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Newsletter March 2013


Creating Capacity—for the Common Good

Robert van Pappelendam, General Manager, Procter & Gamble Hellas, discusses the commitment of P&G to Greece.

Tell us please, what is the Innovation and Technology Center that Procter & Gamble has recently established in Greece?
In essence, it is a capability. But let me preface that by saying that P&G—Procter & Gamble—wholeheartedly believes in Greece as a country. We have been here for more than 50 years—52 in fact—and during that time we’ve experienced regimes, import quotas, the devaluation of currencies—we’ve experienced quite a bit. And, of course, we’ve remained here.

So, having capabilities, like our state-of-the-art distribution center, like our new innovation center, are critical elements to stay in touch with a society over the long term. In short, the Innovation Center is our ability to be in touch with the consumers we serve in Greece, better understand what they experience, so we may adjust our products, our portfolio, our brands, our pricing and our marketing—to better serve this consumer.

What is the objective of the Center?
The Center allows us to do consumer research and tap into the global innovation programs of P&G. The global innovation programs of Procter & Gamble, for instance, have access to this Innovation Center. So they have access to Greek consumers on a day-to-day basis, they can “listen in” to research that is conducted there, they can see the retail outlets that we have in Greece. What we do is hardwire Greece and the Greek consumers—their needs, their wants, or whatever issues they are struggling with—into the global innovation program of P&G.

With this capability, the innovation that will come out of the machine that is called P&G is fully tailored to the needs of the Greek market.

How will it impact the Greek economy?
Innovation is the number one element that creates value for an economy. In that sense the more innovation we generate, the more the Greek economy, and the Greek consumer, may benefit. Our role as branded manufacturers is not to create products at the lowest possible price that never benefit from innovation. Our role is to create great products that have innovation built in from this entire process and that in turn benefits all parts of all economies—allowing, for example, retailers to pay their bills, to pay the salaries of their employees.

Is the Center exclusively for use by P&G?
Not at all. The Innovation Center is for the benefit of the Greek economy in many ways. For more than 50% of the time the Center is being used by Greek retailers who want to understand how they can better serve the consumer. This creates value. For instance, a Greek retailer may be having an issue in the beauty care category. We can, with one click, look at beauty categories around the world. We can do virtual shopping in say Singapore, or the U.S, and do store checks to see what is working where, what is inspiring customers. So, we have the world at our fingertips—we can examine best practices with one touch of the button of our highly sophisticated equipment.

The retailer in Greece can then change his or her in-store strategy based on best-in-class practices around the world. No trips, no air travel—all done from inside the Center.

In addition, we offer this capability to learn, to be in touch, to other organizations and agencies. For instance, we have suggested to the Greek government that it may use this capability to examine its tourism profile, to examine the positioning of Greece as a tourism destination, to test the advertising spend and see if it is effective and has the results expected.

We showed the government a comparison of consumer reaction to a Greek product compared with that of a competitor. The results were enlightening. This is a capability that provides deep insight about consumer interest, reactions, and acceptance.

P&G is not in the tourism business, but we are very much part of this society that we want to see healthy and growing. We would hope that everyone—companies included—can chip in just a little bit in their areas of expertise so that we all benefit.

This is, I believe, an example of the way we are rewriting CSR in Greece today. It is a great challenge and the rewards can be quite beneficial—to everyone. We can now share our capability and capacity for the greater good. This is a great way to join the forces of the public and private sectors so that tomorrow is better for everyone.

P&G has acknowledged that the Greek consumer is ideal in gauging products for the market. How is that so?
The Greek market is very helpful, first of all, because it is one of the richest in terms of competition, with the presence of global and local companies.

And the Greek consumer is very demanding. In other words, if you can achieve success with the Greek consumer with a product, there is a good chance it will work with many consumers around the world. In fact we have, historically, used Greece as a learning market for a lot of our launches—including Pampers.

In a county the size of Greece, with its demanding consumers, if you make a mistake, it is far more manageable and cost effective, than if you make a similar mistake in a market say, like the United States.

So Greece is an ideal learning lab for what works and what does not—and this can be expanded to create even more value. That is great for us since we can then design and manufacture to the highest standards. In a sense, Greeks demand innovation—that is a benefit for everyone.

And how does the current environment affect how you operate?
The difficult period Greece is going through must be looked at from a long-term perspective. We are here for the long run, the economy will improve, and Greece will once again be strong for decades to come. We are committed to the country, the market and the Greek consumer for the long term.