Marc Pritchard, chief brand officer at Procter & Gamble (P&G), has suggested that some companies are over-leveraging purpose marketing at the expense of brand growth – and that it will come back to bite them amid inflation and the cost of living crisis.
Pritchard speaks from experience, having orchestrated some of the most celebrated ‘purpose’ ads of the past decade. Fro ‘Like a Girl’ for Always to Pantene’s ‘Strong Is Beautiful’, P&G’s marketing inspired a wave of similar attempts from brands to showcase their positive contributions to society through their marketing.
But last year, fellow FMCG giant Unilever came under intense scrutiny when one investor, Terry Smith, said the company was “obsessed with publicly displaying sustainability credentials at the expense of focusing on the fundamentals of the business”. Smith’s open letter ignited a debate in the industry on whether the focus on ’good’ was detrimental to growth.
Marc Pritchard, speaking at Viva Tech Paris
Pritchard weighed in today (June 17) at the VivaTech conference in Paris.
“The marketing community has stepped up to focus on community impact – they’ve stepped up on equality and inclusion and now sustainability,“ he said.
“But the industry in general has just gone too far into the good and potentially not paying enough attention to growth,“ he added, though didn’t name any specific brands.
P&G’s mantra pre-Covid was that it wanted to be “a force for good and a force for growth”. But in the face of increasing economic pressure, it recently flipped that.
The latest marketing news and insights straight to your inbox.
Get the best of The Drum by choosing from a series of great email briefings, whether that’s daily news, weekly recaps or deep dives into media or creativity.
“The order matters, because first and foremost we’re in business. Our job is to innovate on our products. Our growth drives economic good. Growth drives jobs. And it decides the partners you work with, the retailers you work with. And then it enables you to do more good for society and planet. Force for growth leads to being a force for good.”
‘Double down on media’
So, how is it achieving that growth as inflation bites? As the cost of goods soars, the company has seen its margins tighten. It has offset these pressures with price increases and is continuing to look at “productivity savings”.
So far, it’s maintaining its marketing spend: in the year to June 2021, spend was up 12% to $8.2bn (£6bn). And in the first quarter of 2022, marketing spend was up another $130m. Chief executive Jon Moeller promised investors that it would not pull investment but “get smarter“.
Echoing that, Pritchard advised his fellow marketers to “double down“. He said: “Now, more than ever, double down on making sure you have superiority from a product standpoint. Double down on media. Now, more than ever, we need to make sure we have 52 weeks of media. It needs to be constant. We also have to double down on being more productive: find the data and analytics and find ways of being far more productive with precision operations.”
He added: “The temptation will be to cut media, but the answer is to innovate. If we innovate and reach consumers, then the market will grow, economic growth will happen and that gives us the base to do good.”