Business / Research And Analysis On Proctor &Amp;Amp;Amp; Gamble (P&Amp;Amp;Amp;G)

Research And Analysis On Proctor &Amp;Amp;Amp; Gamble (P&Amp;Amp;Amp;G)

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Autor:  anton  16 June 2011
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Executive Summary

Procter & Gamble (P&G) is a multinational consumer-product company which operates in nearly 80 countries with more than 300 brands. With its core competency in development and commercialization of products and brands such as Pampers, Tide, and Wella which are part of P&G’s 22 billion-dollar brands, P&G has been highly successful in the market with sales of $68 billion and a net profit of $8 billion in 2006. Its aggressive international expansion and innovation-driven strategy enable the company to achieve economies of scale as well as to differentiate itself from strong competitors like Unilever, and Kimberly-Clark. Due to its large size and complexity, the organizational structure tends to be centralized. The standardization process in the early 2000s, resulted in significant cost-saving and speedy new product roll-outs. Given the nature of the consumer-product industry, however, local responsiveness and flexibility are the key to survive and stand out. Therefore, P&G coordinated a new matrix structure in which market development divisions complement product sectors, and added a supporting service unit to enhance horizontal linkages.

While the efficiency-oriented organization design has thrived resulting a record of 25 percent net profit growth throughout last three years, P&G faced a serious organizational challenge in expanding its market to developing countries. Effective international operation must apply its successful brand management techniques, while at the same time adapting itself to the multiplicity of national cultures, many requiring different sales approaches. However, P&G’s approach to local markets showed fundamental pitfalls. In China, which is emerging as one of the most potential markets with low-cost labors and huge population, at least seven brands of the company, including Zest and Ascend, have failed and exited the market since P&G commenced its operations in 1988. At the outset, one reason for this failure is attributed to P&G’s wrong expectation of Chinese people’s upgrade to western products. The company incautiously incorporated western lifestyle into the Chinese market, which ended up finding that consumption behavior was more stubborn than the company had estimated. Ultimately, the intrinsic limits in current organizational structure are mainly to blame for the failure. Overemphasis on standardization caused a naпve approach toward detecting cultural differences. As a result, some of P&G’s strongest brands failed in China.

P&G’s business in China is a long learning journey and its leading position is not unassailable. To further penetrate the Chinese market, a set of actions are suggested to be taken to rectify the weaknesses and drawbacks identified. Most of all, the fundamental change in the structure is required: firstly, to reorganize the New Product Development (NPD) division into the cross-divisional team; and secondly, to assign at least two local market experts into each NPD team and give them official authorities. Also P&G should segment the Chinese market based on variances in wealth, geography, and preferences and tastes of Chinese people. Both professional teams and its joint venture partners can help the company conduct extended market survey and analysis, and communicate with each segment. P&G should localize its products further to overcome consumers’ resistance to foreign goods and affection for familiar domestic ones. Moreover, managers from China as well as other developing markets can discuss common issues and barriers they encounter in developing countries and bring along solutions together.


The overall objective of the project is to apply text-based knowledge to the real world situation, analyze the organization chosen, and thereby develop further discussions. In this paper, we will examine the current situation of a global consumer-products company, Procter & Gamble (P&G). P&G is widely renowned and is a leader in markets of cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, household care products and so on. As the company itself states, “Three billion times a day, P&G brands touch the lives of people around the world.” Despite its overall success, P&G has experienced several critical failures in some regions, largely because the company fails to understand the local market and, consequently, fails to adapt. Due to its nature as a transnational corporation, it must deal with consumers from various cultural backgrounds and respond to different customer needs, both vitally important in international business. Thus, we chose P&G’s international operations as the focal area of our project. More specifically, China was chosen to conduct a detailed and sophisticated analysis. China, as an emerging and competitive market, has caught increasingly more attention from almost all major multinational corporations. Without exception, China has played a more important role in P&G’s ambitious blueprints, due to its immense consumer base, rapid economic growth, and gradually open environment. However, many of P&G’s brands failed and exited the Chinese market, which largely affected the company’s profitability and reputation. Therefore, to analyze the causes behind the failure and to design a set of potential recommendation to fix the issue is beneficial for the company’s future operations.

