Over the last 10 years or so, Procter & Gamble's Connect + Develop program has forged hundreds of relationships with outside vendors and inventors that have led to myriad big new products for the company — including the Crest SpinBrush, Swiffer Dusters and Olay Regenerist — have brought refinements and ingredients that weren't thought of or available internally, and have helped lead a surge in innovation at the Cincinnati-based giant.
Connect + Develop is still at it in a more challenging era, including looking forways to out-license Procter & Gamble brands, products, processes and ideas as well as bringing still more interesting stuff from the outside in. And while archrival Unilever has been generating some buzz recently with news that it is setting up a new online platform as part of its own "open innovation" strategy, the head of P&G's longer-tenured operation believes Connect + Develop remains well in the lead among the company's competitive set.
"They got quite a bit of publicity, and that's cool," Jeff Weedman, P&G's vice president of global business development, told brandchannel. "I expect us to do well in an open marketplace."
While P&G has been licensing out brands and technologies for years, it is now doing so with more frequency and more creativity, including deals for Febreze fans currently being shipped across North America, Pampers Kandoo and Mr. Clean cleaning tools.
"We're trying to be very strategic in terms of how we identify to whom we out-license our trademarks," Weedman explained. "We're spending a lot more time internally saying, 'How do we make sure that we're very choiceful when we go out-license our mark so that we end up with things that consumers believe are clearly consistent with our brand equities?' We want these things to be accretive to our brand image."
The cutting edge for Connect + Develop these days, Weedman said, is to encourage greater collaboration globally between P&G and universities and national laboratories. The company has struck master agreements in that realm with Michigan and Ohio to cover their state universities, and they are "steps in the right direction," he said. But Weedman wants to see the creation of "more entrepreneurial ecosystems" in states.
At a recent National Governors Association meeting in Washington, D.C., Weedman spoke andencouraged state governments to help entrepreneurs become more attractive for larger companies to work with, including by providing early-stage funding to help small businesses grow and be able to scale.
Weedman wants the ideas to keep coming from the outside world for P&G's consideration. That includes help for the company's new digital-marketing initiatives, which are likely to represent a next significant way in which Connect + Develop fuels the company's business.