This Carnegie is influencing brands, winning over people
Procter & Gamble introduces its poster girl for today's modern manager, writes Elizabeth Knight.
Procter & Gamble introduces its poster girl for today's modern manager, writes Elizabeth Knight. There are no apparent bumps, bruises nor a hair out of place on the impeccably coiffed head of Maile Carnegie - the 42-year-old chief executive of Procter & Gamble's Australian operations. No evidence at all that she has felt the battering from the glass ceiling.Maile (pronounced Mylie) Carnegie does not appear to be a woman who has needed to fight the P&G business culture or claw her way over her male colleagues to pierce the senior ranks of the US consumer giant.The woman who stocks Australian supermarket shelves with Olay, Pantene, Pampers, Pringles and Oral-B is remarkable for her lack of remarkability. She is clearly capable, smart, pleasant, organised, disciplined and a whole lot of other adjectives that define the poster girl for today's modern manager - the executive from central casting.Sitting in her low-rise office building, occupying a space in the outer perimeter of the sprawling, leafy grounds of Macquarie University, Carnegie is the picture of an executive with a purpose.This interview is part of a worldwide P&G strategy to lift its skirts (albeit only a little). It is a bit of a corporate get-to-know-you manufactured by a company famous for doing the opposite. Surrounded by public relations minders, she discloses this was devised as a result of research that revealed the public prefers products if they know something about who is making them.In so many respects, Carnegie presents as the love child of Mr Proctor and Mrs Gamble. She is imbued with the firm's DNA - moulded by 20 years with the firm, nurtured by it after graduation from Sydney's University of Technology and schooled in its customs around several of the firm's geographies, including at the US mothership.Without the P&G pedigree Carnegie readily admits she would not be at the top of this (smallish) branch of the large corporate tree. The company is famous for its insularity and promotes only from within.In P&G's management evolution, the only incidence of mutation is when the company acquires another corporate brand, as it did with Gillette a few years back.Otherwise, senior management are all P&G lifers. It takes around 15 to 20 years to "grow" a general manager or vice president. Carnegie was the first Australian ripe for the job.The rationale around creating the Stepford P&G executive is that it promotes a like-minded set of processes, aligned beliefs and values, and a similar language that fosters a corporate agility.While this sounds more like a benign dictatorship than a capitalist institution, P&G's size and success in colonising 70 countries around the globe with a vast array of daily supermarket products is testament to the fact that the formula has worked so far.There have been books written about what makes P&G tick - not surprisingly some breathlessly glowing and others savaging. To the extent that there is a common thread to opinion on P&G, it would be the relentless core of the marketing culture.Carnegie talks convincingly about innovation and the fact that worldwide the company spends $2 billion on this annually, almost twice as much as the nearest rival. But it is not the primary discipline.She gives me plenty of examples of how P&G products are superior to others in their class. The dishwashing pod cleans the machine along with the dishes and the air freshener chemically bonds with the smells and consumes them rather than just masking them. For this we pay a bit more at the checkout and to convince us to do so P&G pays quite a bit more to advertising agencies.Marketing centricity applies equally to personnel - just about every senior manager has come from that silo. She calls it the feeder function. Innovators do not cut it in management.In the P&G dictionary creativity would probably be found under M for marketing, as would consumer research. "We look for people who know how to commercialise ... take the technology and marry it with consumer need," she says.P&G's world marketing spending grew by $US700 million last year to a massive $US9.3 billion.Carnegie's academic pedigree ticks this box also. Her degree included majors in both marketing and economics, and she wisely chose the marketing stream on her arrival at P&G. (Once you have been placed in a discipline at P&G this is where you remain for your career with the company - no straying or tasting from another plate.)Another positive is the fact that P&G's record is more gender agnostic than most. Forty-five per cent of Carnegie's leadership team are women and she reports to a woman. Most of P&G's products are designed for women and they are the "gatekeepers" of the shopping trolley.But like most busy female executives, Carnegie outsources much of the domestic drudgery to a housekeeper to maximise the time spent with her consultant husband and two young sons. It is hard to imagine her in a tracksuit sauntering down the aisle of Woolworths on a Saturday morning.The self-professed early bird rises at 4am to get in a few hours of work at home before she leaves for the office at 7am. The trade-off is that four nights a week she returns early enough for dinner with the family and one day a week she works from home.Exercise is functional - for stress release - and home entertainment in her Hunters Hill pile counts towards the fun side of life. Her passions range from reading (non-fiction) to women's issues and problem solving."I know I am going to sound like a dork but in my spare time I like to solve business problems," Carnegie says.But she deftly darts around the controversial or too personal. No answer to questions on politics, religion or whether she cried when Steve Jobs died.But economics, sure.For Carnegie, how the Australian economy and its consumer fares is a vitally important factor in how her division of this global P&G empire performs."Overall, I see Australia is in a good place. Even ignoring mining assets we still have a massive lever in our interest rates - if and when it is appropriate to use it. The US and UK have used up all their stimulus."P&G does not report profit from the Australian division separately. It forms part of Asia which is currently the growth market.Small as the Australian market may be in the P&G world, it is not without its challenges - prime among them dealing with the price turf war between two supermarket gorillas, Coles and Woolworths, in a soft retail environment.Carnegie admits to feeling the price squeeze along with other supermarket suppliers but says the P&G brands are holding up in Australia."Consumers are moving up and down the price ladder. Benefit over price equals value. They are happy to spend a little bit more for something they know will work."Where P&G plays is in necessities - people are still washing their hair and washing the dishes."In her view, suppliers in danger of extinction occupy the middle ground. The bottom of the ladder (ultra cheap) and the top end (quality strong brands) are still receiving consumer support.Heavily advertised products create consumer demand which in turn puts pressure on supermarkets to supply them. That is this company's leverage."P&G wins in this environment."THE CVCARNEGIE, MaileBorn 1969, HawaiiEducation Bachelor degree in Business Administration in Finance, Economics and Marketing, UTS 1991CAREERMaile is a career P&G executive who has lived and worked in Australia, Asia and the US.1992 Joined P&G in Sydney as an assistant brand manager1999 Moved to Cincinnati as a marketing director.2001 Joined P&G's revolutionary start-up Tremor, a word-of-mouth marketing unit.2003 Marketing director of P&G North America's haircare business2006 Returned to Sydney as marketing director for P&G Australia and New Zealand2008 Promoted to general manager, helped to lead the marketing and design functionsfor Asia, based in Singapore2010 Managing director of P&G Australia and New ZealandFamily Married, with two sons ages nine and 12Pastimes Reading, entertaining, supporting child-related causes.