How Brands Are Practicing Their Purpose Internally

P&G products
Proctor & Gamble Company

Brands have taken on the role of initiating important cultural conversations through their campaigns. It is important to remember that although it is crucial to have an authentic purpose, brands must also practice what they preach internally. For example, if your purpose is equality, you better be focusing on internal representation and pay equality within your own walls. I spoke with Marc Pritchard, chief brand officer at Procter & Gamble Company on how they find balance making sure they themselves have a strong purpose that also extends to the brands under their umbrella. 

Jeff Fromm: It seems as if there are some cultural conversations that make complete sense for certain brands like Secret to get involved with, for example with its support of women's soccer. Are you always on the lookout for other cultural conversations or societal campaigns that you can contribute to? 

Marc Pritchard: That's part of why we always look at the context, particularly the cultural context, when we develop content to decide what specific action we may take. But, it does have to be grounded in that brand's reason to exist and what it's chosen to be able to focus on. Always exists to unleash confidence in women and girls so they can be whoever they want to be. That's their purpose statement.

Their benefit is feminine protection. What they did at first, if you remember, is they addressed the confidence drop that happens at puberty for young women due to many issues, one of which being insults like you do that “like a girl.” And so, the Always Like A Girl campaign literally changed the meaning of “like a girl.” Now 76% of people think “like a girl” is a positive expression versus 19% before.

Just recently they have created another program called End Period Poverty, which is a program that's focused on the outrageous fact that up to 20% of young women skip school when they have their period because they can't afford adequate feminine protection. That's not just a third world problem, it’s actually a first world problem. The numbers are nearly one in 10 in U.K. and Canada and nearly one in five in the U.S. 

The End Period Poverty campaign will extend into 40 countries: whenever you buy a pack of Always, you donate a pad to young women who can't afford feminine protection. 

Fromm: When you're looking at issues like the gender wage gap as it pertains to female athletes, is that something that internally you also look at for your brands, how women are paid commensurate to their male colleagues? 

Pritchard: Our focus on gender equality and diversity inclusion, which is all intersectional equality, starts first in our company. The first thing we do is focus on getting internal representation. So equal pay, equal representation, equal roles, equal voice, equal respect within our walls. We've got that on the pay aspect. We still have some work to do on representation at every level. I'm proud to say that within the brand organization, which includes marketing and our market research and communications and design employees, we are at 50-50, so we've achieved that. We extend that to who we work with also. We're also working on ensuring that we have 50-50 representation with our agency partners. We’re pretty close, 48%, on average. The next piece though is behind the camera where, because in order for us to get accurate portrayals of women and girls, we need to ensure that we have a 50-50 representation behind the camera. The industry is only at 4%. We're not where we want to be, but we're in the mid 20s now. We're shooting for getting to 50-50 by next year.

In order for a brand to authentically focus on one of these issues, it again needs to fit with the brand's reason for being and how that brand, and the benefit that brand provides, walks the walk behind the scenes.

Fromm: You have said you made a commitment to use your voice as a force for good on important issues like eliminating bias to promote equality. Then you had also acknowledged that getting to this commitment has been an often rocky journey. Why is it so important for brands to consider such work regardless of how hard it is?

Pritchard: I think because business has an obligation and a responsibility to be both a force for good and a force for growth because of our reach. We have broad reach. We reach millions of people with our advertising. It's why we're a company that reaches five billion people on the planet. Our messages form bias, so we have an obligation to have an accurate reflection in the portrayal of women and girls and people of all races and ethnicities, of sexual and gender identities, of abilities, religion, and age, all humanity.

When you do so, there's evidence that it builds trust. The #SeeHer movement has now studied 100,000 ads and it's indicated that the accurate portrayal of women and girl's drive a 10% trust rating and up to a 20% sales increase. In our company, the brands that have the most gender equal campaigns tend to do really well from a sales standpoint, Always, SK-II, Olay, Ariel and now Secret. Then we're extending that now to race and ethnicity and other aspects of equality.

I'm giving you the rational case. Then you need to have the emotional case. The advice that I would provide is to make this personal. Part of that rocky journey was a personal journey. I think you need to understand your own biases, and you have to understand what's your own motivation in order to make diversity and inclusion a personal mission.

