P&G and Google Swap Workers

Nov 20, 2008

By George

at Procter & Gamble and Google are learning what it’s like to walk
in each other’s shoes as part of a temporary staff swap the companies initiated
to spur innovation within their own organizations, reports The Wall
Street Journal

The idea
for the swap came out of discussions by P&G’s former global marketing
officer Jim Stengel and with Tim Armstrong, the executive
responsible for Google’s ad sales and operations in the Americas.

P&G is, like many
other companies, trying to get hold of where online fits within their marketing
strategy. Seeing that generations of American consumers are growing
up and spending more time online than in front of the television made developing
a better understanding essential.

trying to open the eyes of our brand managers," said Stan Joosten,
digital innovation manager at P&G.

gulf between the two groups of employees is real, with each having to learn
the "language of the other."

employees could not understand how an event to unveil a new Pampers brand
did not bring in
"motherhood" bloggers to spread the news online.

their parts, P&G employees could not believe that a Google employee
didn’t grasp the significance of the signature color orange in a Tide brand

staffers perked up when Denise Chudy, a sales-team leader at Google, showed
them that the search term "coupons" had grown 50 percent over
the past year.

Duval-Russell, a marketing manager at P&G, wrote on an in-house blog
that tracking searches were some of the "best
learning" she received while at Google.

to The Wall Street Journal report, one of the great successes to
come out of the collaboration was a spoof campaign on YouTube of P&G’s "Talking
Stain" ad launched during last year’s Super Bowl. The campaign was
successful enough that P&G plans to use consumer-generated ads again
in the future.

Stengel, who recently left P&G to start his own firm, said a campaign
like that "never would have happened" previously at the company.

Discussion Questions:
What do you think of the employee swap program between Procter & Gamble
and Google? Is this something that has application with other firms?
What needs to be done to make this sort of exercise work for all involved?

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9 Comments on "P&G and Google Swap Workers"

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David Livingston
13 years 6 months ago

We did this 25 years ago when I was working at Scrivner. We would go work for another grocery wholesaler and perform our normal duties generally because the other company was short on help and we did not directly compete with them. Great experience and I continued this practice on my next job. In fact, I would have to credit this business practice for getting me where I am at today.

I think this can be applied in just about every industry. It’s also a great way to keep employees operating at full capacity. Maybe you really only need them 40 weeks a year. Ship them out to work for a competitor across the country for the other 10 weeks. That company might be small and only require 10 weeks of work a year.

M. Jericho Banks PhD
M. Jericho Banks PhD
13 years 6 months ago

Like Peter Deeb, I’ve participated in this sort of exchange exercise a few times during the past 30+ years both here and abroad, and always found it stimulating and productive. Some of my colleagues even found employee swaps to be conducive to romance, and I know of two married couples who met this way.

Gene Hoffman
Gene Hoffman
13 years 6 months ago

The marketing world has came a long way up the horizon when P&G folks oogle Google transplants in their Cincinnati towers.

Likewise, who would have ever envisioned that rich, proud and entrepreneurial-like Google associates would ever say, “Oh gee, California isn’t the only foundation of creativity. Those smart creative P&G dudes now in our cubicles are from the Midwest.”

With all the gloom consuming us these days it’s brain-warming to witness “champions” in an innovative exchange.

Brian Kelly
13 years 6 months ago

Google takes transparency to an amazingly productive place. Plus it is always fun to watch two 600 pound Gorillas swap bananas.

The old tome is out of date: the battleground isn’t for the consumer’s mind. It is for marketers to gain superior insight into the consumer’s behavior.

This move is part in parcel of the NEW landscape where marketers disintermediate agencies and go direct to content and/or distribution resources. It is plain smart.

The agency business, like retail, ain’t for sissies!

Max Goldberg
13 years 6 months ago

Too often, brands and companies become myopic in their vision. Executives and brand managers forget that there is a great big world outside their home companies. This type of swap can help open their eyes and introduce new concepts into the company.

Google and P&G are #1 in their fields. Programs like this will help both companies hold their leading edge positions. If the only constant is change, successful companies are those that are adept at reaching beyond their comfort zones.

Mel Kleiman
13 years 6 months ago

This kind of thinking and risk taking is what has kept P&G on top of the list as not only a great marketer and leading supplier of retail product in the world but also has made it one of the most desirable companies to work for in the world. This same kind of thinking is what is going to make Google hard to beat.

How many retailers or suppliers would trust letting their best employees work somewhere else and see the challenges and opportunities in a completely different industry?

How many of us would be afraid to invest the time and money that programs like this take to implement because we would be afraid of loosing that investment?

J. Peter Deeb
13 years 6 months ago

This is not a new idea but one that probably got lost in the shuffle over time. I remember when I started in the CPG business back in the Stone Age (early’70s) my company placed people into retailers for several weeks to better understand the customer we were calling on.

I am surprised that there is not more collaboration being done since understanding and mining an ever-changing consumer is critical to all businesses.

Anne Howe
13 years 6 months ago

I think it’s a fantastic idea and should be done more often. P&G is being a leader in adapting to change, and this experience will likely be very helpful in seeding some cultural change in the company. Hats off to both of them! Other companies will want to follow, and I bet Google is overwhelmed with others who want to sign up.

Lisa Bradner
Lisa Bradner
13 years 6 months ago

Peter’s post is most interesting–putting brand managers in with the retailers, what a concept! πŸ™‚ This is a great partnership and one of the reasons P&G continues to lead. They’re not afraid to share with partners so that everyone grows the pie. That win/win attitude and confidence in their own smarts and ability to lead keeps P&G at the forefront year after year. Wonder how many retailers are willing to open themselves up to partnerships like this anymore?


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