To catch up, read the article Why Pampers Diaper Fail is a Lesson in Marketing Transparency to get the back story and the updates in the article Pampers Steps up Digital, Social Media Efforts. Here are my thoughts...
Pampers does not have a communications problem as much as a product development problem.
- Change is BAD for products with a high emotional quality to them, and diapers are for babies and people are very emotional about babies. There is a huge risk in changing products for babies, even if you improve them.
- You can't tell people what to think anymore in TV ads about your product or even by getting 3 magazines to endorse your product. You can't fix a poor product with good marketing anymore.
- P&G's product development cycle is famous and studied in business schools. But, it was developed in the era of one-way broadcast media. Customers were told what to think by a few TV stations, and had no way of communicating effectively with each other and product ratings and feedback didn't exist. The P&G product development process is no longer relevant in an age where things move much faster, and customers have much more control and are much easier to involve in your development.
What should Pampers / P&G do now?
Change their product development process. Get rid of the 2-3 year cycle. Get rid of the focus groups. Create "P&G Labs" which works on experimental products. If people buy them, they know they are experimental and might be cool or might suck. Bring customers into "P&G Labs" and co-develop products with them. If you get customers feedback really early, and be more public about the process, people will respect it, and get more involved. They will also become advocates. Then, after the product launches and leaves P&G Labs, if someone says they don't like the product, all the customers involved will tell them they are crazy and tell them the 20 reasons why this product is better. And P&G won't have to say a thing.
If they had done something like this, the launch of Pampers Dry Max would have been very different.