Procter & Gamble
Gary Cofer has spent his entire career at Procter & Gamble, the nation’s largest household products company and a leader in creating and implementing diversity best practices in the CPG industry.
As Manager, Customer Business Development for P&G’s West Region, Gary has responsibility for Albertson’s, HEB, Kroger, Safeway and most wholesalers west of the Mississippi – and a unique vantage point on diversity.
The Freeport, Texas, native began his P&G career in 1985 as a sales rep in the company’s US Paper Products affiliate, where he became unit manager in 1986 and Diaper Sales Merchandising Manager (Pampers) in 1988.
In the late 1980s and 1990s, Gary held management positions at P&G subsidiaries in Korea, Hong Kong, Japan, China, and India, where he was country manager for P&G India/Sri Lanka/Bangladesh.
In 2002 he returned to the United States to become Director of Customer Business Development and Kroger Team leader at P&G’s Cincinnati headquarters.
Gary is married to Sylvia, his wife of 17 years, and has two sons (Brian, age 12, and Elliot, age 9), both enjoying living in the U.S. for the first time.
Q. You’ve spent much of your career in Asia, including Korea, China, Japan and India. What are the special challenges of selling packaged goods in Asian markets? How does diversity fit in?
A. All markets present unique challenges, but the same basic fundamentals apply everywhere. Our job as a consumer goods manufacturer is to understand our consumers, shoppers, and customers better than anyone else to ensure we are providing products and services of superior value. Diversity is important in these efforts, just as it is here, in that we need to make sure that our Company makeup mirrors the broader population to ensure that we are truly in touch with the shoppers and consumers in our markets.
Q. You’re now working with some of America’s leading grocers and wholesalers. What do you think are the biggest issues facing the industry?
A. The biggest challenge is how to offer a truly differentiated shopping experience that allows them to compete on a platform other than pure price. This is very hard work, and not everyone is going to be able to pull it off.
Q. If you could design the perfect venue for selling Procter & Gamble products, how would it differ from the average retail outlet today?
A. The winners in the future will know their very best customers intimately, and will communicate with them in a personalized way that will allow for the kind of differentiated shopping experience that will drive true loyalty.
Q. P&G is home to some of the world’s most powerful brands – Bounty, Crest, Folgers, Ivory, Pringles and Pampers, to name just a few. What do you think it takes to build and maintain such strong brand identities?
A. It takes a fundamental commitment to delight the consumer/shopper at the first and second moments of truth…when she makes the purchase decision in the store, and again when she uses the product at home. It requires that the brand leadership stays truly in touch with their consumers -- really knows them intimately. This kind of commitment ensures a brand stays fresh and relevant over the long haul.
Q. As the world’s largest advertiser, P&G has traditionally spent most of its U.S. ad dollars on broadcast television. As broadcast TV audiences shrink and fragment, what marketing methods and media do you think will increase most?
A. You will see us where the consumers and shoppers are, and using methods that will resonate in the fragmented environment in which we live. This will include very close partnerships with our trade customers, utilizing the close relationships they can have with their best customers.
Q. You’ve had the opportunity to view “globalization” from both sides of the Pacific. What does the decrease in trade barriers mean to the American industry, long term, and what is the impact on the consumer?
A. The reduction in trade barriers will allow for freer transport of goods across borders, which will bring greater selection and lower prices for consumers -- a good thing.
Q. You and P&G support NEW. Obviously you support diversity. Is diversity important to selling in a global market?
A. Diversity is absolutely critical in selling to a diverse, global market. We need to be able to tap into the best and brightest from all backgrounds and experiences. We need to be in touch with the shoppers and consumers in our markets, and to do that we need to have a work force that mirrors that diversity. To make that happen, we need to have principles and values that make it okay to go beyond the minimum legal standards on diversity -- we need leaders who champion the cause and are committed to creating workplace environments that are diverse, inclusive, and allow everyone to operate at their very best.
Q. One last question: Of all the products you sell, do you have a personal favorite?
A. One of the things I really love about our Company is the amazing breadth of our portfolio. It’s impossible to pick a single favorite, although I do find it pretty hard to start my day without a good cup of Millstone Coffee…or wash my hair without Head & Shoulders…or brush my teeth without Crest or….well, you get the picture.
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