4A’s: Stengel Calls for ‘Mindset Shift’

LAS VEGAS Procter & Gamble global CMO Jim Stengel said marketers must make a major “mindset shift,” rather than simply trying to keep pace with changes in technology, if clients and agencies are to flourish in the rapidly changing world of digital commerce.

Stengel made his remarks here today during his keynote address at the 4A’s Media Conference.

When Stengel addressed the body in 2004, he gave the industry a C-minus for its ability to react to technological changes. In the three years since, the industry has improved its performance to a B, he said—though he quickly called such a report card itself “obsolete.”

“We can no longer measure success in keeping up, because keeping up is not possible,” Stengel said. “What we need is a mindset shift.”

Having opened his speech with a clip of his avatar’s visit to Leo Burnett’s office in the Second Life virtual world, Stengel said consumers are craving “honest, authentic” relationships based on trust.

“We have to understand what’s important to them, and how we can genuinely connect with them,” he said. “We must shift our mindset to truly creating partnerships.”

With the increase of consumer-generated media, including blogs and sundry other word-of-mouth techniques, consumers are showing a greater need for making connections with other people and brands, Stengel said.

“Sometimes we need to be more open in bringing that human perspective to our marketing,” he said. One example of keeping the human perspective in marketing was shown in a video that depicted the company’s efforts to take care of its Gulf Coast employees in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, particularly in its decision to keep the factory open.

Engaging in a dialogue with consumers also means gaining their trust, Stengel said. In an audit of 15 categories in 15 countries, the company found that the brands with the highest market share also had the highest level of trust among consumers.

“If we want to engage people, our message has to be on their terms,” Stengel said. In particular, brands should connect with consumers’ sense of community by being generous (such as Starbucks giving away used coffee grounds for composting) and having consumers experience the brands on their terms. “We have come to realize that at P&G, we are building brands that are about standing for something,” he said. “It’s not only a smart business decisions, it’s the right thing for us as marketers to do.”