November 27, 2011
A TRIBUTE TO ANOTHER “MARKETECT”
On Saturday, 19 November 2011, John Smale, passed away. Many of you may not know of Mr. Smale, as he is from an earlier generation of business leaders. He shunned the limelight, avoided interviews and resultant celebrity. One might say he was “low key” in this age of executive self-promotion, where some business leaders believe they should be treated like, and are treated by the media as, “rock stars.” Although not of celebrity status, John Smale was a great marketer, one whom we should know. He headed Procter & Gamble, guiding the company through a period of expansion and growth in the 1980s, doubling sales and profits. After serving as CEO for P&G, Mr. Smale, a board member of General Motors Corporation, then the largest company in the world, took the lead in ousting the company’s chairman and assuming that role. His value and contributions were such that he was asked by the GM board to serve in this capacity past the mandatory retirement age of 70.
We’re using this issue of DISPATCHES to pay tribute to, and honor, John Smale as a Marketect. We coined the term “Marketect” to identify one who changes how customers perceive a category or brand (to favor his/her brand). A Marketect remakes and/or creates entire industries and categories, and how we market in these industries. A Marketect is one who innovates to make marketing more productive in driving customer preference for her/his brand, and winning in the marketplace. John Smale is such a rare breed of marketer. His involvement in the success of Crest Toothpaste, to displace Colgate for the leadership position in the category, is an inspiration and instructive to all marketers who want to create leadership brands. Here’s how the story goes:
Crest – In The Beginning*
Cavities were a bane to people. Fluoride was determined to have a beneficial effect in reducing cavities. A dental student at Indiana University, Joe Muhler, studied the effects of different fluorides on the teeth. He found that stannous fluoride outperformed other kinds of fluoride in reducing the solubility of powdered enamel (whatever that means). Two IU grads, working at P&G, became intrigued with his findings and offered to get the company to fund research into the effect of stannous fluoride in preventing cavities. A clinical study conducted among 1200 school age children demonstrated that toothpaste with stannous fluoride reduced cavities by more than 80%. Thus in 1955 Crest Toothpaste was born.
Its birth did not go without notice. In a relatively short time the nascent brand achieved about a 12% market share. However, despite its rapid ascendancy it was unable to make further headway. Its growth stalled!
John Smale’s Legacy
John Smale is credited with leading the Crest team in seeking an endorsement from the American Dental Association. “What’s the big deal?” you might ask. “Everyone’s brand carries the ADA, or IDA (India Dental Association), etc., endorsement.” True, but not back in 1955 when Crest Toothpaste was launched. The ADA didn’t endorse any products.
You can imagine the response brand team members had to the idea of getting the ADA to endorse a commercial product. “Oh sure, what a great idea. But it’s crazy. They’ll never endorse anything.” Despite objections from, and pessimism of, idea killers, John Smale took it to the ADA and proposed that they endorse Crest Toothpaste.
While we were not there, we can also imagine the response of the ADA to this idea. It probably went something like, “While your proposal has merit, we do not endorse commercial products. We are an august group of professionals of unsurpassed stature and trust. (What do expect us to be, shills for you?!?) Sorry, but no thanks. We don’t and won’t do this kind of thing. (Don’t let the door slam you in the ass on your way out. But have a good day, J.)”
Many marketers would never have proposed the idea. And of those that would, many would not have had the persistence of John Smale. He, and P&G, worked for five years in what others believed would be a losing battle, until he finally secured their endorsement. In the end, the ADA recognized the incredible benefit and risked their reputation with the following endorsement: “Crest has been shown to be an effective decay-preventative dentifrice when used in a conscientiously applied program of oral hygiene and regular professional care” – The ADA. It took five years to achieve but in the end it proved worth it. (By the way, P&G did not pay the ADA one cent to secure this endorsement.)
Okay, the endorsement isn’t exactly rousing. Afterall, what isn’t effective when used in a consciously applied program? We think putting soap on your finger and using it would be better than doing nothing, particularly if you are doing regularly. But the Smale led team showcased the endorsement in a big budget ad campaign that dramatized proud, exuberant children beaming as they raced home from the dentist to declare to mom, “Look, ma, no cavities!” And the Crest brand took off. Yes, it took off!
This endorsement, sported on the packaging, and the benefit dramatized in its advertising, along with a campaign directed to dental professionals, helped double Crest sales in one year, and triple them in two. Crest market share climbed above 30%, and wrested category leadership from Colgate. Our generation grew-up using Crest Toothpaste. It undoubtedly saved us from unnecessary pain brought on by the dentist drilling for cavities in our mouths. (Back in those days the procedure was painful. How painful you ask? Check out the movie Marathon Man with Dustin Hoffman and Sir Laurence Olivier. Well that’s the way it felt.) It probably contributed to our having strong, healthy teeth and beautiful smiles today.
BOATS & HELICOPTERS
Reflecting on the successes of Marketects serve to inspire and inform us in ways to achieve more from our marketing. Here’s what we can learn from John Smale’s legacy with the Crest Toothpaste brand:
1. Dare to Think Different – The point is no one else had ever secured an endorsement from the ADA. It just wasn’t done. But it was this difference that enabled John Smale and the Crest team to triple sales and set itself apart from all other toothpaste brands in the category. Can one expect other brands to triple sales in two years with an endorsement from the ADA in today’s market? Hell NO! Today it is a cost of entry that does not serve to differentiate one brand from the others in the category.
2. Be Persistent – Others will be quick to point out why something can’t be done. But when others tell you it can’t be done, and do nothing, it serves as a self-fulfilling prophesy. Instead, someone else will find a way to do it. Mr. Smale was persistent, both within P&G and with the ADA. It took 5-years to win the ADA endorsement, but it got done!
3. Find a Compelling Extrinsic Reason-Why - There are two types of reasons-why: intrinsic and extrinsic. Intrinsic reasons-why are intrinsic to the product itself, such as an ingredient or unique design. Extrinsic reasons-why fall outside of the product. Product R&D gives us the intrinsic reasons-why while the marketer develops the extrinsic reasons-why. Adding an extrinsic reason-why could serve to bolster credibility (when it is relevant and unique) and differentiate your brand from the competition. Also, ponder this: in the case of Crest Toothpaste, while the ADA endorsement is extrinsic to the product it became intrinsic to the brand. If you can grasp the meaning of the aforementioned statement then you truly understand and appreciate the difference between a product and a brand.
4. Market Your Reasons-Why – John Smale and the Crest team marketed both the intrinsic and extrinsic reasons-why. They dubbed its strategic ingredient “Fluoristan” and trademarked it. As mentioned previously in this article, they incorporated the ADA endorsement on their packaging and in their advertising. The marketed it in a way that is would have meaning to consumers.
We tip our hats to John Smale and honor his memory for being a Marketect, and showing us the way to make our marketing (in this case, reasons-why) matter.
Here’s a video of Mr. Smale speaking of his values, and those of his company, Procter & Gamble. While he may not be an iconic leader like today’s Marketects, a Steve Jobs, Howard Schultz or Richard Branson, he is a marketer of substance deserving to be heard nonetheless. We can learn a lot from John Smale. Copy and paste this address to view video:
Richard Czerniawski and Mike Maloney
* The facts regarding the Crest Toothpaste story are gleaned from the book, Do Pharmacists Sell Farms? – A Trip Inside the Corner Drugstore, by Vince Staten, Simon & Schuster, 1998
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