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Ed Shirley, the vice chair of global beauty and grooming at Procter & Gamble, joined the company five years ago as part of its acquisition of Gillette. For someone from outside the company to rise to this level had been unheard of at P&G, which historically has groomed its leaders from the beginning of their careers. Shirley credits his unusual elevation within the P&G ranks in part to his “winning” mentality.
“I looked at every job as a challenge, and I always played to win,” Shirley told the CEW Newsmaker Forum audience on Sept. 15, 2010. Importantly, he added, “I play to win—but together, in a collaborative way. You can disagree with me, but just do it in a constructive way.”
P&G, a leader in market research, spends $350 million per year and talks to 5 million women. Shirley shared insights about reaching today’s consumer, gave novel ways to innovate and spoke of P&G’s efforts to advance the careers of women.
We are coming off of the peak of the (financial) crisis. It was a period of time where things changed tremendously—for budget shoppers and luxury shoppers. Some of our categories dropped 20–30%. We reframed our message to really focus on value. Consumers became more curious, more discerning and more involved. Making a mistake was unaffordable. Consumers did try retailer private labels, but research suggests they are coming back [to the brands]. Consumers can’t afford to fail [in their product selection] when they don’t have much discretionary income. Brands are trust marks.
Value doesn’t mean cheap—it means making the product relevant to consumers. That inspired us to fill out our portfolio. Within Olay, for example, we have a range of price points with Olay ProX, Regenerist and Total Effects. The lesson we learned is you don’t want to be in only one position. You don’t want to lose [consumers] to another brand if they trade down. A Regenerist customer may move down to Total Effects and figure, ‘When my situation changes, I’ll go back.’ People questioned launching OlayProX during the crisis. But to some consumers paying $65 for Olay ProX was a value compared to what they were paying for products in other channels.