By Cliff Peale
The Cincinnati Enquirer
For more than half a century, Procter & Gamble Co. marketers have followed the same path: up or out.
Assistant brand manager right out of business school. Brand manager for two to three years. Marketing director. General manager, with control over profits for every aspect of a business.
Those who didn't advance dropped out. But now, in the biggest overhaul of its marketing organization since the advent of brand management in 1931, P&G is tinkering with the formula, hoping to keep people in key jobs longer and at the same time loosen the logjam of workers around the brand manager level.
For the legions of business-school trained marketers that flood P&G every summer at Cincinnati headquarters and around the globe, the changes mean that they will stay longer in jobs but also have choices beyond the "up or out" philosophy, perhaps creating careers for some who once might have left.
"We have sometimes been a system that moves people quickly," said Jim Stengel, Procter's global marketing officer and architect of the new program. "And if you move people quickly, sometimes you don't have a chance to value their work."
The career-path changes are one part of a larger program to reinvent a marketing department that has contributed about two-thirds of the company's general managers.
But the marketing department has "kind of drifted into the group that does everything," Stengel said. He has spent months explaining the new program to the company's 3,400 marketers worldwide, with some reassignments happening this spring.
The program includes:
Concentrating around the marketing core and finding other places to do ancillary work. One example is designing artwork for packaging, Stengel said, which could either be outsourced or done in partnership with the product supply group.
Establishing "centers of expertise" to provide information and best practices on core functions.
Evaluating every marketing job for its impact on the business and complexity. The businesses with the most influence and biggest impact on profits - generally larger global brands - will be staffed by marketing directors, while up to half will have the new level, associate marketing directors.
P&G said the new level - called Band 4 internally - better aligns the job with the work.
Starting a specific track for "career marketers." At about the Band 4 level, employees will choose whether to pursue the traditional track to general manager or the new career marketing track.
Stengel said the path is not new but will be "valued more" by P&G upper management.
Lengthening the time marketing executives remain in their jobs. Under the new program, assistant brand managers will get one or two two-year assignments, while brand managers might remain in place three to five years, Stengel said.
Those tenures are driven by business results, where more continuity almost always means better returns, chairman and chief executive A.G. Lafley told investors earlier this year.
"We have kind of moved away from the GE approach where everybody moves every 18 to 24 months, to an approach where we want continuity through the president level and the general manager level," he said about General Electric's process.
When asked by Wall Street analyst Andrew Shore whether P&Gers might view a brand-manager assignment for Sunny Delight or Dreft as "a prison sentence," Lafley responded quickly: "Andrew, I was the brand manager of Ivory Snow and Dreft. I made it."
The program won't add employees, but will provide those there with varied and less constricted career paths, Stengel said.
Paul Yocum, who entered P&G's marketing department in 1998 after 12 years in sales, and now is North American brand manager for Cover Girl cosmetics, said the new system provides flexibility while maintaining P&G's competitive culture.
He said he will pursue the general manager track.
"I actually welcome more continuity in the jobs. But you'll still get rewarded for good work."
Anne Martin, a vice president of global cosmetics at P&G's Hunt Valley, Md., complex, said she sees herself as a career marketer. She was an associate advertising manager before P&G eliminated that job level in the early 1990s.
"I also thought that Level 4 job gave me an opportunity to get rewarded and be promoted. It was kind of a nice steppingstone."
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