Recap on P&G Digital Night

That was fun.

Last night, P&G brought a group of internal staffers and external partners together for a friendly charity-based event.  I didn't have any details about what we'd be doing before arriving in Cincinnati, but was looking forward to reconnecting with former colleagues, social media connections, and others who I've heard of but never met in person.

The essence of the event was network activation to support Tide Loads of Hope and education for observers.  We were split into four teams, each with a vanity URL (e.g. which would track t-shirt sales.  If you review the Twitter stream for #pgdigital, you can see most of how the four-hour competition unfolded.  If you search further, you'll also see how creativity played out in online videos, blog posts, and even a music video. And you can still participate, until 11 am EDT on March 12th.

I want to share my key takeaway from the event with you.  Because it has little to do with cause marketing or even social media marketing.
At the end of the evening, P&G's CMO Marc Pritchard remarked that in the future, all employees should get involved in activating connections similar to what had just been witnessed.

The significance of that idea is staggeringly huge.  This is a company with 138,000 employees starting to realize the value from having all of its constituents connected and activated.  They're also learning about new tools to change the process of engagement.  Events like "Digital Night" help recalibrate the company's mindset.

P&G is taking steps to make social business a reality.
By the way, my team won.  But the true winners will be the recipients of relief from Feeding America who will benefit from everyone's generosity in participation.  We collectively raised $50,000 which was matched by Tide.  In the long run, P&G benefits as well by moving along the path to transformation.

Disclosures:  P&G is not a current client.  I was not compensated or reimbursed in any way to attend.  And I have been a Tide customer for as long as I can remember buying laundry detergent.

Other event-related posts:
– David Armano:  Make A Difference. NOW.

– Everything Typepad:  Get A Cool Shirt, Save The World

– Lisa Bradner:  Lessons from Loads of Hope
– Sucharita Mulpuru:  Lessons from P&G's Digital Day

One final note.  During the event, a small volume of snarky tweets showed up.  I'm looking forward to reading commentary from those who weren't here in person.  I believe the ego trap was defused for many participants given a request for silence leading up to the event – but I wonder how many bruised egos will lash out tomorrow from the uninvited.

UPDATE: Word from P&G on final results.  Over 3,000 t-shirts sold, over $100,000 raised.

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  1. Peter – Thanks for participating last night. It was great to have you in town to help us with this journey. Of course, my ego is a little bruised from the beat down your team gave us! But seriously, than you for all the help as we look to make Social Business a reality

  2. Peter-

    Nice recap. If the future is that all employees should be involved in activating their connections 3 things must happen:

    1. Employees should be rewarded for the impact they make – this changes compensation structures

    2. Personal brands must be embraced and supported; with rules needing relaxation so that employees aren’t be stifled – can a corporate company really embrace this?

    3. Partners will need to be held accountable as well. – If employees are expected to do this, shouldn’t their agencies, packaging suppliers, etc.

    At the and of the day the question I won’t to pose to the community (though few will actually answer) is at what point does this simply become just a very large pyramid scheme, that’s backed by one of the largest and most powerful companies in the world? Is this the future of marketing?

  3. I don’t think you should presume that the critiques will come from those who were not invited. I also think that’s not a helpful comment to make, primarily because it has the effect of making people uncomfortable about presenting a valid critique for fear of being dismissed as jealous. I was sincerely surprised to hear it from you.

    My critique, which others have made, is that P&G got a pretty sweet amount of positive PR for kicking a few pennies in the direction of people in need. (Sorry, $50k? Whatever. Their agency’s fee was higher than that last month.) That’s smart on their end, but, as an observer, it felt manipulative and shallow: feed into and leverage the egos of social media folks by getting them to compete over who can get the most of their “followers” to do something they ask them to do.

    I would never begrudge helping people who need help and your hearts, I am sure, were in the right place. But from the outside,the priorities came across in a very different order. P&G was the big winner, the participants came in second, Feeding America came in third, and those who benefit from Feeding America’s services came in last.

  4. “Sometimes the idea to have an idea is more important than the idea itself.” This feels like a very good start to something big. Bravo P&G. (The quote is from an inebriated copywriter mentor.)

