P&G's Sophie Blum: there is no such thing as a global consumer

Despite the barriers coming down between different parts of the world, understanding national habits and preferences remains as crucial for brands as ever, Procter & Gamble's top European marketer told Campaign.

Sophie Blum, P&G's vice-president of marketing for Europe and IMEA, said that the cuts to digital marketing last year at the FMCG giant had varied greatly by brand and market, and that where subsequent increases were allocated would do so too.

"This really varies by brand and by country enormously," Blum said. "In some countries we didn’t cut any money. In some we cut."

While she agreed that national identities were becoming blurred in the internet age in some respects, Blum said it was important to recognise where people in different countries remained different.

"There is no single global consumer," she added. "Mrs Smith in London has nothing to do with Mrs Dupont in Paris, or St Etienne.

"Music is an industry that is cross-cultural. Laundry is not at all, it’s very local. Behaviours in laundry are extremely broad. In some countries, powder is 80% of the market. In others, capsules are more than 30 or 40%."

Pressed on whether there were any unifying global trends common to most markets, Blum commented: "We can go very broad – of course mobile is a transformational habit and behaviour.

"Mobile is not a device, it’s a lifestyle shift," she continued. "You become, you are searching, buying, selling, recommending, advocating. Mobile is transforming your behaviour in all these aspects. So for me there is no doubt this is transformational."

Blum was speaking to Campaign at Dmexco, where P&G’s chief brand officer Marc Pritchard had given a keynote speech outlining three broad actions needed to usher in the next era of digital marketing – one of which was adopting "mass one-to-one marketing".

Blum characterised this as the central challenge for marketing. "The dream for a marketer is to be one-to-one," she said. "The challenge for a corporation reaching 5 billion consumers is mass. Technology is allowing you to reconcile one-to-one and mass."

P&G also sponsored the Dmexco Start-up Hatch, a start-up pitch contest at the event, for which Blum sat on the judging panel. The winner was Berlin’s Opinary, a platform that gathers opinions from mobile users and uses this to deliver customised content.

Opinary’s contribution was "precisely understanding your interaction with content as any individual, and serving you the content in such a way that is answering precisely your expectation at the moment you want it," Blum said.

Given the pace of change in digital technology, Blum said, "an open innovation ecosystem is a prerequisite in order to be always at the forefront. The start-ups we present today I would say are a key group in order to enhance our expertise."

But for brands looking for collaboration with start-ups, it was essential to start with the consumer challenge you are trying to address, she said.

"When you have this, you have maximum probability of finding the right partner, the right start-up. When you start with a solution and try to retrofit it, the probability of failure is huge."

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