Procter & Gamble is known for being the guardian of dozens of high-profile beauty, health, and household products, but during this year's Vancouver Winter Olympics the company chose to focus part of its marketing on overall corporate image.
This strategy extended work the consumer products giant has been doing for several years, integrating marketing more with corporate communications and brand PR.
Marc Pritchard, global marketing and brand building officer at P&G, explains: "Consumers are engaging with a range of communications vehicles, so they are potentially being bombarded. We had to identify an insight or idea and make sure it got executed at all touchpoints for our brand messages to get through."Reacting to consumers
Companies are increasingly integrating traditional PR and corporate communications with marketing efforts to enhance overall reputation and coordinate messages for a specific brand. This trend has been influenced by greater consumer interest in corporations and their reputations, as well as social media.
"People were talking about P&G and what we were doing with the Olympics in Vancouver and what we were doing with moms," says Pritchard. "That integration of PR with our brand-building efforts adds a lot."
Paul Jensen, chair of the North American corporate practice at Weber Shandwick, says, "Our research shows consumers care more than ever about the company behind the products they are buying." He notes that companies are looking to incorporate brand messaging and brand pillars into relatable stories to connect with consumers, which is an area where agencies have experience and can help.
Companies are turning to agencies for support with their integration efforts, Jensen adds. Logistically, in order to align marketing and corporate communications or PR more closely, they are reorganizing communications and marketing departments, having more meetings with different departments, and even using social media tools for internal communications.
"Social media," Jensen explains, "is building bridges between corporate communications and marketing communications that might not have been there before."Streamlined efforts
At P&G, the integration encompassed reorganizing external relations and marketing several years ago. Then, about a year ago, the company brought all marketing elements for a brand under one person as a global brand franchise leader, who Pritchard says is "responsible for the growth and equity of that brand."
The consumer manufacturing behemoth, which also brought together its agencies into a Brand Agency Leader model, achieved success with this integration, including its Olympic outreach, the well-known Old Spice campaign, and more recent activity for its Head & Shoulders product with NFL star Troy Polamalu.
"Companies are no longer just selling a product or service: they are selling a brand," says Randy Pitzer, MD of Porter Novelli's Chicago office. "Yes, you want to make sure the products work and the service is good, but you also want to be assured the company is going to be around, is a good partner, and will work with you."
Pritchard says this integration changed the way P&G operates its marketing, with PR now on board at the start of the planning process. "The integration amplifies the impressions you get with consumers," he says. P&G works with several agencies and counts both Weber and Porter Novelli as two of its partners.
Pitzer also sees corporate communications and PR elevating its role while integrating more with marketing. In the past, he says, the integrated marketing team - advertising, direct mail, trade shows, point-of-purchase, and sales - worked together, while PR sat out during planning and came in later at the execution stage. Pritchard says this also used to be the case at P&G.
"It has all changed by necessity," suggests Pitzer. "PR and communications are in a very strategic role, or looked at as much more strategic than in the past, because we're in a unique position to drive this integration."Alignment in Action Agency preparation
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