Description and analysis of the organization’s present design and context

P&G Company overview

Procter & Gamble is a multinational consumer-product company established by William Procter and James Gamble in 1837. P&G currently has a business in over 50 categories with more than 300 brands. After the acquisition of ‘Gillette’ in 2005, P&G is currently employing 139,600 people worldwide. Its net sales reached US$68.2 billion, making net earnings of $8.7 billion in 2006 from its core businesses, namely ‘P&G Beauty,’ ‘P&G Family Health,’ ‘P&G Household Care,’ and ‘Gillette.’ As the chairman and CEO of the company A.G. Lafley clarified, development and commercialization of products and brands are the company’s core competencies .

Organization Size

Along its 169 year operations, P&G has continuously pursued expansion and larger size in order to achieve economies of scale and to reach customers globally. As a result, as the size grows bigger and business sectors expand, the company becomes more bureaucratic. This large company, in its elaboration stage, is highly standardized and centralized, and is often mechanistically run. P&G maintains a strong internal control system with the help of written policies and procedures, and segregation of duties. The reason is that the large organization needs to rely on rules, procedures, written communication methods to control across large numbers of employees and business units. Although the process of centralization and formalization enabled the company to run smoothly, after the company reached maturity, it entered periods of temporary decline in the 1990s. Thus, P&G has been trying to cut down the red tape, and to go through a stage of streamlining. In the late 1990s, this effort has been shown as the replacement f top managers and large-scale reorganizing of the structure.

Innovation & Change

Since the company has been in business for 169 years and its life cycle has come to the matured stage, the company needs to pursue profits mainly through innovation. The importance of innovation for P&G can be seen from two aspects. Through innovation, the company can improve the current cost structure to further bring down the cost level. Furthermore, innovation enables P&G to develop new products so that the company can differentiate itself and preempt the market without fierce competition. This can be confirmed by the P&G’s main ‘principles’ where they stated that ‘Innovation is the cornerstone of our success,’ and moreover ‘We challenge convention and reinvent the way we do business to better win in the marketplace.’

Culture & Ethics

P&G has implemented a people-oriented culture throughout the organization. As P&G’s value statement, “P&G is its people and the values by which we live”, suggests, the company has such a culture in which its employees are regarded as the most important asset. In other words, P&G is encouraging the ‘clan culture’, which primarily emphasizes a focus on its members while giving more flexibility within the company. Moreover, it significantly cares about the external relationship with, and the commitment to, local communities. It operates philanthropy programs to improve lives in communities around the world and implements global environmental programs through innovative technology. Also for the past couple of decades, P&G has tried to develop environmental-friendly production processes and packaging, for instance, it made great efforts to reduce overall packaging per case by 27 percent since 1990. Through its annual ‘sustainability’ report, P&G reports its manufacturing waste and energy efficient and so on, thus let its stakeholders know how P&G is operating with the great care of the environment.

International Environment

In the field of the consumer-products industry, product localization has a significant role in the entire business. When customers are purchasing such a consumer-product, the need and want derives from their daily lives, hence their culture is greatly embedded in the purchasing patterns. P&G has been operating a global business which covers North America, Latin America, Europe, Middle East, Africa, and Asia. In the process of developing and launching a new brand or product in the specific region, meeting the unsatisfied and sophisticated needs of local consumers is substantial. Thus, establishing a structure that enables the company to deal with increasing complexity and difference among consumers is a key to success. Yet, more complexity creates a greater need for integration. As the structure gets enormous, it is hard to communicate efficiently between different business units, and conflicts regarding resource allocation and incentive compensation tend to occur often. This problem calls for harmonious communication and collaboration in-between, and thus integration should be carefully taken into account.

