Thursday, 31 March 2011

Mum's the word

In time for Mothering Sunday in the UK and to lead up to the London Olympics 2012, Procter & Gamble are about to unleash their first-ever corporate advertising for the general public. Interesting, because I've been involved in discussing the rights and wrongs of such an approach in the past. Interesting, because arch-rival Unilever has had its corporate logo on all its brand advertising since 2009.

Of course, newer companies don't have this headache. There aren't shadowy corporations lurking behind the brand names when it comes to the amazons, Googles and Virgins of this world. And even some of P&G's fellow-centenarians from Coca-Cola to many car brands have put their company name forward as brand name from the start.

You have to sympathise with P&G and their ilk to some extent. In the brave new internet age you can't hide. And if you don't take some kind of stance about who you are and what you stand for, someone else will do it for you. But however much I believe that P&G should have done something, I'm afraid that they've done the wrong thing.

Part of this comes out in the way both P&G and Unilever talk about why they've gone for the corporate-to-general public approach:

"(The Olympics) a great opportunity to talk to consumers about P&G and what we stand for." The phrase "talk to consumers" says it all. Isn't it about conversation these days? It's true enough that people these days want to know more about the companies that they buy products from - but they won't learn by being "talked to," like a naughty child standing in the corner.

Or this: "Our research says that consumers...are increasingly marketing-savvy and know that there are people who are behind brands." Well, I never!

While I'm sure that P&G have done their research, I'm a little uneasy that they appear to have done their usual version of copy & paste, which is known as "search and reapply". A successful campaign that ran for the Vancouver Olympics will be used in the UK - "Proud Sponsors of Mums."

I do find this a slightly patronising - and exclusive approach - after all, men and women without children have to clean their homes, wash their hair, use denture fixative, do the laundry and all the rest, too.

And when it comes to it, do I really want to be thinking about Pampers when I'm buying perfume? And talking of Pampers, what would be really fantastic is if P&G ditched the corporate budget when it comes to Germany and ploughed the money into an action-led campaign - from Pampers - that really did something to change the lot of mothers in Germany, as suggested here.

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