The process P&G Ventures uses to drive innovation
At Procter & Gamble, we want to see innovation from anywhere we can. It’s something we encourage in every business unit, but we also have a dedicated team that explores new categories for P&G. We’re called P&G Ventures, an early-stage start-up studio that partners with entrepreneurs and start-ups, and we’d love to help you understand how we validate new products.
Now, it’s one thing to encourage and foster new ideas, but it’s another to validate which ones we should shepherd from initial concept to actual product. We knew that we needed to do more than just encourage and facilitate new ideas from the start-up community. We needed a process to evaluate them, improve them, and, if successful, ultimately launch them.
The four primary phases of this process are discover, create, build, and scale.
Discover. Where new ideas are uncovered.
Create. Moving from concept to reality.
Build. Building a brand and consumer base.
Scale. Expanding that brand to meet consumer needs and find market success.
However, we don’t want to just push every idea along that path. We want to have milestones along the way so that we’re not only moving quickly, but wisely. Our validation process helps ensure we’ve optimized each idea along the way.
Discover is where we work to identify potential opportunities in the market.
In this phase, we look around to see where P&G is currently playing and where we can succeed working with start-ups. We’ve identified these areas as ripe for innovation.
Non-Toxic Home and Garden: We’re interested in effective, safe solutions that control insects in and out of the home and on plants without harsh chemicals.
Women’s Active Aging: We’re interested in products that help women address unique challenges around aging—such as supporting them through menopause symptoms, migraines, and painful sex.
Men’s Active Aging: We’re looking for products that help older men maintain healthy, independent lives by addressing issues such as incontinence, mobility, and overall energy levels.
Healthy Skin: P&G Ventures is looking for new technologies to help consumers keep their skin looking, feeling, and functioning at its best.
Food Preservation and Waste Reduction: We’re interested in technologies that keep food fresher longer to reduce waste and save consumers time and money.
Daily Wellness: We’re looking for health solutions to help consumers live their best lives.
Go-Anywhere Clean: P&G Ventures is looking for products to help consumers clean their homes—and keep them clean–with safe solutions they can take wherever they go.
Helping Parents: We’re looking for solutions to support both parents and children ages 0-5 during this critical stage.
We’re looking for new ideas outside of existing and previous P&G markets—particularly products that preserve valuable items, make users’ homes more healing and nurturing, or make their homes and communities smarter, more efficient, and more resilient.
How do we make these choices? For one, we investigated which markets were growing and seemed like potential opportunities for us. Then, we tried to identify places where we thought consumers wanted more than existing products delivered. We want to find all the different ways that current markets still lack.
As commercial discovery leader Betsy Bluestone says, “If you take a look at a topic like sleep, there’s falling asleep, staying asleep, and waking up feeling rested. All these different jobs to be done in that space and understanding why consumers struggle within each area. Every single one of these is an opportunity for us to innovate.”
After this discovery, we need to create something.
To help bring ideas to life, we’re very collaborative, working with our partners at each step along the way. We also collaborate with the existing P&G business units to leverage their consumer knowledge and experience. New businesses to P&G however have their home in P&G Ventures for these stages. Vice president of communication Lauren Thaman explains, “They are focused on innovation in, say, fabric care, where we might work on personal performance or active aging and other things that are not specific to our core business units.”
Ultimately, we’re trying to get momentum, see which ideas stick, test them, make sure they work. In other words, do we have something that solves the consumer frustrations that we identified earlier? If not, then there’s no reason to pursue it. But if we do? Then we might just be onto something.
When we get to the build phase, we must decide who will bring it to life.
In some cases, we keep it within P&G Ventures the whole time. Or we might spin it over to a business unit within P&G. We even have external partnerships that might drive this process.
The real benefit here is that we have some flexibility. We have a great team of intelligent people in P&G Ventures, but we know that we shouldn’t pass up the opportunity to tap into others’ expertise and experience for even better results. So, if it makes more sense to let an existing team run with it, we’re happy to hand it off. The real goal is for the best people to guide it through the process.
This is also where our commitment to diversity helps us develop innovative products and make great decisions along the way.
Because a diversity of thought and experience drives innovation, we intentionally include and recruit all under-represented populations, including gender lines, sexual orientation, disability, and race/ethnicity. Betsy Bluestone explains, “Less than 3% of all venture funding goes to female founders, and we have been very deliberate in partnering with all types of VCs, specifically those whose thesis is to invest in female founders.”
Whoever takes the lead in this phase, the ultimate goal is to scale—making it a business unit here at P&G.
One way in which we can do this effectively is through a direct-to-consumer (D2C) approach.
This is an excellent tool for learning how a market feels about a product without doing a huge rollout. Betsy Bluestone explains, “The idea in starting businesses direct-to-consumer is the amount you can learn without having massive excess inventory at your retailers.” We can get a lot of data without necessarily having to do a lot of manufacturing, and that helps us know if a given product is ready to move to the final phase of the process.
It’s exciting to see a new product take flight at P&G with our partners. Considering some of the brands P&G has brought to life previously, it’s an honor to be a part of helping a new one join those ranks.
After that, there are new ones to discover, create, build, and scale. As a freshly proven product helps P&G continue to grow, it’s important to keep pushing the envelope of innovation so that we never get too comfortable. So we’re always looking for the next great idea that we can dive into.
We look for these ideas from anywhere.
Maybe you could be a part of it! Do you have an idea that would benefit from our validation process? Are you working on solving a problem with a new product? Ready to innovate? P&G Ventures was built to serve you, too!
For more information about P&G Ventures or a chance to share your innovation, visit www.pgventuresstudio.com.