Four years after legendary Procter & Gamble head Alan George “A.G.” Lafley bid adieu to P&G, the recently reinstated chairman, president and CEO is reaffirming his famous mantra: “The consumer is boss.”
Taking cues from users of billion-dollar brands like Pampers, Crest and Tide wasn’t exactly the retirement plan, but when Lafley’s handpicked successor Bob McDonald stepped down amid distraction from critics, P&G called on Lafley.
“The board looked at all of its choices and concluded the best option was to bring back A.G. into a role he had held and for which he is uniquely qualified,” P&G spokesman Paul Fox told SN.
Lafley joined P&G in 1977, and during his initial nine-year tenure as president and CEO (he was named chairman two years in) imbued new life into a company lacking clear direction.
He earned a spot among history’s greatest innovators not just by transforming P&G into a marketer of novel fixes for “problems” consumers weren’t aware they had, but by turning these products into household staples.
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Retailers played an important role. They weren’t simply product distributors, but partners in delighting consumers at the moment of truth.
The multifaceted approach led to the success of brands like Swiffer, which following its launch in 1999 achieved U.S. penetration of 55%.
Gary Stible, founder and CEO of The New England Consulting Group, credits Lafley for P&G’s success.
“P&G is arguably the best marketing and consumer organization on the planet,” he said. “They have deeper insights into consumers, they are better marketers and they’re damn good at almost everything else.”
Now there are new solutions to be uncovered as Lafley oversees P&G’s goal to triple the number of innovations developed during the last five years, over the next five, including new takes on established brands, according to reports.
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Lafley has inherited McDonald’s five-year, $10 billion cost savings plan to fund innovations through reduced overhead and spending on marketing. A 10% reduction in the consumer goods company’s non-manufacturing workforce is under way.
He will also influence change through the reorganization of P&G’s global business units into industry-based sectors like global beauty and global home care to drive technical, commercial, financial and organizational synergies.
“These changes build on the productivity and design work led by Bob McDonald, and will help us get closer to consumers and become more agile with customers,” said Lafley, in a statement.
Then there is the business of creating a sustainable succession program, but Lafley’s shoes will be hard to fill.
“A.G. Lafley is a rare bird that comes along occasionally and, boy oh boy, is his a tough act to follow,” said Stible.
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