34: Pick your battles

34: Pick your battles


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I’m writing about one hundred things I’ve learned as a product manager.

Recently Unilever challenged Procter & Gamble to prove their advertising claim that P&G’s Fairy brand of washing-up liquid lasted twice as long as Unilever’s Persil brand.  The result that followed provides a great lesson for product managers when deciding which battles to pick.

As a product manager, you’ll occasionally have to break a few eggs to make the proverbial omelette.  However, this doesn’t mean you can afford to act all the time like a vandal in a battery farm.

The marketing bods at Robert McBride, who own the licence to market Unilever’s Persil brand of washing-up liquid in the UK, had clearly become tired of being repeatedly bashed over the head by P&G’s claim that Fairy liquid lasted twice as long as Persil.  So they called out P&G to the Advertising Standards Authority, who then were obliged to test the claim.

The problem was that the ASA more than vindicated P&G’s claim – in fact, they proved that Fairy lasted more than twice as long as Persil (oops), a point the mainstream UK Press has picked up and broadcast (double oops).   Robert McBride and Unilever have significant amounts of egg on their respective faces – and they’ll need twice as much Persil to wash it off.

If something is really worth fighting for, do your homework first.  Make certain you’re going to achieve the desired result before breaking those eggs.


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Jock is a freelance head of product, author and conference speaker. He has spent nearly two decades working with technology companies to improve their product management practices, from startups to multinationals. His clients include the BBC, University of Cambridge, and the UK's Ministry of Justice and Government Digital Service (GDS).In 2012 Jock founded Product People Limited, a product management consultancy and training company. He is also the author of the popular book The Practitioner's Guide to Product Management and the blog I Manage Products.

2 comments on “34: Pick your battles
  1. Spencer Wong says:

    Nice article Jock, definite egg on face…who knew there’s even a difference between washing up liquid. I tend to ignore claims like this…or kitchen towels that soak up twice as much liquid…Hope you’re doing well mate!

  2. Thanks Spencer, and great to hear from you too! Are you still based Stateside?

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