Kimberly-Clark rejects commodification

2 September 2014

WESTPORT, CT: There is no such thing as a low-involvement category, according to a leading Kimberly-Clark executive, just low-involvement ideas and low-involvement thinking.

"We don't ever use the term 'low involvement' because that immediately leads to a lower bar in terms of expectations," said Clive Sirkin, CMO of the paper products business, in an interview with The Hub.

He has adopted a similarly robust approach to digital marketing – he has banned the concept, preferring to think about "behaviour and networks and expectations" rather than technology.

"I'm not really sure about the difference between off-line and online," he said. "I just know that there's one consumer and she doesn't make an announcement that she's moving out of her analog world into a digital world."

In his view, the very idea of different types of marketing is an anathema. It should all be about building brands, he argued. "The minute you start fracturing marketing and creating groups doing different things, you're going to create a fractured experience for the brand."

Too many brands, he suggested, were focused on simply communicating a promise when the real issue was how to deliver on that promise, repeatedly, or risk losing credibility and trust.

"We spend a lot of time bringing together and integrating people with different skill sets and talents, as opposed to sending off specialized groups with a piece of the puzzle," he explained. "We bring them together and make that part of the culture, the behaviour and the reward."

The ultimate aim, he said, was to "create a brand experience that's consistent, meaningful, respectful and responsive".

In the past Sirkin has spoken of the "insanity" that characterises the marketing discipline, which, he argued, tends to be dominated by talk of change and revolution but remains resolutely stuck in legacy mode.

His response has been to give his marketers "the freedom and the licence" to take intelligent risks.

Data sourced from The Hub; additional content by Warc staff