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The return of Alan George “A.G.” Lafley as CEO of Procter & Gamble (P&G) is great news for the insight world. Widely credited for making P&G a more consumer driven and externally focused company, Lafley created a diverse, open, curious and connected culture at the consumer goods giant.

If his last tenure is an indication, Lafley will once again bring back consumers to the forefront. This spells good news for insight professionals as it will encourage CEOs in other companies to do the same.

Here are four reasons why insight pros should celebrate Lafley’s return:

  1. Lafley, a true champion of innovation

    Before retiring in 2010, Lafley revolutionized innovation at P&G. When he first became CEO, he realised the company’s innovation model hadn’t changed since the late 1980s and innovation costs were exceeding topline growth. Fuelled by an intrinsic understanding of consumer’s needs, Lafley launched the Connect and Develop innovation model in 2006. The model, which merged P&G’s internal resources with outside innovation, more than doubled the company’s innovation success rate, with the company now getting 20% of its ideas externally.

    For Lafley, innovation is everyone’s job. The role of insight professionals will be seen as more critical for companies if more CEOs like Lafley do their part in championing the innovation process.

  2. The consumer is boss

    Lafley’s corporate raison d’etre is the consumer. As the CEO of one of the world’s biggest companies, he literally spent 20 days a year in the kitchens and bathrooms of the people who pay for his and everyone else’s salary: the consumers. This is ethnography at its very best.

    Bloomberg Businessweek magazine recently credited Lafley’s success to the fact that “he listens more than he talks.” An advocate of the phrase “the consumer is boss,” Lafley pioneered the “second moment of truth”—a concept that focuses on the consumer’s experience at home. Under Lafley, all P&G executives were taught this mantra: “We are the voice of the consumer within P&G, and they are at the heart of all that we do.”

    Insight pros exist to help uncover insights about consumers. In an era where the voice of the consumer is more valued, insight professionals have a more critical role.

  3. Engaging consumers is a critical success factor

    Lafley once said, “In the case of the innovation process we want the customer engaged at the front end. Right after we have an idea—right after the kernel—we engage with target consumers.”

    Lafley understands how consumers live and feel. Early in his management career, he visited various countries, stores and homes to understand what delighted consumers and exactly what might please them in the future. “You develop a feel,” he once said. “You become more of an anthropologist, because you can’t understand the language. Your power is observation and listening.”

    Today, thanks to technology, marketers and insight professionals don’t necessarily have to make various trips around the world to understand their customers. The thoughtful use of big data can help reveal what delights people, and marketers can use online technology such as social media platforms and insight communities to validate their hunches and understand why consumers do what they do. But Lafley’s belief about customer engagement is more relevant than ever and CEOs and their insight teams can benefit from following his lead.

  4. Co-creation is encouraged

    Asked to describe the P&G of the future, Lafley once said, “We’re in the business of creating and building brands.” Given his focus on listening to the voice of the consumer, you can expect Lafley to encourage his team to “bring the outside in” and emphasize the co-creation process of working with consumers to build new brands. As insight professionals are tasked with working with consumers, they are well positioned to lead the charge in developing and executing co-creation processes within their companies.

As you can see, Lafley’s return to P&G is good news for those who put consumer insight and foresight on the pedestal. Lafley’s return to P&G will help the company become even more customer centric, and I believe that the role of insight professionals in all sectors will be more prominent as a result.

Are you excited about Lafley’s return to P&G? What can marketers and insight professionals learn from him? Let us know by leaving a comment. 

Photo credit: Jordan Fischer

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