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Brands have taken on the role of initiating important cultural conversations through their campaigns. It is important to remember that although it is crucial to have an authentic purpose, brands must also practice what they preach internally. For example, if your purpose is equality, you better be focusing on internal representation and pay equality within your own walls. I spoke with Marc Pritchard, chief brand officer at Procter & Gamble Company on how they find balance making sure they themselves have a strong purpose that also extends to the brands under their umbrella. 

Jeff Fromm: It seems as if there are some cultural conversations that make complete sense for certain brands like Secret to get involved with, for example with its support of women's soccer. Are you always on the lookout for other cultural conversations or societal campaigns that you can contribute to? 

Marc Pritchard: That's part of why we always look at the context, particularly the cultural context, when we develop content to decide what specific action we may take. But, it does have to be grounded in that brand's reason to exist and what it's chosen to be able to focus on. Always exists to unleash confidence in women and girls so they can be whoever they want to be. That's their purpose statement.

Their benefit is feminine protection. What they did at first, if you remember, is they addressed the confidence drop that happens at puberty for young women due to many issues, one of which being insults like you do that “like a girl.” And so, the Always Like A Girl campaign literally changed the meaning of “like a girl.” Now 76% of people think “like a girl” is a positive expression versus 19% before.

Just recently they have created another program called End Period Poverty, which is a program that's focused on the outrageous fact that up to 20% of young women skip school when they have their period because they can't afford adequate feminine protection. That's not just a third world problem, it’s actually a first world problem. The numbers are nearly one in 10 in U.K. and Canada and nearly one in five in the U.S. 

The End Period Poverty campaign will extend into 40 countries: whenever you buy a pack of Always, you donate a pad to young women who can't afford feminine protection. 

Fromm: When you're looking at issues like the gender wage gap as it pertains to female athletes, is that something that internally you also look at for your brands, how women are paid commensurate to their male colleagues? 

Pritchard: Our focus on gender equality and diversity inclusion, which is all intersectional equality, starts first in our company. The first thing we do is focus on getting internal representation. So equal pay, equal representation, equal roles, equal voice, equal respect within our walls. We've got that on the pay aspect. We still have some work to do on representation at every level. I'm proud to say that within the brand organization, which includes marketing and our market research and communications and design employees, we are at 50-50, so we've achieved that. We extend that to who we work with also. We're also working on ensuring that we have 50-50 representation with our agency partners. We’re pretty close, 48%, on average. The next piece though is behind the camera where, because in order for us to get accurate portrayals of women and girls, we need to ensure that we have a 50-50 representation behind the camera. The industry is only at 4%. We're not where we want to be, but we're in the mid 20s now. We're shooting for getting to 50-50 by next year.

In order for a brand to authentically focus on one of these issues, it again needs to fit with the brand's reason for being and how that brand, and the benefit that brand provides, walks the walk behind the scenes.

Fromm: You have said you made a commitment to use your voice as a force for good on important issues like eliminating bias to promote equality. Then you had also acknowledged that getting to this commitment has been an often rocky journey. Why is it so important for brands to consider such work regardless of how hard it is?

Pritchard: I think because business has an obligation and a responsibility to be both a force for good and a force for growth because of our reach. We have broad reach. We reach millions of people with our advertising. It's why we're a company that reaches five billion people on the planet. Our messages form bias, so we have an obligation to have an accurate reflection in the portrayal of women and girls and people of all races and ethnicities, of sexual and gender identities, of abilities, religion, and age, all humanity.

When you do so, there's evidence that it builds trust. The #SeeHer movement has now studied 100,000 ads and it's indicated that the accurate portrayal of women and girl's drive a 10% trust rating and up to a 20% sales increase. In our company, the brands that have the most gender equal campaigns tend to do really well from a sales standpoint, Always, SK-II, Olay, Ariel and now Secret. Then we're extending that now to race and ethnicity and other aspects of equality.

I'm giving you the rational case. Then you need to have the emotional case. The advice that I would provide is to make this personal. Part of that rocky journey was a personal journey. I think you need to understand your own biases, and you have to understand what's your own motivation in order to make diversity and inclusion a personal mission.

Follow me on LinkedIn. Check out my website.

I serve as president of FutureCast, a consumer trends consultancy. I am the co-author of “Marketing to Millennials,” “Millennials with Kids,” “Marketing to Gen Z,” and

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