Organizational structure

P&G had been using a matrix organizational structure since the 1980s and had been emphasizing regional functions; regional managers had sole responsibility for financial results. In early years, the matrix structure produced extraordinary competitive edges. However, it ran into problems and created gridlock for the company starting from the late 1990s. The main reason is that each department concentrated on maximizing its own power within the organization rather than cooperating with other departments to excel in the marketplace as a whole. In addition, regional managers were unable to effectively coordinate with the headquarter management. Hence, P&G spent 6 years restructuring the company, a plan that completed in 2005. P&G’s current organizational structure is a combination of three interdependent organizations: Global Business Units (GBUs), Market Development Organizations (MDOs), and a Global Business Services (GBS) unit (See Exhibit 1). Each GBU is primarily responsible for its product sector: fabric and home care; beauty care; baby, feminine, and family care; health care; and snacks and beverage. GBU consists of autonomously operating product category units, and there are three GBUs with clear responsibility for developing and launching new products as well as responsibility for profitability. Previous regional organizations were reconstituted into seven MDOs which are in charge of local implementation of the GBUs’ global strategies (See Exhibit 2). GBS unit coordinates transactional activities, such as accounting and financial reporting, IT, purchases, employee services, and workplace services. Serving as a cost center, GBS mainly focuses on standardizing, consolidating, and ultimately strengthening business processes across GBUs and MDOs to win low cost advantages .

Reasons for adopting the current design

The three main goals of the P&G’s organizational design can be analyzed as follows: First, to achieve strategic alignment throughout the huge and complex organization; second, to increase efficiency and productiveness in both operation and manufacturing by encouraging global standardization; third, to effectively launch and manage new products and brands by changing the original risk-averse corporate culture and also creating one integrated supporting organization.

First, as a large and complex entity, the overall alignment of the organizational structure plays the critical role in P&G’s operation. Since the consumer product industry is the highly uncertain environment with instability and complexity, the balance between vertical control and horizontal coordination is vital: brand managers should be granted with authority and power to integrate the global presentation of brand image; and on the other hand, regional managers should be independent and autonomous enough to take risks in their regional projects regardless of short-term financial performance. Therefore, P&G created MDOs to complement GBU structure so that it can achieve high-speed response to local market as well as integrated global presence of each brand. MDOs took charge of tailoring the company’s global programs to local markets and of using their knowledge of local consumers and retailers to help P&G develop market strategies to guide the entire business . MDOs hold sales growth responsibility, and on the other hand GBU takes the complete profit responsibility to clarify the accountability of results. In addition, P&G added an effective global coordination mechanism, a transnational team called Global Leadership Council. It is formed to determine overall company strategy with CEO, GBU presidents, and MDO presidents attending.

Second, P&G also tried to maintain a competitive cost structure, by implementing manufacturing consolidations and workforce rationalization. Fierce price competition in global markets drove down the average manufacturer margins. Consequently, P&G need to streamline its organization to secure sufficient margins. It has outsourced its employee services operations to IBM under a 10-year, $400 million agreement in 2004. Services provided by IBM include payroll processing, benefits administration, compensation planning, expatriate and relocation services, and human resources data management. This outsourcing enabled P&G to improve employee services while reducing costs . And through aggressive restructuring in early 2000s, P&G also aimed to eliminate bureaucracy and increase accountability. Overall six management layers were stripped out, reducing the levels between the chairman and the front line from 13 to 7. Numerous committee responsibilities were transferred to individuals .

Third, to serve as a “leading development and commercialization company” as P&G declares in its strategic goal, the company insistently seeks its way to innovate throughout its organization design. The highly competitive, unstable marketplace and its strategic goal forced P&G to remove a major barrier to rapid new-product rollouts. To effectively launch and manage new products and brands, first of all, the new business development function of GBUs is designed to be managed separately from the rest of the GBU. Sole responsibility and authority has been given to each function, which enabled them to make independent decision over launching new products. This structural support allowed product managers to approach proactively toward new markets and created the risk-taking culture inside P&G. In addition, organizing product supply by product category rather than geography allowed P&G for global standardization of manufacturing processes. Also, GBS unit is formed to solely support line functions of GBUs and MDOs. This unit took responsibility as a cost center, which is to complement sales-driven incentive mechanism of GBUs. Combined with the elimination of the laborious process of obtaining launch approval from regional mangers, this improvement finally allowed for systematically faster global rollouts of innovations and new brands.

