Picture The Future

Irecently read that by 2009, camera phones are expected to account for 89 percent of all mobile phone handsets shipped. Already, they are outselling digital cameras.

Do you use a camera phone? I have one—a Motorola RAZR V3—and I can’t imagine how I got along without it. These mobile devices exemplify a convergence of individual capabilities—cell phones, text messaging, Web links, data organization and digital photography—that we couldn’t have conceived years ago. Consumers are driving companies to collaborate, test and experiment to meet their needs. By today’s standards, a camera phone isn’t such a leap. It’s the logical extension and combination of the technologies consumers know and have come to love.

You probably know your mobile device by a certain brand name—Motorola, Nokia, Samsung, etc. Have you ever stopped to think about what goes on inside your mobile device? How did so many different technologies get rolled up successfully into one small design? Surely the company whose name is on the phone is not an expert in every type of technology.

These multifunctional wonders are the result of cooperation and collaboration among companies that each contributed a piece of the design, technology and functionality to the product. And these companies don’t rest on one idea. They are in constant motion, testing and experimenting new ideas, service combinations and partnerships, and even exploring unexpected co-marketing agreements.

Marketers can learn a lot from this cross-pollination of ideas and technologies. Just look how it’s propelled the mobile industry forward, the impact it has had on the consumer, on business and on how business is done—particularly marketing.

As we feel our way through the changes facing the marketing industry today, we must keep the consumer and these technology pioneers in mind. A similar sharing of expertise is needed to move the marketing model out of the past and into the future. But it’s not going to happen without commitment, testing, experimentation and collaboration among agencies, media companies and technology companies.

Do not fear what might happen to your business if you collaborate. Be afraid of what will happen to your business—and to the marketing industry—if you don’t.

I know there’s a lot of talk out there about this. We simply cannot afford to be all talk and no action.

I recently joined the board at Motorola. Surprising? Perhaps. While the synergies may not be obvious at first, I’m certain both companies can gain a lot from this alliance. The reality of the business world today is that there is no such thing as irrelevance. Only by expanding our realm of business partners are we going to land on the marketing model that will lead us into the future. Our compass on this journey, our guide, is consumer understanding and empathy.

We have a philosophy at P&G: The consumer is boss. This is the driving force behind every aspect of our business—it has to be. The marketers at P&G are challenged every day to put the consumer at the core of their plans and to keep the plans and tactics fresh. To do this, we must continually be experimenting and testing new ideas, approaches and theories.

We formalized action around this challenge in November when I, along with our CEO, A.G. Lafley, challenged our marketers at P&G to deliver 30-40 progressive brand-building concepts by April 22, the day we named “Consumer Is Boss Day.”

The concepts submitted by the brand teams exceeded expectations—both in number and innovativeness. We had tests from every country representing every market we are in. The ideas demonstrated a keen understanding not only of the consumer but of the consumer’s life and how our products fit into it. From innovation in database marketing to drawing on youth trends in the interactive space, the concepts spanned a spectrum of relationships with consumers and retailers.

In conjunction with Consumer Is Boss Day, a number of consumer immersion experiences took place around the world. Our Iams team spent the day volunteering at an animal rescue shelter. The entire marketing team in the Northeast Asia region took a day away from the office and immersed themselves in the consumer shopping experience to better understand what influences a purchase decision.

Sometimes you have to literally walk in the consumer’s shoes, and that’s just what some P&G marketers recently did in China. China’s Tide Clean White marketing team moved into a communal apartment, where they interacted with consumers in their environment. They experienced washing clothes in the open courtyard alongside other residents. They now understand the importance of the type of packaging, the brand equity and certain product benefits, in addition to knowing better how, when and where consumers want to be reached with marketing efforts.

When your marketing team can understand your consumer at this level, with this degree of detail, the relevance to other companies—to collaborative partners—is crystallized.

I share these examples with you for a couple of reasons. First, the industry needs to adopt a consumer-is-boss mentality across all of our businesses. It’s going to take an industry working in this mind-set together to accomplish the changes we need to make.

We need collaboration. Right now, the marketing industry is largely working as individual brand names, and this is simply not going to lead us to a new marketing model. We need to work together to make marketing more accepted—more welcome—in consumers’ lives. Testing and experimenting together, across company and industry boundaries, will take us there. In the future of marketing, the way in which we market to the consumer will not be the result of any one brand or company, just as new mobile devices are not the result of one brand or company.

A natural first step is to get involved with industry organizations like the Association of National Advertisers. The ANA is taking a leadership position now more than ever. We are on a mission to change the industry for the better. We are collaborating around three key themes: marketing accountability and ROI; consumer behavior changes, including those related to technology and demographics; and the structure and organization of the marketing function. This type of collaboration is vital to our future, and your engagement is needed to get us there.

The marketing industry needs to tap into the talent and expertise beyond our individual companies and come together seamlessly, like the technology that powers a camera phone. Consumers are demanding a different marketing model. Collaboration, testing and experimentation is what allowed phones to fit consumers’ lives. Why wouldn’t it work for a new marketing model? It can work. You just have to picture it.