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J&J taps 'ambidextrous' marketing

News, 02 November 2016

ORLANDO, FL: Johnson & Johnson Consumer Cos., the healthcare group, is seeking to combine its established brand strengths with the kind of flexibility embodied by many start-ups – an approach it describes as "ambidextrous marketing".

Alison Lewis, CMO of Johnson & Johnson Consumer Cos., discussed this subject at the Association of National Advertisers' (ANA) 2016 Masters of Marketing Conference.

"Johnson & Johnson … grew up in what I call a 'right-handed world'," Lewis said. (For more details, read Warc's exclusive report: Johnson & Johnson adopts "ambidextrous" marketing.)

"We were dominated by bricks and mortar. Mom was the CEO of the household. We were TV-centric. The big players used their size as advantage. And the categories changed very slowly, if at all.

"But brands today that are new to the world have grown up in a left-handed world. They have learned from day one how to navigate and behave differently."

Drilling down into this topic, she argued enterprises like online shoe-retailer Zappos, subscription razor-service Dollar Shave Club and taxi app Uber all rapidly disrupted categories with entrenched models and competitive sets.

"Left-handers have had to figure out how to navigate a right-handed world, creating inventive ways to remove barriers, to move effortlessly from offline to online," Lewis said.

"They've had to react faster, more instinctively, more courageously. And they don't really care for the rules of category management. They forge their own way. They are ambidextrous from the get go."

In further elaborating on this concept, Lewis reported that it could yield "complete, connected and compelling brand experiences" and meet the "101 playbook of brand management, which is brand value creation."

This goal can be reached as Johnson & Johnson taps into the "power of 'and'", in terms of achieving scale and personalisation, global efficiency and local nuance, working online and offline, and being both experienced and experimental.

"We have to wire our new [organisations] differently. We have to be more fluid, and we have to be more horizontal in our structures," said Lewis.

"Not everyone in the organisation needs to be ambidextrous, but we have to build teams with talent – from both the inside and outside the company – that can deliver against that ambidexterity."

Data sourced from Warc