Identification and analysis of issue

Among all elements of P&G’s organization design, what aroused our interest the most is the company’s international operations, especially its business in China. China, a developing yet competitive market, has caught increasingly more attention from most multinational corporations. However, it has also failed many of them who are unable to fit into the local environment.

Since P&G commenced its operations in China in 1988 through a joint venture partnership, at least seven brands have failed and exited the market. Amongst a set of internal and external reasons that account for the failure to make an impact on the Chinese market, the most lethal one is that P&G sometimes fails to analyze the environment thoroughly or understand the needs of consumers. The extensive analysis of the issue, together with the subsequent possible solutions to the issue, is important for the other brands of P&G present, as well as any brand or product that P&G is going to develop and launch in the future. It is also important for other multinational corporations who compete in the Chinese market; lessons learned from P&G’s case should help them better prepared.

Failure to understand consumer needs

Many multinational corporations have trouble transferring their learning and experience from their home country to the international domain. P&G launched Zest, a shower gel brand known for its energizing fragrance, in 2002 and invested 1 billion RMB (approximately 124 million US dollars) in advertisements. Nonetheless, P&G called it quits in July last year due to its inability to capture market shares with an unsatisfying performance of merely 3% . The failure was attributed to P&G’s wrong positioning of the brand; the company highlighted the brand’s scent and energizing effect. However, in China, body wash products are simply considered for cleansing purposes and people only care about the basic function of body wash products; attributes like scent and energizing effect are not generally taken into consideration. Similarly, Ascend is another brand that exited the Chinese market despite of longtime R&D and astronomical amount of funds invested in advertising. Ascend, a hair care product, emphasized herbal ingredients and the efficacy to dye hair black. P&G was once confident about the product because they assumed that every Asian woman was longing for black and sleek hair. However, that was the time when western culture was unprecedentedly rampant and most young people were so influenced by western appearance and lifestyle that they chose to dye their hair light colors; black was the color they least wanted. In both cases, P&G failed to understand the genuine needs and desires of consumers due to a lack of market survey and analysis. Instead, they made the decisions to launch Zest and Ascend solely based on their perceptions and assumptions.

Failure to reach all segments of the market

P&G fails to capture consumers from rural areas or small towns, which constitutes of the majority of China’s population. In other words, P&G fails to understand the considerable disparity in wealth between urban residents and residents from rural areas in China. In contrast, some domestic brands, who understand the great diversity in China’s economy, have successfully posed threat to P&G by lowering prices and catering to people from rural areas. P&G has overlooked the demands of the majority of the greatest population, which is evident from its advertising strategies. Despite the fact that P&G has been incredibly aggressive in the advertising arena through both traditional television commercials and print media, almost all of its advertisements use stunning celebrities, fashionable teens and young adults from urban cities. These advertisements are usually geared towards the young generation from developed cities but undoubtedly fail to influence residents from rural areas. How to go beyond functions of P&G’s products to emotional resonance and how to escalate brand awareness is a question to be answered.

Failure to understand the local culture

P&G tries to incorporate western culture values and consumption behavior into the Chinese market. However, consumption behavior is more stubborn than P&G estimated and is harder to alter than the company thought. One lesson leaned from the failure of Ascend is that the company did not fit the product to consumers’ consumption behavior. P&G tried to convince Chinese people to separate the use of shampoo and conditioner. In the North America market, hair care products in which shampoo and conditioner combined account for less than 20% of total, but the situation is reversed in China. Though P&G stated that the efficacy was better when shampoo and conditioner were separately used, many Chinese people feel that the expense is doubled and the hair care process is complicated when separating shampoo and conditioner. As a result, P&G’s trial was not successful; Ascend was not accepted by consumers. In the light of culture, P&G used to introduce Tampax, a tampon brand, into the Chinese market. Aspiring to fill the blank as there were almost no similar products in presence, P&G promoted not only the product itself but also the advantages of and the correct ways of using tampons. Nevertheless, the conservative atmosphere made it extremely difficult to advertise tampon products and using tampons was considered very improper in China after all. Again, Tampax could not avoid being dropped from the Chinese market.

