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Why P&G produces top marketers: Inside its training strategy

Procter & Gamble has long held the reputation for producing top marketers.

While the company has had to face several restructures to its brand operations, its extensive marketing training and processes remains fairly entrenched in the mindsets of many senior marketers in the region today.

In my chats with senior marketers in the region, this was one topic came up without much prompting.

Incidentally, the marketers I had met all began their early days of marketing at Procter & Gamble (P&G). Marketers such as Ambrish Jain, global vice president of marketing, Sophia Ng, vice president of advertising & marketing, OCBC and Bart Lim, general manager, non-alcoholic beverages, for F&N are amongst those who have credited P&G for a strong foundation in their marketing careers.

Another industry veteran (not from P&G) remarked to me: “You can always tell a P&G marketer.” P&G marketers are known for their structure and “left-brain” type of thinking: analysis, logic and process.

Globally, P&G counts the likes of former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, HP CEO Meg Whitman and General Electric CEO Jeff Immelt amongst its alumni.

According to a LinkedIn search in 2012 which found 100 CMOs of other companies who started their careers at P&G – a number greater than Nestle, Unilever and Kraft Foods combined, according to an AdAge article.

One senior marketer, who preferred not to be named, credited her time at P&G as being “pivotal” for her marketing career. Her experience at P&G was as a brand manager. She was later head-hunted by another organisation for a role in change management, she said, and the structures P&G had was what the firm wanted for its marketing processes. She now holds a senior marketing role at a major local firm.

She spoke in depth about the processes in P&G for grooming marketers.

“In fact, it was the only structured training and all around education for marketing that I ever received. No other organisation (I’ve been in since then) puts marketing training at the front at centre like they did,” she said, describing the organisation as a “Marketing University”.

There are several key processes it has in place that made it so effective, she said.

Firstly, it stemmed from its policy not to hire from external sources for senior roles, but have their juniors work their way up to senior positions. “By the time you get to associate marketing director position, you really know what you’re doing,” she said.

Another thing P&G does is to place a heavy emphasis on on-the-job coaching. “80% of supervisors’ appraisals were hinged on how their trained their staff. If they wanted to move up the ladder they had to groom their juniors to take over. Therefore, they would have a vested interest in training,” said the marketer.

P&G also has centres of expertise, where it would have collections of case studies of best practice case studies for its staff to refer to. “It was like a marketing university. You were always learning at P&G. At other organisations, you prepare to take this knowledge to them,” she said.

“Also, as marketers in P&G, we would manage the brand P&L. Marketers provide the brand leadership, supported by a multi-functional team. All the other functions would be a support to it and not just be an isolated function,” she said.

“That’s how it tends to work in the FMCG (fast moving consumer goods) world – where P&L is taken care of by marketing, and marketing gets to influence other functions such as strategy, research & development, product supply, finance, sales, design, pricing and more. Marketing roles, however, in other industries could be at the end of the value chain, as a support role after other functions such as sales and product development.”

“This is why many other organisations often look to hire FMCG marketers, because they’re equipped with such skills.  That was why I was head-hunted by other organisations,” she said, admitting that she is an advocate of marketers going through the experience of marketing in the FMCG sector. The interviewee has since held senior marketing roles in sectors such as banking and government.

A P&G spokesperson confirmed these structures to Marketing.

Alvin Neo, chief marketing officer at Integrated Healthcare Holdings/Parkway Pantai echoed the marketer’s views.

“P&G was my first job ever, and key to helping my foundation as a marketer. It taught me the core of marketing: Consumer is boss first and always, the importance of being insight-driven, the optimization of the media mix, agency management etc,” he said.

“Certainly the P&G brand name carries significant weight in the business world as far as marketing is concerned. Having it on one’s CV opens many opportunities,” he said.

[Image by Shutterstock]

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