Dr. Tantillo’s 30-Second “How To”

How To Learn From GE and P&G When The World Is About To Change

Folks, today’s a short “how to” on what happens when the world experiences a huge shift and your brand is in the cross-hairs.  Most of the time that shift is technological (the shift from candles to electricity).

 So if your brand is in the cross-hairs of that kind of upheaval, what can you do?  As I often tell my clients branding solutions are customized but that said we can learn a lot from two of the big companies that are both branding experts: P&G and GE!

 Both of these companies have seen and survived and not just survived but thrived through multiple technology shifts.  P&G was started in 1837 and made a lot of its money in the 19th century from its candle business (that’s their marketing and product above).  Needless to say that had that been their only business, then P&G would not exist today.  

But ultimately P&G is a brand itself –a brand with a philosophy, way of doing business and reputation for expansive thinking (they introduced a profit-sharing plan to all employees in the 1800s).  They’re a brand that owns, develops and innovates many brands and it was this brand that responded to the shift by mastering new markets as they emerged (by 1920 they were out of the candle business and inventing the “soap” opera for radio –an incredibly inventive and effective way of promoting P&G products to mass audiences the world had never been able to reach before).  Here’s their history –a fascinating read about a company that today has revenues of almost 75 billion dollars annually and spends 2.5 billion advertising in the United States.  When I think about the “marketing concept” I always think P&G –they wrote the book!

 Similarly, GE recently and smartly faced down a major shift in their business by deciding to leave the appliance market and focus on big ticket, large scale technology.  This was a shocking decision to many but makes sense with the direction the world is going –green energy, global engineering demands— and with the way the GE brand has been positioning itself in this changing world (I did a radio interview on this one and when we get the file we’ll put it up).

 The bottom line from a branding perspective is this: if your brand is dynamic enough to face the challenges of the market you’re in today –and it has to be to thrive— then major shifts in the way the world and your particular market works – whether the shifts are technological or something else— don’t need to derail your brand and, in fact, can be a great opportunity for future growth.  Two quick examples: Arm & Hammer Baking Soda moved from a declining kitchen product (people weren’t baking as much anymore!) to miracle product (deodorizer, teeth whitener, et cetera) that launched a million brand extensions and a huge growth in their business and then there’s the story of how the Fisher Body Company survived the end of the horse-drawn carriage era and discovered a new future with GM (see that post here).   

 One takeaway –and something that I would strongly advise you do every few months— is to honestly discuss your brand in the context of the long haul, the big changes and all those “forces beyond your control”.  This will enable you to better assess threats to your brand and business as well as seize on new opportunities that might be opening up from the big world-shaking shifts!

And, remember, it’s always easier when you keep marketing and branding in mind!


Be honest about the challenges facing your brand from “forces beyond your control”


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