I had the privilege of attending the 2nd annual Procter & Gamble (P&G) Signal P&G event in Cincinnati yesterday, May 30, 2013. The event was created to inspire P&G marketers to accelerate digital, social, and mobile marketing innovation while not losing focus on core brand building fundamentals. Marc Pritchard, P&G CMO, stated several times that “understanding our consumers is core to anything we do in digital.” 

The event MC was John Battelle, CEO of Federated Media, who did an excellent job keeping the speakers moving and on point. Stan Joosten, innovation manager, global eBusiness, of P&G played a pivotal role in managing the overall event under Marc Pritchard’s sponsorship and leadership. There were nearly 500 P&G and outside guest attendees as well as many more via webcast.

It was a packed day with 20 speakers and excellent insights. Here are but a few quotes and insights from the day.

Marc Pritchard started the day off with key themes:

  • Speed is absolutely essential to winning brand building at speed of digital.”
  • Main Signal P&G themes for P&G marketers to soak in included: “speed, teamwork, and innovation based on P&G-proven business models, with brands being most important.”
  • “P&G must innovate by being productively paranoid.” Pritchard based this mantra on the book Good to Great by Jim Collins.
  • The P&G innovation model should be “bullets to cannonballs.” Test several concepts (bullets), identify the best opportunities with the most potential traction, and then scale fast (cannonball).
  • Pritchard also stated, “No more fear of making mistakes.” Innovation means testing, failing, learning, optimizing, and then scaling fast.
  • He also stated, “We have fallen in love with technology but need to fall back in love with ideas. We need great creativity.”
  • With the P&G CEO change from Bob McDonald back to A.G. Lafley, Marc Pritchard also discussed expectations going forward. He expects A.G. Lafley to drive innovation, understand the consumer is boss, and increase creativity dramatically.

Rishad Tobaccowala, chief strategy and innovation officer of VivaKi had some wonderful insights on the new age of storytelling and a world dominated by glass or, as I like to call them, screens.

  • “We now live in a world of digital leakage where digital and analog intermingle — a great example being smartphones and wearables.”
  • Marketers must understand the digital world opens the door to next-generation storytelling and consider this their new pallet.
  • The customer journey is dead; we are all self-marketers now.
  • The future is less about advertising and more about utilities and services. Think Nike Fuel Band.
  • Marketers must consider entertainment across glass — curved, wearable. The architecture is available now.
  • He ended with some great quotes: “The future is about collaboration — only the schizophrenic will survive"; "How do agencies need to change?"; and “Stop selling mounds of mediocrity.”

Margo Georgiadis, president, Americas Google, delivered a couple mobile-specific insights:

  • Brands now have the opportunity to work around retailer restrictions and have direct interaction with consumers via mobile.
  • Thinking of mobile — every piece of glass is an end cap. Marketing must be more integrated than ever across those end caps.
  • Marketers must now be as obsessive about digital touchpoints as they were and are about traditional touchpoints. Just as marketers walk the aisles of retailers, they must use, understand, and walk the digital aisles of glass and apps.

John Hayes, CMO at American Express, was interviewed by John Battelle and had these insights to share:

  • Marketers who really want to make a difference in the digital space must immerse themselves with developers and technologists.
  • Digital wallets are still a solution in search of a problem. This does not mean American Express is not exploring and investing, but this space is still in flux.
  • And finally a fun quote: “You know you have created brand power when consumers ask for the American Express Black Card but don’t even know what it does.”

These are just a few highlights from the day. But the most fun insight came from a Google study that showed that of those who admitted it, 39% of all smartphone users have used them in the bathroom.

The Signal P&G 2013 event represents a great way to educate brand marketers and emphasize the importance of digital and mobile to brand building and marketing innovation.