Promost: A Pro in the Procurement Space
In 1998 France hosted the FIFA World Cup, a tournament of 64 matches played over 33 days in 10 stadiums across the country. In the months leading up to the final match, close to $1.5 billion officially branded merchandise and souvenirs were manufactured, distributed, and sold to fans not just in France but all around the world. Working behind the scenes to manage this entire merchandising program for FIFA was a small division of the Sony Corporation. Andrew Rich was Sony’s vice president responsible for its European merchandising programs.
“Sony was not an official sponsor of the tournament, but four years earlier, in 1994, we had been invited by FIFA to make a proposal for the global merchandising program for “France ‘98”, says Rich. Sony Entertainment’s in-house intellectual property licensing group already managed global brand owners that were distributed by Sony Pictures, Sony Playstation, and Sony Music (think for example of Madonna, Bruce Springsteen, Michael Jackson). “Our global brand management expertise won the bid, and for the next five years my group managed the licensing of all FIFA World Cup merchandise”. Included in this huge project was the oversight of the promotional products created by the official sponsors of the World Cup, including Coca Cola, adidas, Gillette, and many others.
At the end of the tournament, Sony decided not to manage any other “outside” brands, but a few of the executives who had headed up the World Cup merchandising program saw the continuing need for global brand companies like FIFA’s sponsors to manage their marketing materials. They left Sony in 1999 and started a new company in the tumultuous tech environment of San Francisco at the turn of the millennium. The new company’s mission was to bring professional expertise to the procurement of promotional materials. ProMost launched in early 2000 with custom designed, state-of-the-art electronic procurement software, and a team of global brand merchandising experts.
First and Best
ProMost was the first company created and focused specifically on the management of branded marketing materials, including POP / POS materials, consumer promotional items, and print. It remains one of only a few such companies dedicated to helping global brand manufacturers manage the purchasing of their physical marketing materials.
“There are a few particular pain points that almost every brand manufacturer suffers with respect to their marketing materials,” says Rich. “Primarily they revolve around problems that the central brand team has in overseeing the quality and consistency of the materials sourced by each of the end markets. There is often little or no control over which suppliers are used, how much is paid, and how the branding is applied.” The ProMost offering solves those pain points and more by making approved branding and suppliers visible to all buyers, fostering collaboration and knowledge sharing, and promoting centrally designed products on a fast, efficient electronic platform.
An 18-year-old Start Up
After 18 years in the business, having managed global programs for Unilever, Seagrams, BAT, Coty, and Procter & Gamble, among others, ProMost still strives to continuously upgrade its technology and services. “For better or worse we have stayed a small, specialized company” Rich explains. “This enables us to react quickly and precisely to our clients’ needs. Imaging asking SAP to rewrite some of their code to better facilitate an upcoming promotion!”
The newest version of ProMost’s e-procrement software, designed just a few years ago and updated regularly, takes advantage of the cloud-based SaaS tools to allow maximum flexibility. “We can literally customize the platform for each client, to mirror and automate their existing work processes and communication flows. Adoption and training is thus a matter of hours, not weeks” according to Rich, “and the result is the client sees savings almost immediately. The cost to implement ProMost is usually recouped within a few months.”
According to Rich, each client uses the platform and ProMost’s expertise in different ways. One client uses it specifically to forecast demand for new materials. New promotion designs and potential materials are posted almost weekly, and end markets are asked to project their needs for each item. Designs that don’t get enough interest never even go to prototyping, much less to production, saving the client a small fortune in an unwanted inventory.
“We focus on each new client’s most important needs, and design their workflow on the platform accordingly. You don’t need multi-level approval routing? No problem, we strip that off your buyers’ interface. You need proprietary internal information included with orders? No problem, we add that tool to your private ProMost site,” Rich explains. The software is so granular that the ordering experience can be customized right down to the individual buyer, who can be directed to specific approved items from local suppliers. “No other marketing procurement service can offer the same powerful tools together with client customization and ease of use.”
The Future for e-procurement
When asked where he thinks the procurement industry is heading, Rich suggested “towards an “app” type environment, offering more flexibility and more control. That sounds like a contradiction but I don’t think it is” he says. “Companies understand that end markets have the local expertise and are the foot soldiers who implement on global marketing programs. At the same time, the central brand teams need to set the agenda, the timing, and the parameters to insure a consistent and successful campaign. They study historical data, vet suppliers, and are ultimately responsible for the success of their brands. Custom software like ProMost that allows central oversight and local autonomy, which is easy to use and customized to the user, will continue to thrive,” Rich believes. “Big enterprise software will run in the background like “operating systems”, and more specialized platforms like ProMost will run like “apps” to provide critical and useful additional services that the enterprise systems can’t offer.”
Procter and Gamble has been a key ProMost client for over 15 years. Having worked in long term relationships with the largest and best brand manufacturers, ProMost has proved itself over and over to be of significant value to companies seeking to control and optimize their regional and global marketing procurement.