In addition, P&G does not take into account China’s culture of collectivism, which in turn may affect people’s behavior, beliefs and decisions. When a western housewife, who is brought up in a culture of being individualistic, is in need of a hand cream, she may simply go into a supermarket, compare several brands and choose the best one in her opinion. On the contrary, a Chinese housewife most probably incorporates family members and friends’ opinions into her consumption decision. She may consult family members and friends before purchasing and is very likely to buy the brand that other people have recommended and, similarly, refuse to buy the brand that other people have had negative comments on.

Conflicts also lie in the communication and coordination between geographical managers and headquarter executives. While P&G’s operations in China strived to advertise and promote Ascend, the headquarter was in the process of acquiring Clairol, another hair care brand that focuses on herbal ingredients and special efficacy of blackening hair exactly like Ascend does. The repetition made P&G have no choice but to choose one between the two. In accordance, P&G discarded Ascend and stopped the production and sales of the product although 3year research and development had been put in place.

It is inappropriate to conclude from these mistakes that P&G’s performance in China is not successful. Overall, P&G has many leading brands in sectors such as hair care, toothpaste, laundering detergent and so forth. However, P&G should learn from these mistakes and short-term failures to better build and manage its brands and the company’s image.

Recommended actions to address the issue

Though switching to a new organization structure from the old matrix structure has greatly enhanced the integration and coherence of the company, P&G did experience a couple of difficult times in the Chinese market because of the deficiency in local responsiveness. A selection of possible alternatives will be presented in the following subsections to help P&G better adapt to the locale.

Adjusting the current structure

P&G, after restructuring the organization, has a high degree of global standardization and integration. But its multiple failures in the Chinese market made it evident that the company is weak in local responsiveness. More emphasis should be on achieving a higher degree of national responsiveness to balance with global integration. We diagnosed that a fundamental structure change is required to amend this problem from the long-term perspective. As a set of recommendations, we suggest two changes: firstly, to reorganize the new product development division which is currently subordinated to GBU into the cross-divisional team consisting of members from both GBU and MDO; and secondly, to assign at least two local market experts into each new product development team and give them official authorities.

First of all, even though P&G tried to balance the power between GBUs and MDOs, it turned out that members of MDOs felt subordinated to the GBU leadership. In the process of setting up the company’s strategic goals, P&G regarded the standardization of the product and the efficiency as their key objectives, thus focusing more on the product aspect. This resulted in members of MDOs feeling not fitting into the new organization structure. Consequently we suggest P&G to coordinate a new product team as a cross-divisional team rather than a GBU-subunit. This improvement will give power to MDO employees when rolling out new products and make them more involved into the process. Assigning authorities like determining career paths and promotion of its team members to regional General Managers can be a mechanism for empowering MDOs as well. As MDOs are designed to take the responsibility for local markets, the suggested organizational change will help P&G develop more local market-oriented strategies.

For the second part of our solution, we recommend that P&G assign at least two local market experts into each new product development team. This change will allow P&G to achieve more flexibility on penetrating local markets, and also to prevent the company from launching new products recklessly. Previously, to maintain the integrated image as a global brand, P&G used to hesitate to change the properties of their product features when launching them in a new market. The company tended to be reluctant to respond to local tastes. Instead, its local adaptation process has mainly focused on advertising and promotional aspects. However, it turned out that the local consumers react more sensitively to the product itself, and thus new product launching calls for thoughtful reflection of consumer tastes from the beginning of the process. By including local experts in the product development team and by making them entitled to official authorities and responsibilities, P&G can enhance its adaptiveness and thus respond more proactively to what local consumers actually need.

