure at Procter & Gamble. That post generated a great deal of positive feedback, with ample praise as well as suggestions on how the list could be modernized. You can read that post here.

One of the most interesting aspects of the ensuing discussion was how the document reminded many of the importance of P&G’s famous “What Counts” factors. Given that conversation, I dug a little deeper into my Spring cleaning and found an old copy of the “What Counts” factors from around 1980.

The “What Counts” factors at P&G were technically referred to as “Factors of Effective Performance in Brand Management”. The focus was on the characteristics that defined successful executives in the Brand Management system.

The list includes the following:

  1. Taking a leading role in building the business
  2. Motivation and drive
  3. Managing and developing people
  4. Thinking analytically, strategically, creatively and practically
  5. Communicating
Notably, these factors were omnipresent in Brand Management at Procter & Gamble. They were the foundation of personal development from day-to-day feedback all the way to annual performance reviews. Each of the factors had a short series of bullets that provided important, additional definition.

What a powerful list!

Here is the verbatim document that I found:


Effective performance in Brand Management is measured on the basis of one’s ability to build the business and develop people. Key to being successful in these areas are the performance factors listed below:

    • Taking the initiative to identify and focus the attention of others on those few things which can have a major impact on the business
    • Moving steadfastly and resourcefully to achieve important objectives despite obstacles – and doing this consistently
    • Being a forceful advocate of what you think is right
    • Having high motivation and a strong desire to achieve in a demanding environment
    • Having a sense of urgency to realize concrete results
    • Consistently handling a large volume of work well
    • Taking an active, responsible role in effectively training and motivating others to get results
    • Being accessible, fair, positive and open
    • Skill in building and maintaining productive relations with people in other departments, including those who may have different points of view
    • Analyzing facts quickly and arriving at sound conclusions and practical plans of action
    • Being able to think strategically about the business and plan for the long-term
    • Coming up with new ideas and sensibly exploring their pay-off possibilities
    • Showing good common sense and judgement and learning from experience
    • Learning to respond effectively in new situations
    • Communicating clearly, concisely, and persuasively, orally and in writing
    • Being a good listener, receptive to the ideas of others
    • Serving as an effective communication link
From my perspective, this list is as relevant today as it was in the early 1980’s.

What can CMOs, marketers and agency execs learn from the “What Counts” approach?

  1. A clear development framework imbedded into a company’s culture can deliver long term company rewards.

    At P&G, we knew what the What Counts factors were. We knew we would be evaluated based on them, and we evaluated our direct reports based on those factors. We looked to the What Counts factors when prepping for annual reviews, and senior executives focused on these factors when thinking about an executive’s future potential, advancement and responsibilities.

  2. Marketers develop best when their development is focused on the business.

    Notably, the focus of the What Counts factors is not marketing tactics. Think about that for a moment…
    The What Counts factors focus on the business and the people. It is impossible to disconnect the two in the P&G system.

  3. The What Counts factors focus on development of holistic marketing leaders.

    Business building. Leadership. Motivation. People development. Broad thinking skills. Communications.
    That’s quite a list. And it is a list that seems well suited for preparing leaders.

What do you think?

Do you have an effective development system and clear success factors? If not, we’d be happy to discuss opportunities for improvement. Email me anytime at and we can set up a call.

Steve Boehler, founder, and partner at Mercer Island Group has led consulting teams on behalf of clients as diverse as Zillow Group, Microsoft, UScellular, Nintendo, Ulta Beauty, Stop & Shop, Qualcomm, Brooks Running, and numerous others. He founded MIG after serving as a division president in a Fortune 100 when he was only 32. Earlier in his career, Steve Boehler cut his teeth with a decade in Brand Management at Procter & Gamble, leading brands like Tide, Pringles, and Jif.