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When Gina Drosos, P&G Beauty’s president of Global Personal Care, travels to the Middle East next week, she plans to make time — as she does each trip abroad — to visit with consumers in their homes.
This story first appeared in the October 24, 2008 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
It’s a known P&G habit. But rather than make a beeline for her hosts’ medicine cabinets, Drosos will ask about family dynamics, daily responsibilities, commutes and family budgets. Each visit, said Drosos, allows her to compare and contrast shoppers’ needs from around the globe.
“I have products that range from a 25-cent Camay bar soap to SK-II’s superpremium skin care products for hundreds of dollars,” Drosos told Jenny B. Fine, editor of WWD Beauty Biz, who moderated a question-and-answer discussion hosted by CEW Wednesday evening. “I love that breadth.”
In her post, Drosos oversees a host of brands with a global reach, with Olay, Cover Girl, Old Spice, Gillette and Secret among them.
New additions to the portfolio include DDF, or Doctor’s Dermatologic Formula, and Fekkai, whose founder — hairstylist Frédéric Fekkai — has begun consulting across P&G’s hair brands and on skin care, said Drosos.
The same curiosity that prompts her to knock on consumers’ doors also frequently leads her to the firm’s research and development labs, where she tests products at each stage of development, provided they pass safety tests, she quipped. One of her favorite lab samples was Cover Girl Lash Blast mascara.
Drosos acknowledged that she regrets P&G wasn’t first on the mineral makeup trend. “It goes after one of the biggest unmet needs that Cover Girl was built on — that women want products that are good for your skin.”
She credited persistence and goal-making with landing positions of increasing responsibility over her more than 20-year career at P&G.
Lessons learned will likely be put to the test now, as consumers grapple with a precipitous economic downturn.
“This is the most turbulent economic time that I’ve seen in my 20 years in the business,” said Drosos. She recalled reading in a recent report on household spending that 18 months ago, consumers spent about 20 percent of their income on staple items. That number has since surged to 40 percent. P&G’s edge is offering trusted brands at all price levels, she said. “The place that is the toughest right now is that middle zone,” said Drosos. “It’s that middle tier where it’s very important to explain the value propositions.”
In addition to home visits, P&G is hosting online consumer panels to review products, and asking focus group participants to send them images of themselves using the product via their cell phones.
Drosos wants the same kind of direct feedback from her team, and said she encourages an open exchange of ideas. At her level, she noted, “Everything gets sanitized by the time it travels up to me, but some of the best ideas are more raw than that,” said Drosos. “Feeling comfortable failing helps keep you fresh.”
These days, it seems Drosos and her team are eyeing victory. She welcomes competition, but declared, “It feels really great to win.”