Procter and Gamble
The Great Depression was exceptionally difficult for most consumer product companies, but Procter and Gamble came out of the entire meltdown a whole lot stronger than it was in 1929. How did the soap giant beat the Great Depression? Things were rough at first when most of their mainstay grocery customers started cutting their orders and P&G’s resulting inventories piled up. P&G’s leadership determined that even in a depression people would still need soap, why wouldn’t they buy it from Procter and Gamble?
Thus, instead of cutting back their advertising efforts to cut costs (as many of its competitors did), the company actively pursued new marketing channels, which at the time included the then rising commercial radio broadcasts. It was able to maintain and increase sales while other companies folded. One of these campaigns involved becoming the chief sponsor of daytime serial dramas aimed at housewives, the company’s primary market.
Creating a Marketing Opportunity
P&G was one of the first companies to sponsor daytime serial dramas on the radio in the 1930s to advertise their products to housewives. The shows were associated with sponsors such as P&G’s Oxydol, Duz, and Ivory soaps and were dubbed “soap operas.”
In 1933 P&G debuted its first serial, Oxydol’s Own Ma Perkins, and housewives around the country quickly fell in love with the daily stories. The program was so successful that P&G started actively creating similar daily serial dramas to bolster its other brands, and by 1939, the company was producing 21 of these so-called “soap operas.”
P&G sponsored numerous other radio shows, including Perry Mason, The Red Skelton Show, Truth or Consequences, The Road of Life, Dreft Star Playhouse and Against the Storm, the only radio drama to win a Peabody Award.
Their most successful production was The Guiding Light, a soap opera created by Irna Phillips in 1937, and sponsored by P&G White Naphtha Soap. The series transitioned to television in 1952 and continued to also be broadcast on radio until 1956.
What began as a small family-run candle and soap business, grew through innovation, creative marketing, and partnerships to become the largest consumer goods company in the world.
Don’t Cut the Part of Your Business Which Gains You New Customers
“Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it.” The quote is most likely due to writer and philosopher George Santayana, and in its original form it read, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
Which side of history are you going to fall on? Many more businesses failed during the Great Depression and other economic collapses than thrived and rose above. We obviously have choices to make.
You have choices to make:
- Do you cut your messaging and outreach to potential new customers and take the chance that your competitors speak to the market alone?
- Do you dominate the market by being the only business talking while your competitors are silent?
- Are you going to ignore this low-cost investment opportunity and just preserve cash?
- Are you going to take advantage of this unique opportunity to leverage lower costs to arise in a better place than you were before all this began?
- Are you going to “hope” that demand for your brand will just “be there” when this comes to an end?
- Are you going to createpent up demand through your efforts?
- Are you going to redirect human resources elsewhere or perhaps not redirect them at all?
- Are you going to redirect human resources to marketing efforts?
- Will you be planning only for HR reductions?
- Will you be ready for expansion and potentially new HR growth?
- Are you going to run yesterday’s messaging that perhaps ignores this new reality?
- Are you going to change your messaging and develop emotional bonds with your potential customers and existing clientele?
- Are you simply going to focus on the risk alone?
- Are you going to run a Risk vs. Reward analysis?
- Will you go it alone financially or wait too long?
- Will you investigate low-cost funding opportunities that are unique to this economic environment?
And finally, you have to ask yourself one last pair of questions:
- Will you look at this as only a threat?
- Will you look at this as an opportunity?