P&G Must Proceed With Caution
The Marketing Doctor Says:
P&G Must Proceed With Caution;
The Music Industry Is No Soap Opera
It looks like Procter & Gamble is getting into the record business (here’s that story). I’ve written before about the major shakeup in the music industry, but this latest move by the venerable and always ahead-of-the-curve packaged goods company came as a surprise to me.
Maybe it shouldn’t have given that P&G invented the soap opera as a way to reach its target market by capitalizing on the emerging television industry. In a similar way, there is an opportunity for P&G to make deals directly with recording artists and use innovative relationships to build its brand strengths.
Still there is a big difference that could spell trouble for this strategy.
One of the reasons I respect P&G so much is that they are the masters of creating and controlling their brands. Soap operas made sense because they were essentially a creative platform that could highlight their packaged goods and build brand loyalty. Soap operas were and are controllable since P&G was literally writing the scripts and micro-managing the talent.
There are a few soap opera standout performers, but for the most part the stable of actors and actresses do not become brands in themselves. This is the result of smart management. Sure there was Luke and Laura’s wedding on General Hospital, but the horse pulling the soap opera cart is not a personal brand, it’s P&G, the reason for the entertainment’s existence and the soap opera stars’ paychecks. It’s ironic that the emotional rollercoaster of soap operas is one of the most dependable platforms for brand development and promotion.
The difference with this foray by P&G into the music industry is a major one: it’s the creative personal brand.
Artists –the personal brands in question— can become incredibly lucrative marketing machines –how do you even begin to value an Elvis or a Madonna in marketing terms from their humble beginnings to their ultimate marketplace clout?
In this sense, P&G getting in on the “ground floor” before a career takes off parallels what it did in creating the soap opera and guiding it from a small, fringe player into a lucrative daytime television mini-industry.
But here’s the problem. Recording artists are notoriously difficult to control and audience tastes are fickle. It’s one thing for a Microsoft to license a Rolling Stones song for a one-time-use campaign, but another to become the shaper and manager of a career for the long haul.
Combine that with the desire to build your package-good brand over the long term and with a particular target market (that’s what P&G seems intent on doing with its Tag product and urban target market) and you run big risks.
Personal brands can experience meteoric ascents, but can plummet just as fast. One controversial statement or act (remember, Sinead O’Connor and that photograph of the Pope?) and a personal brand can go down in flames. And if your brand is too close to the controversy, sales and brand value will definitely be hurt.
The great thing about products is that they don’t have personalities –at least, not personalities that can go off script and do stupid things on their own. You can add personality and energy to the packaged good by creative association and present it in the best possible light (i.e., the soap opera) and that’s what P&G has been doing for years. This is their winning concept and anything they do in the future has to make use of this concept somehow!
P&G does brand management better than anyone –after all they wrote the book and have survived and thrived era after changing era. And I won’t sell them short now. P&G might really be onto something. Even with the Hannah Montana flap, both Montana and the Jonas Brothers are showing that well-managed musical personal brands can do great things for a corporate brand or a product line. And if P&G puts safeguards in place (i.e., ironclad contracts, etc.) like they surely have with their soap opera business, we might just look back on this move the same way we do on the soaps.
Still, this is going to be a bigger challenge than managing teen singers or soap actors accustomed to a steady paycheck. It’s interesting to note, though, that while the packaged goods people are reaching out to music, the music people are also reaching out to packaged goods experts. EMI is considering making a former P&G whiz kid its CEO (see that article here). I can’t wait to see how this one works — a disciplined packaged goods professional working in an environment where discipline has historically been a four-letter word and seen to be at odds with the creative process. Stay tuned!
And, remember, it’s always easier when you keep branding in mind!
TODAY’S TANTILLO TAKEAWAY –
Personal brands can be powerful tools for a marketer but they must be handled