Perpetually in search of brand innovation since 1883, when it introduced its first major brand, Ivory Soap, Procter & Gamble’s corporate commitment to innovating is articulated in the June issue of Harvard Business Review, where P&G is dubbed the "new growth factory."
The HBR article, "How P&G Tripled Its Innovation Success Rate" (co-authored by P&G CTO Bruce Brown and Innosight managing director Scott Anthony) looks at how digital platforms have filled the branded content hole created by the collapse of TV soap operas, a branding medium that P&G helped invent with Colgate-Palmolive and Lever Brothers.
In the early 2000s, only 15% of P&G’s innovations were meeting revenue and profit targets. The fix, create a structure that systematized innovation.
P&G Productions teamed up with NBC’s digital division in 2007 to create product for underserved baby-boomers, first with Petside.com and DinnerTool.com, followed by a suite of sites housed in a single portal, branded as LifeGoesStrong.com.
"We saw that there were white spaces online where consumers weren't being served and after that we launched PetSide.com with NBC Digital. And we started looking at other places where we felt there wasn't a lot of great content or communities," said Rich DelCore, P&G's director of global brand entertainment, to MediaPost.
That toe in the digital waters has now grown into a fuller digital commitment as P&G explores new media platforms to replace previous involvement with now defunct soap operas Guiding Light and As The World Turns, which ended in September and was P&G's last company-owned TV series. It was produced by P&G Productions, which co-produces family-friendly movies with Walmart in addition to overseeing its branded digital content partnership with NBCU.
Now, the content on P&G's array of consumer-facing websites is informational and service-oriented, and designed to attract consumers with a sharp mix of topics. “Knowing that more than a third of all Internet users are adults between 45 and 64 years-old, we saw an opportunity to work with Procter & Gamble to create a site network that can actively fuel this age group,” said Devin Johnson, GM, Digital Works at NBCU.
Petside, meanwhile, is getting a redesign, adding social and digital media tools to help users:
- Check a pet’s health symptoms.
- Track puppy or kitten development on a timeline.
- Find the best breed for a family.
- Discover local businesses that cater to pets.
Talking up its increasing social savvy, Petside.com writes: “Our resident bloggers have big personalities and are happy to interact, so check our Twitter and Facebook pages regularly to see what our dog trainer, Victoria Schade, our pet socialite, Charlotte Reed, and our animal advocate, Jo Singer, are up to. Or share your best bud’s photo on our Facebook page and see if he or she is our next weekly Cuddle Champion…Got a smart phone? Our mobile apps PetVet and Pet Places (coming soon!) let you take Petside wherever you go, even the dog park.”
P&G digital content plays like Petside are engineered for brand integration. "The original plan was focused on (P&G brands) Iams and Eukanuba, but we found lots of other brands had potential within that context, like Swiffer, Bounty, and Bounce," says Johnson to MediaPost.
"We are basically enabling P&G to be in the media business," he adds. "Instead of us going to a company and saying we have created a platform, and 'would you like to advertise on it,' we are saying let's create content together — a platform that walks a fine line between the consumer's interests and brand need; that's our secret sauce: a property for the brand and also a distinct value for consumers."
Petside.com is just one example of P&G’s “new growth factory,” where private-label digital brands strive to replace decades of soaps and connect with consumers on the new media platforms where they're spending most of their time these days.