NEW YORK: Procter & Gamble, the FMCG giant, is making greater use of real-time marketing techniques, not least because the current consumer environment resembles "democracy on steroids".

Marc Pritchard, P&G's global marketing and brand building officer, made this claim while arguing that the rise of social media and similar platforms had led to profound shifts for brands, DigiDay reported. (Warc subscribers can read a full report of Pritchard's speech at the 2012 ANA Masters of Marketing conference here.)

"We have never had a greater opportunity to connect with people," he added. "For us, the voting booth is the store, and the election takes place every day, and people judge us on performance and what we say in our commercials."

The fallout from both real and perceived failures by firms can also be especially pernicious, given how rapidly negative word of mouth spreads across the internet.

"If we disappoint consumers, they'll hunt you down and call you out in a way that they were never able to do before," Pritchard said.

Social listening has become a key way to track positive and negative chatter. Tide, the laundry detergent, is one of a number of P&G brands with a dedicated "Newsdesk" that constantly monitors this activity and enters the conversation when relevant.

"Social media is the world's focus group," Pritchard said. "Platforms like Twitter are an always-on, real-time conversation. We listen more than we talk in social media."

Tide, for example, capitalised on its powder being used to clear up the results of a fuel spill and fire in a NASCAR race in February. It ran social media ads, including real news footage, within 72 hours of the event.

During the 2012 Olympic Games, P&G also made TV spots in just one day celebrating the success of gymnasts Jordyn Wieber and Gabby Douglas, showing such thinking can apply to traditional media.

Elsewhere, Pritchard suggested that despite the possibilities for insight provided by sites like Facebook and Twitter, creativity still played a vital part in translating this material into a tangible form.

"Things go wrong when you have one without the other," he said. "Our time-tested business model was founded on insight... Insight creates innovation and creativity. This essential element is ignored all the time, when it is the key to win consumers at the 'polls.'"

As well as big data, P&G also works with market researchers, psychologists and anthropologists, among others, to answer questions like "What do people really need and want from this product?" and "What does it really mean for their lives?", Pritchard said.

Data sourced from DigiDay; additional content by Warc staff