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Evolving the Promise of a Brand

A.G. Laffley on resurrecting tired brands. 

Based on my experience, 33 years in the consumer products business, 33 years at P&G, I actually believe in investments in brand.  Brands are fundamentally promises.  Brands promise product performance or product experience or product value – some combination of those and more. 

And as they deliver those things they create an image with their customers.  And strong brands deliver strong performance, great value, a delightful experience and over time a strong image.  So the brand users become enthusiastic.  They love the brand, they love the product and they tell others about it.  So I think from a strategy standpoint for branded consumer products, the brand and the image really matters and can be a source of competitive advantage. 

There are some great stories in P&G’s history of creating brands that became overwhelming leaders in their categories.  Tide was the first major laundry detergent in the U.S. after World War II.  It’s still far and away the leading laundry detergent in America today.  Crest was the first toothpaste that delivered cavity protection. 

But we also were fortunate to be able to resurrect tired brands. One is the story of Olay which was a very small skin care brand that we bought in the mid 80s.  And, frankly, we didn’t too much with.  We expanded it geographically for the next decade or so.  And we were in this sort of tough position where our Olay women consumers were getting older every year and getting fewer every year because when you get older, eventually you pass on.  And our brand was, unfortunately, affectionately called by some Oil of Old Lady.  And we tell the story in the book about how we totally transformed that brand, that product line, where we played in the marketplace.  

We created this whole segment called Masstige – a portmanteau of the words mass and prestige.  And the brand went from a few hundred million to over two-and-a-half billion in five or six years.  You know, we did the same thing with Old Spice.  Old Spice was my grandfather’s aftershave cologne.  And today Old Splice is for young men and it’s sort of a hip brand.  It’s sort of a hot brand.  So you can transform a brand.  But you have to connect that brand and its promise and its product or service offering with a group of consumers that really wants what you’re offering and gets enthusiastic about it and really likes it.

In Their Own Words is recorded in Big Think’s studio.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock


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