  5. Allison – what is the basis for a “valid” critique? My closing comment absolutely intends to have people focus on the issues instead of the egos. Some high profile people helped out during the evening, despite not being there – Chris Brogan, Laura Fitton, Warren Sukernek come to mind.

    I disagree that the event was PR-motivated. As I mention in the post, participants were asked specifically to not publicize the event and blow it out of proportion – which happened inadvertently with the AdAge article. At the core, it was P&G internal business in which a group of outsiders were invited to participate. Now that it’s over, you can see that it was clearly not an event to try and determine the future of the social web or something else as grandiose.

  6. I think you nailed a very key takeaway, Peter, that P&G marketers got to see the power of personal/social selling. That said, I heard a few comments during the event to the effect of, “what’s $50,000 to a brand with $2 billion in sales?” It made me fear that some of the marketing folks believe that this was a fun event/experiment but less related to “moving cases.” But I think enough people were engaged to keep learning and testing on their brands going forward.

  7. Peter and all,

    From spending many years behind the closed marketing doors at P&G, this will actually turn out to be a tremendous experience for all (industry). That is for the marketing community to accelerate the usage of Social Media in a more “official” part of their marketing plans. P&G might not move as the fast as the real market is moving forward, but they still run faster then their peers in all things marketing.

    And you know if this does work out to be good PR for the Charity, is that really such a harm? We live in such a world of down news these days, why not celebrate some people kicking the status quo to curb and working to learn about a new way to market, and help others in need.



  8. Peter,

    How was your strategy different vs the other teams?

    Was it the approach, or merely just the amount of connections your team had vs. the other teams that allowed you to win?


  9. Hi AC – not entirely certain; the teams were in separate rooms and we were all left to our own devices. Some of us took similar approaches to start and as Shar blogged, teams adapted on the fly when seeing what others were doing.

  10. I absolutely read your post. I love the work you’ve done online — especially the list of social media marketing examples — and I’m not sure what you’re point is in saying I’m self-promoting. I included my URL because I couldn’t fit all my thoughts into a comment section.

    The main point of my comment and thoughts are that I’m not sure how I can respect a company that uses social media mavens under the false pretense of charity when the real reason they brought you all to their headquarters was to experiment online and to energize their company employees to get into social media.

    Can we agree to disagree?

  11. Yes, sorry that my comment was too terse. I read your post before commenting and it seems like we’re talking about two different things – me about social business, you about marketing. Would be happy to publish a trackback to you, but the practice seems to be dead.

    Agreed that we disagree. How do you suggest companies get started with social media? I’ve done dozens of speeches, workshops, and strategy days (but never for P&G); this was definitely a more hands-on approach to educating employees an education and novel at least.

    Pepsi is another company taking a new approach, sending a team of staffers to SXSW this week who will report back daily to the mother ship.

    So what do you think Unilever should do to get their employees up to speed with social media? Or L’Oreal? Or Colgate-Palmolive?

  12. I think we need to congratulate companies that want to get into social media but they also need to be taught that it is a world they are not used to being in with all the seemingly uncontrolled back-and-forth conversation. If they understand this, then they should get involved. If they are scared of this or resist it, I would recommend they hold off for until they get the nerve to play.

    The first step for getting them up to speed is education. Book one, page one stuff. The 101s of the platforms, cultures, personalities, and behavioral tactics. Review success and failure case studies. Let them know it takes time. Show them current, live demonstrations of online conversations about their brand. Make it fun and let them know they should be involved or they will be missed since they are the creators of the brand.

    Second, they need to decided who and what department at the company will be the online voice(s) of the brand (marketing, PR, customer relations/service?). The best person is ideally someone who already takes part in social media in their personal time and thoroughly understands and loves the brand. If not someone who’s already done it, they need to be patient, be willing to learn, be humble, and be excited about tackling social media. I also believe the brand is best served by a real person who reveals who they are — like Scott Monty at Ford or Frank Eliason at Comcast.

