CMO Q&A: Laurent Faracci, Reckitt Benckiser

Reckitt Benckiser's US chief strategy and marketing officer Laurent Faracci talks to Lindsay Stein about integrated strategies.

What is the communications and marketing structure at Reckitt Benckiser?
There is no communications department. Communications and marketing are part of one team and dealt with by brand managers. We work in an integrated fashion.

There is a VP of marketing for a brand and that group is like a mini company in that it has its own financial director, supply manager, sales, and a number of functions.

It empowers each team to function as a small business unit and be responsible for their own profit and loss. It's a lot of responsibility, but also very liberating because it pushes down decisions to the teams.

The business units are almost all centered on our 19 power brands that make up 70% of company sales, such as French's, Lysol, Woolite, and Mucinex. It will generally be one, if it's a major name, or a few power brands under each group, and they are responsible for everything, including strategy, communications, new products with the support of the global headquarters, and execution.

Why is this beneficial?
We see this as a very important competitive advantage. It makes us special and agile and eliminates a lot of layers in the company, allowing us to be faster. In the CPG industry, you have fast-moving consumer groups and in this type of business, if you're not fast, you're last. The other thing is it gives early career experience to employees. People like the freedom to make a difference at every level of the organization. Not everything comes to me as the CMO. I encourage that.
Reckitt Benckiser is working on campaigns to help launch its new Durex products.

So, there are no communications titles at Reckitt Benckiser?
No, there are marketing titles. There are very significant changes in our communications plans where we've leaned forward to where consumers are today. There's more social, digital, and mobile, and that change has been pretty dramatic over the last three to five years. With that comes more fragmentation of our marketing strategies and more specialization in certain areas.

A lot of the brands need specialists in social or digital, so we have brought them in internally to make sure the marketing teams have the support they need and deserve. There are more jobs now, which we used to delegate to agencies.

Where do agency partners fit in?
We work with a roster of agencies on a collaborative basis. We ask them to work together so the PR agency won't be going one way and the advertising firm another.

We work with Porter Novelli, especially from a corporate standpoint, but each brand has different needs. We're careful to select the right partners for every brand.

We believe PR depends a lot on the people, target group, and brand objective. Each brand doesn't have a different agency, but we may pool specialized agencies for specific programs or events.

Tell me about a unique initiative you are working on for a client.
We are developing an amazing campaign for Durex, which is a fantastic brand in the UK, France, Spain, and China, but in the US it's behind Trojan, the market leader.

We looked at the brand for about 18 months, saying, "What should we do?" We interviewed thousands of consumers and did co-creation in a workshop with them. We talked to experts, couples, singles, and separated people, and we realized that sex is better when you trust the person.

The message was it is better when you make love and not just have sex. That element is transformational because instead of the traditional image of good sex being a one-night stand, we can turn to a credible alternative about lovers who are committed to each other and can explore their sex lives in a better way and we can help.

That's why we launched a campaign around a new product, which is a lubricant that is also a massage gel, so you can massage your partner and then explore more if desired.

We're going to offer a lot of other products, such as a condom that is designed specially to slow him down and speed her up.

It's a completely different way to look at this category and the communications will help us break through.

PR depends on what you're trying to do, so in this case, we need to get people who are advocates of that idea. We need followers, bloggers, and tweeters to capture and evangelize that idea, and PR is a great way to find them.

What are your goals moving forward?
How you win today and tomorrow in marketing is with tools in digital, social, and mobile to connect with people directly.

It's so much easier than in the past to be meaningful, so that you can touch people, and that's the dream of marketers. Instead of doing it from broadcasting through mass communications, you can have customized messages for specific and sometimes very small groups.

And it can be done at a reasonable cost. It is really the new game-changing element of communications.

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