Segmenting the market

The foremost pitfall that P&G should overcome is the “one-size-fits-all” strategy because of China’s diversity. Basically, people from Beijing, Shanghai and other developed coastal cities prefer to use more sophisticated and more expensive consumer products; while residents from West China cannot afford such premium products. For instance, laundry detergent users who are from most advanced cities have more garments and use washing machines. Their needs and desires must be very different from those of workers from small towns who wash smaller loads of clothes, less frequently, in basins. P&G’s detergent Tide should be welcomed in urban cities but soap bars, instead, meet the demands of people from rural areas and towns. This requires P&G to provide various goods and services with respect to different segments of the Chinese market. In order to offer relatively poor people with cheaper products and compete with domestic companies in pricing, P&G should adopt the most effective cost strategies, which will be discussed in the next paragraph. In addition to huge disparity in wealth among people from different geographies, consumer preferences and tastes vary greatly from geography to geography as well. In short, a fundamental step P&G should take before any further solutions is to segment the market depending on wealth, preferences and tastes. P&G has a very successful program in the United States, called Multicultural Business Development Organization (MBDO) The program was created to strengthen the relationship with different ethnic market segments in the US. Teams of professionals with multicultural backgrounds are hired and are devoted in understanding and meeting the needs of different ethnic groups, such as Hispanics and African Americans. A similar program could be established in China as well to better handle various segments.

Generally speaking, it is very hard for P&G’s high-end products to capture residents from villages and towns in China. The company should provide different products and services to less wealthy people so that they can afford. P&G’s research and development departments, hence, are very important in order to achieve this goal. The ingredients and technologies are obviously different from those used in producing premium consumer goods offered to urban city people. The key is to bring along products that are of better quality compared to what domestic firms produce but the cost structure is the same as or even more efficient than that of domestic firms. Apparently, brand stretch may be needed. When the company realizes that rural area people cannot afford to use Crest, it can create a new toothpaste brand with less advanced ingredients and technologies. The new toothpaste with a different formulation cannot be Crest anymore, because that will confuse consumers and damage the premium-product brand. Fortunately, P&G has always been good at multiple-brand strategies, building and managing different brands.

Choosing joint venture partners more cautiously

Ideal joint venture partners have the capabilities to complement an overseas company’s operations. P&G’s lack of understanding of China’s environment and consumer demands could have been largely improved if its joint venture partners have pointed out the company’s problems in perceptions and assumptions. Extended market survey and study could have been done so that many wrong decisions could have been avoided. For instance, P&G’s joint venture partners could have found out that scent of body wash is not a significant attribute that consumers aspire to, so that P&G could have realized that they were not able to succeed in positioning Zest as a body wash product with great scent. Also, it should not have been difficult to find out that, at a certain time, people would rather dye their hair light colors rather than black so that P&G may not have launched Ascend. When contemplating joint venture partners, P&G should ensure that the partners help the company analyze the local market and help the company adapt to local environment.

Collaboration among emerging markets

China is an emerging but competitive market with its immense population. It is currently P&G’s 6th largest market in generating revenues and is highly likely to play a more important role. Coupled with the stagnant growth in North America and Western Europe, P&G, as well as most multinational corporations, puts increasingly more attention on developing markets, such as China, India, Eastern Europe and Africa. Presidents and top managers from these developing regions could arrange meetings on a regular basis, identifying important consumer trends and common challenges that exist in emerging markets, and discussing effective solutions to such challenges.


In this paper, we have looked into the organization design and specifically the international operation of P&G. P&G reorganized its design by giving up the previous region-oriented structure and integrating each function that had been dispersed throughout the regions. This new structure was originally geared toward efficient operations in its global business and rapid new product roll-outs. However, due to the strategy which emphasized global integration, the company went through painful failures in some markets, specifically in China. Negligence of cultural differences and fast-changing consumer needs as well as rash market segmentation accounted for a good portion of the failure. Hence, we suggest that P&G improve its organization structure further in response to the current issues the company faces to strengthen its local responsiveness. Cross-divisional teams are set up to empower MDOs and experts are assigned to every new product development team to understand and meet various consumer needs. We also suggest that P&G segment the urban and suburban markets for capturing the unmet market needs. In addition, we recommend P&G to choose joint venture partners more cautiously in the sense that joint venture partners can provide in-depth information and knowledge on local environment and consumer needs. Lastly we advise P&G China’s General Managers to collaborate with other GMs in emerging markets to solve common problems when P&G’s penetrating unfamiliar markets.


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