Even enchanting tales have their monsters
Ever heard of Procter & Gamble? Also known as the consumer packaged goods giant, P&G.
As we all know, P&G has dozens of successful products. Some of the best-known household names: Pampers, Downy, Pepto-Bismol, Pantene, Crest… the list goes on. In fact, twenty-four of their brands each generate more than a billion dollars in revenue a year.
That’s right; they’ve got twenty-four… billion-dollar… brands.
But hey, not every P&G product is a success. They have some bombs, too.
P&G’s quest to destroy the beast
Internally, they talk about beauties and beasts. A beauty is a product that’s successful. A beast, not.
Now, P&G does everything possible to avoid a beast. As you may know, P&G basically invented market research. Today, they conduct some 20,000 research studies every year.
They invest more than $400 million a year in “consumer understanding.”
And yet, they’ve still had failures.
P&G’s research team is called “Consumer and Market Knowledge,” or CMK. They guide every P&G product idea through an obstacle course of studies — designed to challenge an idea’s fitness for the marketplace.
They do concept testing. Concept and use testing. Product testing. Copy testing. Pre-launch testing. Post-launch testing. You name it.
Despite this, some products still failed. Why?
Identifying the monster
CMK decided to study their own studies. Particularly in the homecare category. They wanted to compare metrics from successful launches to those of unsuccessful launches to see if they could learn anything.
They brought in Tradewind Group, a consulting firm made up of former Procter & Gamble brand managers. Proctoids, they called themselves.
Sure enough, Tradewind discovered a pattern: Some measurements were better indicators of product success than others.
Here you see Tradewind’s initial executive-summary presentation. These were significant findings, and CMK was eager to share this knowledge across the organization.
They loved what Tradewind discovered. But would anyone even look at it? It’s not that the content was boring. P&G is an analytical company, so numbers are their friends.
But this data had to make sense to a wide-ranging audience — from junior-level folks (who maybe needed things dumbed down a bit) to the directors of their global franchise teams (who didn’t have time to slog through dense findings).
And the packaging had to entice people to open it. Or else all that valuable data would go to waste, eliminating the potential to make a real difference.
For everyone’s sake, this project needed to be clear, bold, and user-friendly. And that’s when CMK decided to bring in Counterpart. As the Message Strategy Experts®, we’re pretty good at turning complicated and ugly into clear and compelling.
Choose your path carefully
Our first question: How are we delivering this?
We learned the intended recipients were spread out in various countries around the world. So the plan was just to put the presentation on a CD and mail it to ’em.
(Yes, this was back in the day when dinosaurs communicated with CDs. Gotta work with what you have.)
Okay, well, right away we were a wee bit concerned. Because we know that most people won’t even make the effort to put a disc into a drive.
Anybody ever give you a disc that you never even looked at?
Our next question: Are we gonna require people to look at it? ‘Cause that would be the easiest thing. “Look at this or you’re fired.”
Nope, they said. That’s not our culture. We make information available, but we let our people make their own decisions about what to pay attention to.
OK, but they’re busy, right? It became evident to us that our first job was to fight for their attention. We had to make this stand out from the clutter. After all, the best-looking PowerPoint in the world wouldn’t matter if nobody looked at it.
So we knew we had to do better than throwing a disc in an envelope. If the boss wasn’t gonna make folks look at it, we had to make them want to look at it. So as we got started, we focused on thinking on how we could package the disc. Make it look special. Important. Intriguing.
Tradewind went along. And they told us, “By the way, the client’s favorite color is purple. Seriously, she really loves purple. Just so you know.”
Exploring the forest of creativity
So let’s look at some concepts. One approach we took was using dynamic packaging from a paper engineering company called Structural Graphics. This concept, for example, used the “jackknife” structure. We proposed turning it into disc packaging that featured an unfolding ruler.
We also explored an “extendo” structure, with a pull-tab that popped up the disc from the opposite end. Notice how we tied in the headline with the way the piece worked.
We thought creatively about the media, as well. So for example, we researched custom-shaped mini-discs. A house seemed appropriate because the research focused on homecare products.
We found custom-shaped Flash drives, too. Residual value, here… people could hang on to ’em and reuse ’em.
Of course, whatever concept we used for the case, we wanted to make sure the presentation itself followed through with the theme, from the title slide to the language. For example, “Absorb this.”
Notice the purple, by the way.
“Results that will floor you.”
But the concept P&G chose was one that was rooted in their “beauty and beast” lingo. Inspired by the fairy tale, we imagined treating the CD carrier like a storybook, with pages that led you to the disc.
And so, after some tweaks to get the words just right and tossing in a short cover letter from the big guy…
… we ended up with the final deliverable.
Notice how the disc is clean and shiny with no label. Presented like a gilded mirror. It’s double-playing the moral that true beauty lies inside one’s self, and the promise that knowledge about our product beauties will be found “inside” the CD.
Oh, and that PowerPoint that was the original assignment?
We turned it from a beast…
…into a beauty.
Result? One thrilled client… with her purple email signature…
… and a nice recommendation.
— Monica Lopez, Associate Director/Homecare CMK, Procter & Gamble
Allow your data to unfold like a rose
We’d like to think awesome data stands on its own, that it doesn’t need to be fancy. But that’s not the way the world works.
Unlike the Beast — scary on the outside, but sweet on the inside — substance in marketing isn’t enough. Packaging matters. And a consumer packaged goods company knows that better than anybody.
Message strategy doesn’t care how big or small your company is. All it cares about is if your message is customer-centric, clear, compelling, and under control.