Welcome to the Resilient Business Series. In this series, we examine businesses and organisations that have gone through events like recessions, pandemics and world wars who not only survived, but thrived. We find out how they did it and the lessons you can apply to your business.

This week we examine Procter&Gamble and how they turned to content marketing to survive …

The Great Depression was not a great time. Starting in 1929 and running until the late 1930s, it was the 20th century’s longest, deepest and most widespread financial depression.

It hit particularly hard in America, with 1 – 4 people out of work, the stock market losing 90% of its value and millions evicted from their homes.

In an environment like this, you wouldn’t expect any business to be making money (let alone gaining market share and creating a new style of entertainment), but that’s exactly what Procter & Gamble did.

Most businesses during the Great Depression were cutting costs. Advertising was not seen as essential and budgets were being slashed across the country.

Not at P&G though, where ad spending lifted. P&G adopted the mentality that if competitors weren’t advertising, then the company could only gain market share.

President of P&G, Richard Dupree ignored calls from shareholders to cut marketing, and invested heavily in radio – a relatively newer format at the time.

Rather than bombarding the market with traditional advertising, P&G got smart and instead imagined what their audience was going through. Using this insight, they created and sponsored a radio drama. The very first show was called, ‘Ma Perkins’ and was sponsored by their soap brand Oxydol.

By the end of the Great Depression, P&G was sponsoring over 20 ‘soap operas’ and doubling their radio budget every two years.

They virtually built the daytime radio industry while at the same time becoming the number one household soap brand.

Take-aways from Procter & Gamble:

Advertising doesn’t have to be the traditional hard sell. Investing in new formats can lead to big rewards.

Be audience led and offer value. P&G knew their market wanted entertainment and comfort during hard times, not high-frequency ads for household soap.

Content really is king. This is one of the earliest forms of content marketing and demonstrates how effective it can be.