    Third, they need to get their feet wet by finding regular brand supporters and fans online and joining their conversations. They should not try to own the conversation in any way. They should acknowledge their role as the voice of the brand and give and take. They should also serve as an ear for people having legitimate issues/complaints with brand. But remember, the public owns your brand. You can help honestly shape the conversation but you can not control it.

    Fourth, resist the temptation to start with any sort of stunts. In time you can do major (and minor) initiatives that will be natural and not be taken as stunts if you actually develop a real, honest, and respected persona online. The temptation to cut corners always reminds me of my major record label experience in the 1990s when the labels were convinced they could take the Hootie & The Blowfish and Dave Matthews multi-year honest WOM model and cram it into six months for an new band. It never worked.

    Fifth, Stay active. Do not start your presence and then not update regularly or, even worse, drop it. Dead social media profiles and activity are very bad for a brand.

    Sixth, and most important, give it time. It can take a while or happen quickly. That’s the serendipity of online. If it doesn’t take off at first, just give it time. It probably will if people think you have something to offer the conversation.

    Companies like Unilever, L’Oreal, and Colgate-Palmolive have such strong, loved brands that I can’t imagine why the respective brands wouldn’t be online. At a minimum they should be monitoring the conversation and contributing to it. Just like regular people do but focused on discussions around their brand or category. Unilever alone has two brands that had some real advertising and online steam in the last year or so with the Dove Real Beauty and Axe campaigns. They should be social media’d up with both. Same thing with L’Oreal’s Kiehls and L’Oreal Paris. Women obsess over particular make-up brands. Shouldn’t they be joining women online having real-time conversations about makeup and their brands? Colgate-Palmolive seems a little tougher to me since I’m not 100% sure how much people talk about toothpaste, Speed Stick, and Hill’s Science Diet online (although the dog food category is a brand loyal one). But I could be wrong about CP.

  13. Hey Peter,

    I could not help but notice that there’s no Brian Morrissey’s post on your “Other event-related posts” list. Are you posting only positive reviews????

    That would be awesome if you actually behaved as a traditional marketer and ignored any existent negative commentary, or better yet, try to discredit it. I guess all those long years at Forrester must have rubbed off you … 🙁


  14. Ana – let me give you some advice. In the future, more research will improve the effectiveness of your insight, similar to the comment I left on Brian’s blog. To your question, which I believe is rhetorical, the other posts I listed are positive and were the ones I found at 2 am when I was writing the post. You’ll notice that most of them were published during the event itself. The update I added was information from P&G, but not more posts, either positive or negative.

    From what I see on Brian’s blog, he posted the same day at 7:18 am, which is the simple reason his wasn’t included. To your point, I’ll update the post now.

    Not sure what you mean by the traditional marketer or Forrester comments. Do you mean that as an insult? If so, I’m not sure I get it because you seem to have mixed sentiment. I may not be clever enough to understand, so feel free to clarify.

  15. hey peter, thanks for your response.

    i should definitely done more research on such details as time of the post, how could i miss that?? what i did not miss, however, is that today is March 13th, and you are obviously not in the rush to make the updates on your post, all the while you find time to comment on brian’s blog. but, at the end of the day, this may not be so important, i was just wondering.

    and insult? um, not at all … no need to be defensive. everyone has their own way of thinking, and level of comfort with negative commentary. I just don’t think that ignoring people, or not addressing the issues they bring up, or trying to discredit them as a source, are good practices for the web. that’s all. for a moment reminded me of traditional marketing. and also, it reminded me of the traditional notion of “expertise”, and hence the Forrester comment.

  16. Given that Brian wrote about cause marketing and I wrote about social business, I didn’t see the need to update my post. But given your comment, I’ve done so. Feel free to add more relevant links and I’ll add them as well. My SXSW panel starts in 90 minutes though, so I won’t update any time soon.

    Who am I trying to discredit? Brian Morrissey? I think you’ve misunderstood.

  17. Cool!!

    And nah, it was not about a particular person, it was “bloggers/journalists” comment of yours there that seemed to me like you are trying to put people in the categories that don’t cross-over. Everyone can comment on whatever they want, I would say, and offer their opinion, and that opinion has to count if it made 30+ people to join the debate. Coming from a blogger, journalist, researcher, anybody.

