Originally founded in 1837 by two immigrants (William Procter and James Gamble) in Cincinnati, Ohio, P&G has evolved dramatically since.
Since their first product, Ivory Soap, an inexpensive soap that floats on water, the company rapidly diversified its product lines. Following a series of internal developments and external acquisitions, P&G is now home to over 21 brands (including Tide, Crest, Pampers, Head & Shoulders, Pantene, and Gillette). As of 2021, most P&G’s brands are in the consumer packaged goods industry; they account for over $68 billion in global sales.
Due to its dominance in a wide variety of product categories and unique focus on marketing and brand management, P&G has been named the “founder of modern brand management strategy. In the fiscal years 2017 and 2018, P&G spent $7.1 billion on marketing. According to the CEO, David Taylor, this makes P&G the world’s largest advertiser. Given this position, he emphasizes that it’s important for the company to play a role in sparking “conversations that motivate positive change along racial, ethnic, sexual orientation, and identity, disability and gender lines.”II. Corporate Force For Good: Marketing Campaigns
The #LikeAGirl campaign was launched by P&G in early 2015, during the US’s Super Bowl-- a highly rated television broadcast, with 114.4 million people tuned in in 2015 alone, that many advertisers utilize to push their brands.
Through the #LikeAGirl campaign, P&G’s menstrual hygiene product line posed the question: “When did doing something ‘like a girl’ become an insult?”
During the commercial, girls and women were asked to do a task “like a girl.” Viewers could notice that younger women held their gender to a higher standard, equating doing something “like a girl” to doing it as well as you could. Older women, on the contrary, equated being “like a girl” to weakness. The commercial became the most popular in the 2015 Super Bowl and successfully sparked conversations about the status of women. In a study conducted internally, only 19% of girls had a positive association with the phrase “like a girl” prior to the campaign, but after the commercial, that statistic rose to 76%.
My Black is Beautiful
The “My Black is Beautiful” campaign was launched by a group of visionary Black women in 2006 who wanted to “spotlight all that is beautiful about Black beauty and culture, as well as transcend bias by promoting a more positive representation of Blackness.” Through hashtags such as #RedefineBlack, the campaign is striving to empower  Black women, drive dialogue, and encourage meaningful change. My Black is Beautiful also launched its own product line to address the unique needs and hair types within the Black community.
Most recently, P&G worked with advertising agency BBDO New York to revive this movement. Their starting spot was “The Talk,” a short film that explores racial identity and cultural bias, with African American parents talking with their children about the history of police brutality and racial profiling in America. The videos were met with mixed reviews, with some claiming the commercial to be “anti-white,” and others criticizing its lack of representation of Black fathers. In addition, some police groups accused the advertisement of supporting anti-cop mentalities.
Despite the controversy, P&G stood by its commercial and cited it as a success. P&G’s Chief Diversity Officer and President of North America stated: “We know bias is a difficult topic to tackle, but we believe in fully acknowledging and understanding it to allow us to work together to put an end to its harmful effects.”
The advertisement also received strong praise. To date, it has won the 2018 Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity Grand Prix and the 2018 Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Commercial.
The Best a Man Can Be
“The Best a Man Can Be” campaign was launched in January of 2019, as a spin-off of its slogan “The Best a Man Can Get.” It followed shortly after the #MeToo movement, and was a video criticizing scenes of toxic masculinity , as well as questioning mens’ roles within them. Specifically, the video depicts sexual misconduct and bullying.
The campaign’s video went viral, racking up over 4 million views in less than 48 hours, and sparked major conversations online, with the video being tweeted over 46,000 times with 23,000 replies. In hindsight, this was likely P&G’s most controversial campaign to date. Shortly following it, many groups called for a boycott of all Gillette products, leading to a $5 billion loss for that quarter. Gillette’s CEO responded by stating that the $5 billion loss was a price worth paying, as it was a step in the right direction for gender equality.
In defense of the campaign, Bernice King, daughter of Martin Luther King Jr. stated that “this commercial isn’t anti-male. It’s pro-humanity. And it demonstrates that characters can step up to change conditions.”
III. Future of Marketing & Brand Management
As P&G has been on the forefront of social-change advertising, it’s credited with the responsibility of changing the landscape of dialogue around important social topics. Although there are a number of smaller companies that are taking a stand and banding together in support of social causes, it is especially critical that large, global corporations such as P&G offer their platform and resources towards social change. While some argue that these campaigns only serve to polarize  already divided groups, others argue that they are necessary to raise awareness, with dialogue and disagreement being the natural first step towards change.
Although raising awareness of issues that are controversial could result in a reduction in company profits, which may act against shareholder interests, P&G has made clear that its shareholders are investing not only for growth in capital but also in P&G’s mission and intent. P&G will, without a doubt, continue to shape social dialogue well into the future with its unique approach to marketing.