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P&G’s Marc Pritchard: ‘If you want to see the future of marketing, look to China’


By Rebecca Stewart, Trends Editor

March 26, 2021 | 5 min read

Fresh from being crowned Global Marketer of the Year, Procter & Gamble’s (P&G) top marketer Marc Pritchard says China and the potential of 5G are top of his list of priorities as he looks to diversify the FMCG giant’s marketing efforts.

P&G china future of marketing

2020 saw the company team up with Alibaba’s Taobao livestreaming influencer Viya

North America might be P&G’s biggest market, but its chief brand officer Marc Pritchard is looking to China as the region that will drive the consumer good’s giant’s marketing transformation efforts.

“If you want to see the future look to China,” is Pritchard’s advice to his marketing peers. “China is where there is transformation happening. The market flipped a few years ago from the old brand building model to a digital ecosystem, from bricks and mortar to e-commerce.”

Pritchard highlights the region as an innovation hub for the Oral-B and Tide owner.

“It’s where a lot of transformation is happening in terms of our use of data and digital technology in order to drive our business through programmatic,” he reveals, saying the market is serving as a springboard for P&G to engage with retails in new ways and develop propensity modelling, along with running experiments in branded entertainment and live streaming.

China is P&G’s second largest market globally and since 2014 it’s been the FMCG firm’s largest e-commerce market. Last year, the business announced plans to invest $100m over the next three years in its China Digital Innovation Centre in Guangzhou Development District. The project integrates P&G’s digital technology research and innovation in fields such as big data and digitalized supply chain to accelerate the transformation of its business model.

“The break throughs happening in this region are extraordinary,” Pritchard adds.

Chinese families’ demand for cleaning and personal health products become one of the consumer goods giant’s key growth engines. Over the last 12 months, the pandemic has only accelerated the businesses’ e-commerce experimentation in the Chinese ad market; which according to R3 grew 23% in 2020 despite deep cuts to ad budgets globally as marketers invested in short video, e-commerce and social media.

JD Super – the online supermarket of Chinese retail giant JD – is P&G’s largest strategic partner in the region.

Elsewhere, 2020 saw the company team up with Alibaba’s Taobao livestreaming influencer Viya (the ‘livestreaming queen who can sell anything’) for the second year runningt for an exclusive online event that featured interaction with P&G executives, guest appearances by celebrity Zhou Shen, and product demonstrations by the scientists. ‘Livestream2.0’ didn’t just aim to drive sales but represented an upgrade in “new product incubation and branding” for P&G. Brands including Pantene and Whisper chose to launch key new products via the virtual event, with “great success”.

The ‘extraordinary’ impact of 5G

Pritchard was looking to the future in conversation with the Raja Rajamannar, Mastercard chief marketing officer and president of The World Federation of Advertisers (WFA) which has just crowned the brand boss as its Global Marketer of the Year for 2020 in partnership with The Drum.

As well as China, he cites the rise of 5G as something else marketers should be keeping their eye on in 2021.

“5G is going to unleash the power of virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR) and mixed reality (MR),” says Pritchard.

Though he admits he doesn’t quite know what this means for marketers in practice, he is certain that the impact will be “extraordinary”.

“This tech will change our jobs as brand builders because the consumer experiences we create will change. We’re experimenting with it already, but I can’t wait to see what comes next,” he adds.

Pritchard took the Global Marketer of the Year title following a turbulent 12 months, through which he has encouraged his marketing teams to focus on ‘lean innovation’ and think like start-ups; put a laser-sharp focus on brand purpose, sustainability, and business growth; and successfully steered the business towards the calmer waters of the new normal.

In the three months to January 2021, P&G’s net sales rose 8% to $19.75bn, topping expectations of $19.27bn.

You can watch Pritchard’s interview with Rajamannar in full below and catch up on all the coverage from this year’s Global Marketer of the Year award here.

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