    Enjoy SXSW!!

  18. Peter,

    While I thanked you for your participation previously in this thread, I now want to join in on the amazing (and constructive) dialogue that has continued since then. In full disclosure I’m part of a small team at P&G building our Digital skills, including Social Media and was also on the team that designed this training event. And as you know, I’m also a believer in “eating what you cook” in digital so I’m relatively active in both blogging ( and Twitter (@daveknox).

    I’ve spent the past day listening to the conversations about our event but thought I would offer some additional perspective on the event.
    The P&G Digital Event was an internal training exercise for 100 or so of our senior marketing leaders. We wanted to create a hands-on event for them to see first-hand what Social Media is all about. We wanted to bring it to life for them and take it beyond buzzwords and shiny objects like Twitter, the Long Tail, or CGM.

    We hoped to see our leaders come away with several realizations but a couple I’ll mention relevant to my comments include:
    1.)Social Media is mainstream. Facebook, Twitter, etc aren’t just for college kids or geeks. It is being used by the young and old.. by the geeks and the Soccer Moms (or Mommy Bloggers) alike.
    2.)But despite being mainstream, its not one size fits all and you need to build trust to have a conversation.
    3.)And with all that said, the first step is listening in social media.

    It is the last point I really want to speak to. As I’ve followed the conversation, it looks like some have thought we were “having a one night stand” with Social Media. That isn’t the case at all. There are many P&Gers that are active in Social Media – as well as many of our brands. We wanted the event to help support those that aren’t as active see first hand that you have to be wired differently than traditional marketing efforts to be successful in the space.

    Sure we could have told them that in a speech or powerpoint but that goes against the heart of Social Media where it is about doing and living it. Luckily some of the best and the brightest in the space where willing to help us show our marketers how to do just that. Many are our business partners today. But I also believe that their engagement was more than just “good account management.” People like Peter Kim, David Armano, Deb Schultz, Pete Blackshaw and many others involved are truly ambassadors of Social Media who can help teach marketers the RIGHT way to be involved. I’m honored that they are willing to help us learn.

    Every P&G marketer involved woke up the next morning having seen firsthand a world that is different than the world they know and that digital is having an impact on people’s lives in new ways. And while change doesn’t happen overnight we’re working to embrace the truly dynamic and exciting digital space to serve consumers and build our business.

    Thanks for listening and please keep up the dialogue. Healthy debate is how we all learn together. And please believe me when I say that P&G is here to learn and live our motto that the “Consumer is Boss.”

    Dave Knox
    Brand Manager, Digital Business Strategy, Procter & Gamble

  19. Having been at the event myself, I can reinforce what Dave has already made clear. This was a kickoff to a larger, ongoing learning experience for P&G. And this goal was made transparent to folks as we were raising money.

    It’s amusing to me that so many encourage people and brands to get involved in social media and then take them to task when they actually do it.

  20. Great article and discussion.
    Having also been at the event, I agree with Peter’s statement that “the significance of that idea is staggeringly huge.” During the exercise, I spoke with several enthusiastic brand managers soaking up information and engaging in great discussion about the ecosystem of search, bloggers /their audience, Twitter, and the social nets. They were receptive and excited about exploring how social media could be used for their brand. You could see their eyes light up with possibilities. This is good for both the brands and the social media companies, agencies, consultants and analysts.

    Today, big brands are not fully embracing social media with their marketing budgets. It is not “tried and true” for every campaign. If we look at the long term viability of the social media business, I think we all want social media companies to stay around and continue to innovate. Everything moving towards free reinforces the need for a scalable, repeatable advertising-driven business model. In order for big brands to spend, they need to better understand the medium.

    Just like P&G played a pivotal role in supporting the growth of TV, so can they also be a leader in supporting the evolution of this business model. Additionally, with media habits continuing to shift towards social media and both blogging and social nets pioneering a new communication and publishing paradigm, brands will have to follow the 2 billion+ minutes each month that are being spent or they will perish.
    Along the way there will be skinned knees, amazing innovations and continued learning on all fronts.

    This past week was a monumental step forward.

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Being: Peter Kim