WWD Forum: P&G’s Sawyers Advises Keeping It Simple

In the digital world, it’s not just about an idea, but an ideal; simplicity cuts through the barrage of online brand messages,.

Charlene P. Sawyers

In this digital world, it’s not just about an idea, but also an ideal; simplicity cuts through the barrage of online brand messages, and creativity can truly come from anywhere. Those were the key points Charlene P. Sawyers, Procter & Gamble Co.’s general manager, beauty and grooming brand building, made during her presentation “Connecting Through Creativity and Purpose.”

This story first appeared in the October 15, 2009 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Sawyers said connecting with consumers online has become “absolutely pivotal” — but equally important is the ability to keep them engaged online.

See a quick highlight from Charlene P. Sawyers’s speech about social networks>>

Sawyers cited several examples, ranging from the Secret antiperspirant division of P&G, which started doing polls on Facebook to increase its online fan base, to a recent fragrance launch by P&G’s Old Spice called Swagger, which sought to raise its profile among men from 18 through their early 20s. “We knew that they were online, but the challenge was: How do you bring Old Spice into an online world in a relevant way?”

Market research revealed that men in that age group often Google their own names, so Old Spice developed a way to let users create their own fictional online profiles. “You can take your own picture and out come these fictional stories about when you went to Thailand and resuscitated a baby panda or you purchased a helicopter made out of diamonds,” she noted.

Promotions tied in with the launch on sites such as CollegeHumor.com created 600 million hits and more than 30,000 entries. Old Spice also created a hit list of the top 10 things to know to be “in the know” on Heavy.com, which resulted in 1.5 billion hits.

For its Hugo Boss fragrance division, the company engaged consumers with an online contest to create their own flacon design. “We had over 30,000 entries out of 108 countries globally,” Sawyers said.

Meanwhile, on the mantra that “Trees look taller when there’s no underbrush,” P&G’s Gillette created a whole creative campaign to promote the idea of men shaving below the waist, including an amusing, animated viral “how-to” video with certain body parts blurred. “It went from 8,000 hits to one million in a week, and two million in two weeks,” Sawyers recalled. “The results were amazing. The ‘how-to shave your groin’ video was the number-one most watched video on YouTube’s how-to category….Half of the YouTube videos gathered were embedded in a third-party site.”

While the company decided not to air the campaign on prime-time television, the strategy directly targeted the online customer. “We are sure we are going to get consumer-generated videos on this one,” Sawyers said, laughing. “I am not sure we will ever air them, but we can only wait and hope to imagine.”