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How P&G Execs Historically Role Modeled Customer Intimacy

How P&G Execs Historically Role Modeled Customer Intimacy

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Last week I wrote about how, as a young brand marketer at Procter & Gamble, word spread around the company that CEO John Smale would listen to tapes of consumer calls everyday in his car on his drive home in the evening.  

The. CEO. Listening to consumer calls.  

That was astounding!  

I wrote about how soon after, many Brand Managers were mimicking Mr. Smale’s behaviors. We found out that we could request specially curated collections of the calls regarding our specific brand or brands. The message from the big boss was clear: know your consumers. 

After reflecting on that memory, I recently came across an old marketing research report from my P&G days while cleaning out some old files. Here’s the cover: 

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This was research on snack sized packages of cookies conducted for my institutional business counterpart, Bob Moore. I was the brand manager on the consumer cookie business at that time.  

At first glance there is nothing special here – just a plain cover on a research report, with a distribution list.  

But look again at the distribution list itself: 

Owen Butler! Mr. Butler was Chairman of the Board of Procter & Gamble at that time.  

John Pepper! President of Procter & Gamble. 

Bob Goldstein! Bob was head of all advertising – the precursor to the modern CMO. 

And a number of other key operating executives were also copied. 

But as a young brand manager, the message was clear: the most senior executives in the company were copied on your brand’s consumer research studies. The board chair was reading a consumer research report regarding my brand! And the President! And the most senior advertising executive!  

And – if there was ever a doubt about them reading those reports – we would often receive questions or hand-written comments from these senior execs on the research reports themselves. 

At P&G, customer centricity was built into the company’s DNA because senior executives role modeled customer centric behaviors daily. 

What Does This Mean? 

It means that senior executives play a mighty role in defining what is important in a company’s culture – and often in seemingly very minor ways. John Smale mentioning that he listened to tapes of consumer calls. The copy list on research reports. Actions matter!  

What are you doing as a senior client or agency executive to role model consumer intimacy? 

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.