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Team Shirley Takes the Field at P&G

Ed Shirley, Procter & Gamble’s new vice chair for beauty and grooming, unveils his game plan for reigniting growth.

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Special Issue
Beauty Inc issue 05/08/2009


As Shirley knows better than most, though, talking about change and effecting it is easier said than done, particularly in a corporate culture as regimented as P&G’s. He takes pains to emphasize the key phrase “change with continuity” as a way to describe the transition from Arnold to himself, and  calls creating synergies between brands as “probably the area of focus I’m spending most of my time on.”

It’s a position for which the executive considers himself particularly well-suited. Calling the key word of his leadership style “collaborative,” Shirley is encouraging his team—with whom he sits on the third floor at P&G’s Cincinnati corporate headquarters rather than on the executive floor eight stories up—to broaden their horizons of possibility. “I’m much more solution-focused as opposed to problem identification,” he says. “I like to create breakthrough and we’ve got to deliver consistent, sustainable growth—that’s our business model. But at the same time, throughout my career, I’ve looked at what would a breakthrough look like? What would have to be true for us to create a step change in our growth or our capability? I see possibilities.”

Since assuming his position, Shirley estimates he’s spent about 50 to 75 percent of his time traveling, assessing the business and its possibilities. Voluble and very focused when he speaks, his command of the categories he now oversees is clear, with beauty-centric words like glucosamine (a star Olay ingredient) rolling smoothly off his tongue.

The second key pillar Shirley sees in his quest to grow P&G’s beauty sales is the men’s grooming business. The synergy is an obvious one — after all, P&G paid dearly for Gillette in 2005 — and one that many industry analysts expected to see happen earlier — including Shirley. “It took some time to get the right formulations,” he admits of the products, “and the first order of business in bringing Gillette into P&G was do no harm. P&G paid $57 billion for the company and it was grounded on revenue synergies and cost synergies. We got the cost synergies and now we’ve got the revenue synergy game in play. Initially, they came from merchandising. Now, we’re into the next phase, which is formulation and taking advantage of the technical capabilities P&G has.”

To that end, Shirley has reorganized the division’s structure by gender. Gina Drosos will oversee the women’s side as president, global female beauty, while Chip Bergh will be responsible for the male side as group president, global male grooming.

Thus far, launches have included hair care, body washes and an upgraded deodorant offering that capitalizes on the clinical strength technology of P&G’s Secret brand. Skin care, called Gillette Series and positioned as either pre-shave or post-shave products, was introduced in Western Europe earlier this year. Key markets for growth in the men’s sector include the U.S., Western Europe, Eastern Europe, particularly Russia, and Latin America. Although Gillette will be the anchor of the grooming business, Shirley says there will also be a prestige men’s grooming play, declining to disclose details.

Asked when grooming can be a billion dollar business — P&G’s sweet spot — Shirley declined to give a time frame but would say, “We’ve got some pretty aggressive growth goals. It’s one of our key building blocks for growth over the next four to five years and will be a big piece of our overall growth.”

Shirley believes one way to grow the men’s sector is through women. “Women are key influencers for their guys,” he says. “If we say to a guy, ‘A lot of women don’t like scruff on their beard,’ they’ll think we just want them to shave more so they have to buy more products. But if his partner tells him, there’s a higher possibility that he’ll shave. We think there’s an opportunity to work with the women’s magazines and influencers to give her some tips that she can say to him that will help him.”

The executive admits the difficulty in trying to effect regimen change with men, but cites himself as an example that it can be done. Shirley, who on most mornings rises at 5 a.m., says he now uses body wash rather than soap, shampoo and conditioner, Total Effects SPF 15 Fragrance Free moisturizer (“We’ve yet to bring Gillette skin care to market here,” he notes.) and fine fragrance daily. (I didn’t use fragrance every day because I thought, deodorant antiperspirant — I’m OK. But now, because I’m aware, I use it every day.”

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