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P&G slashes marketers in lieu of free social media

A recent article in business insider portends bad news for marketing folks.  Procter and Gamble’s prodigious CEO, Robert McDonald, announced that he is going to lay off 1600 marketing people in order to “moderate” his ad budget because Facebook and Google can be “more efficient” than the traditional media that usually eats the lion’s share of P&G’s ad budget.

What does this mean exactly?  Is it all about simply cutting heads, and assuming everyone is becoming a Facebook clone, glued to their computers?  With Facebook’s IPO coming up, interviews have also suggested that the market cap being attributed to them may be overstated, as their revenue is being tied to what is essentially a very slow growth advertising industry.  And yet if people are being laid off, what does this mean in terms of how marketing is conducted?

The truth of the matter is that social media is something that most people really haven’t quite figured out how to use yet.  Sure, my teenagers are posting their activity to their friends, but does it go deeper than that?

Barbara Gray thinks so…she has written a new white paper on the power of social media.  She notes that as the power shifts from the company to the consumer, customer relationships will be the new driver of firm value, with social media exposing the depth of a company’s customer relationships and accelerating the value creation/erosion process.

Barbara also talks about identifying companies with the “heart and soul” that are ideally positioned to leverage their high level of brand enthusiasm and grassroots community marketing efforts through social media. She also warns against the “empty shells” that are at risk of cracking as social media exposes the inauthenticity and shallowness of their relationships with customers, employees, and other stakeholders.

Will P&G be able to meet this challenge? Apparently, McDonald just realized that this was a “free” resource that could be used in lieu of 1600 people – but is it really free? There is still a lot of work required to build the customer intelligence, analytics, and positioning of social media, and no one yet really knows how to align it with the ever more fickle consumer.