Proctor & Gamble’s previous CEO, A.G. Lafley, expressed P&G’s strategy under his leadership as “The consumer is boss.” Under Lafley, P&G launched Swiffer and Febreze, revitalized Olay, and bought Gillette, boosting revenues and putting the consumer giant on a solid growth path.
But a new CEO took over in 2009, Bob McDonald. His first corporate strategy was expressed as “Purpose-inspired growth”. As of mid-2012, P&G was losing share in over half its markets, and net profits were down 20%. Fortune reports “But many P&G employees simply couldn’t fathom how to translate the rhetoric into action. … ‘Purpose-inspired growth’ is a wonderful slogan, but it doesn’t help allocate assets.”
The lesson for Product Managers? Strategy is more than a catchy phrase. It works best when it helps you make difficult decisions about how to spend resources and where NOT to focus. And in difficult economic times, it’s even more critical to have a clear strategy.
There is no set formula, but there are some really great patterns out there to use as inspiration (Tong & Zagula’s Marketing Playbook comes to mind, along with Porter’s Competitive Strategy, and Kotler’s writings). Ultimately it’s up to us to identify and articulate a compelling approach to achieving our product’s objectives.
How about P&G today? in 2012, McDonald announced a new strategy “40/20/10”, “…which is narrowing P&G’s focus to its 40 biggest “category/country combinations”, it’s 20 largest innovations, and its 10 most lucrative developing markets.” according to the Fortune article. See the difference? P&G already has!