Learning from P&G’s CEO

WSJ has an interesting article on how P&G’s CEO A.G. Lafley has some simple, straight -forward advice which businesses could also apply to their customers.

These days, employees spend hours with women, watching them do laundry, clean the floor, apply makeup and diaper their children. They look for nuisances that a new product might solve. Then, they return to the labs determined to address the feature women care about most.

“We discovered that women don’t care about our technology and they couldn’t care less what machine a product is made on,” Mr. Lafley told P&G executives in Caracas, during a recent tour of Latin America. “They want to hear that we understand them.”

Roughly 80% of the people who buy P&G products in the U.S. are women. That’s why Mr. Lafley routinely stops women in stores to ask them about their purchases. That’s why last year he persuaded P&G directors to follow around a group of French women shopping for beauty products. And that’s why on a recent morning, Mr. Lafley climbed up a steep set of concrete stairs in Caracas, into the cramped kitchen of 29-year-old Maria Yolanda Ros, to listen to her describe how often she washes her hair, what kind of skin cream she uses and if she wears nail polish.

For an hour, Mr. Lafley sat in the corner of Ms. Ros’s kitchen, where bright yellow paint peeled off the wall, and listened to the young mother. Avon Products Inc., which sells cosmetics through door-to-door salespeople, dominates the beauty market here and P&G wants a foothold. Ms. Ros, a housekeeper, told the group through a translator that she and her husband, who drives a school bus, together earn just under $600 a month.

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