"Pepsi Launches Own Music Label in China" is the BusinessWeek headline. Clearly, the Pepsi staff has some new ideas. Recently Pepsi's Chairperson, Ms. Nooyi, made a trip to China for 10 days. Apparently frustrated, she commented to the Wall Street Journal in July that she didn't see enough Disruptive thinking on the part of her folks in China. She indicated the market was robust, but it was different and would take a different approach. It now sounds like her China leadership got the message.
In addition to launching a music label, Pepsi is producing a "Battle of the Bands" show in China. It's almost like a reformatted page from the aggressive growth years of Starbucks. Instead of just expanding into a new geography (China) with the same old playbook (like the floundering WalMart), Pepsi is figuring out how to be a big success. And that may mean producing television, producing music and making people into stars. China's culture is unlike anything in the U.S. or Europe. So doing new and different things will be critical to success. When you see a business developing its own scenarios about the future, taking actions its competitors (Coke) are too hide-bound to try, acting Disruptively to compete and using White Space projects to test new ideas you simply have to be excited!
On the other hand, "Tide Turns 'Basic" for P&G in Slump" is the Wall Street Journal headline about the latest "new" product at P&G. Please remember, the departing P&G CEO was lauded for creating an innovative culture at P&G. But it appears the legacy is a culture of sustaining innovations intended to do nothing more than Defend & Extend the old P&G brands. Now slumping, P&G needs to identify market shifts more than ever, and create new solutions that help it move with market trends. Instead, the company is rushing into reverse! Management not only seem to be driving the bus looking in the rear-view mirror, but actually driving it that way as well!
Tide has been around a long time. Ostensibly a very good product. For reasons explained in the article, managers at P&G felt the best way to sell more product was to make it less good. Really. They removed some of the chemicals that help you get clothes clean, renamed it "Basic" and launched the product at a lower price. It's not "new and improved." It's not even "better." It's literally less good – but cheaper. Sort of like store brands, or private label – only maybe not as good? Doesn't that sort of obviate the whole notion of branding?
People don't ever like to go backward. We like to grow. To learn and get more out of life. When we find a product that works, why would we want a product that works less well? And the folks at P&G missed this. Only by being insanely internally focused, terribly Locked-in, can you think this is a good idea. Looking inside a person could say "well, we want to jam the shelves with more of our branded product. We want to have the word 'Tide' smeared everywhere we can. We think people so identify with 'Tide' that they'll take a worse product just to get the name brand. We're willing to create a less good product thinking that we will get sales simply because it's cheaper than the stuff people really want to buy." Seem a little mixed up to you?
When you want to grow you figure out new ways to Disrupt the marketplace. You develop new solutions, new entry points, new connections with shifting market trends. You figure out how to be the best at the right price. You don't try to give people less, and tell them they are cheap. And Pepsi clearly gets it. They are willing to expand into music recording and TV production. Stuff P&G did when it was really creative and innovative – after all, that's why we call daytime TV "soaps", because P&G produced them just to sell soap. Now we see Pepsi applying that kind of scenario planning and competitive obsession, along with White Space, to develop new market approaches. Unfortunately we can't say the same for P&G — clearly stuck on trying to cram more stuff with the word "Tide" on it through distribution.