October 19, 2017

Expanding Your Influence as a Product Steward - Part 1: Partnering with Marketing & Sales

When it comes to product stewardship, identifying business risks goes beyond borders — and regulations. Today's product stewards are challenged to be vigilant and aware of everything in a product’s value chain that can affect compliance and the brand. Good product stewardship means keeping an eye on every stage of a product, from design and manufacturing to distribution and marketing.

It’s a tall order. In this three-part series, we’ll cover obstacles and nuances that today’s product stewards need to keep in mind throughout a product’s value chain.

First, let’s start with marketing and sales.

Your marketing team needs your support!

Although the marketing team is responsible for identifying and moving product into new markets, is it realistic for them to be fluent in new regulations? While marketing and sales teams are vigilant about quality, they may not be aware of or have the expertise to identify and understand how new regulations or differing claims affect your products.

When it comes to regulatory compliance, it is imperative that the product steward is involved with marketing processes. Exploring new markets or new jurisdictions in a vacuum can lead to disaster. Your guidance as a product steward can help marketing feel confident about creating product materials that comply with regulations — regardless of the end use or where they are sold.

At every stage of the game, from determining product labeling to generating print materials, a partnership between product stewards and marketing can bridge information gaps to avoid regulatory violations.

Closely and consistently monitor every business that sells or markets your product.

Things can get complicated when it comes to distributors and retailers marketing products your organization manufactures. Your marketing team may be proactive and careful about providing updated materials and marketing language — but it is vital to confirm that downstream marketing does not stray from the material you provide.

Product stewards can assist in processes that monitor retailers, distributors and affiliate marketers to ensure they are representing your product within the confines of applicable regulations.

This type of interaction not only protects your company but also provides a source of dependable quality for your customers.

Adjusting marketing language: More than just “wordsmithing.”

Words matter — a lot.

Most people in the U.S. are familiar with prescription drug commercials that include a last-second list of side effects because of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations concerning prescription drug marketing. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) enforces claims specific to pesticides through the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act and new and restricted substances through the newly amended Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).

Further, other federal agencies also monitor and enforce label claims at a domestic level; these include the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). States, cities and other municipalities may also have restrictions.

If you have products that are shipped to different countries and regions around the world, it's crucial to know how those products are regulated and by what agency. Knowing what can and cannot be said about specific products and who interprets those claims is critical. In the European Union (EU), the European Chemicals Agency manages the registration of new and existing chemicals, biocidal products and plant protections products at a regional level, while individual EU member states are in charge of enforcement at the national level. It is important that your marketing team understands what is allowed and how it is enforced in the jurisdictions in which your products are marketed.

In every corner of the world, both the sheer volume and continuous change in requirements bring a massive challenge when it comes to creating on-point sales and marketing materials.

Compounding the compliance efforts is social media marketing, which is now part of every campaign. Major corporate brands, celebrities and bloggers use Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to advertise products. For a while, "influencer" social media marketing was unregulated — but not anymore.

Now, there are rules. The FTC is being more attentive and cracking down. Just recently, the FTC officially warned marketing influencers who advertise on Instagram that their tactics are a little too stealth and that they need to disclose clearly when a product is being marketed . It may only be a matter of time before other agencies begin to monitor social media to confirm that marketing claims meet allowable claims.

How can product stewards create a better partnership with marketing? Start with a simple conversation.

Companies that expect their marketing and sales department to be up-to-date on every worldwide regulation are demanding too much. By incorporating product stewardship into the process, product labeling and messaging can be continuously assessed for conformance. Compliance needs to be hard-coded into new product development and the management of change process. Additionally, compliance needs to be considered throughout every stage of the product sales and marketing process.

Creating a healthy partnership with marketing starts with a simple conversation. Talk to your best marketing contact — it could be the EVP, creative director or any staff member responsible for marketing material development. One conversation leads to another, which leads to better communication and improved processes. (It’s important to remember that this is a collaborative, two-way conversation between you and a colleague, not a lecture. Your marketing partners want to do what’s best for the company, too.)

Your company and customers will benefit when the gap between compliance and marketing is closed. When product stewards and marketing work together, new products move into new markets or jurisdictions meeting regulatory requirements, which produces new sales.

Next stop: Operations

In today’s product stewardship landscape, marketing is just one important area where product stewards can make a difference. Our next installment in this three-part series will focus on product stewardship and operations, including finance, legal and human resources.

In the meantime, tell us about how your company integrates product stewardship into marketing and sales to achieve maximum results. Were they successful? What roadblocks did you encounter? What was the outcome?


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