The Power of P&G's History: Inspiring Innovation for Today and Tomorrow

P&G heritage and archive center connections map

“No company can afford the luxury of rediscovering its own prior knowledge.” That quote comes from P&G’s Chief Technology officer all the way back in the 1950s, and it’s another way of saying you can learn a lot from your past.

P&G's Archives and Heritage Center helps us harness the learning that resides in more than 187 years of stories. And while we hold many artifacts from the company’s earliest days, lists of dates and timelines of our history, what’s far more interesting and valuable is the archive of insights and behaviors that led to the principles of innovation that for decades have helped P&G delight consumers and deliver great value for their daily jobs to be done.

“The P&G Archives & Heritage Center is not only an archive, but also a brainstorming space for our employees,” says Shane Meeker, P&G Company Historian and Corporate Storyteller. “Brand and project teams come here from around the company looking for inspiration as they work on new initiatives. What did the history of a brand look like? What was the evolution of its advertising and packaging? What were the key innovations, the consumer insights behind them? What was the consumer input that sparked the idea?”

A young woman in a white blouse and blue pants smiles as she speaks to a man in dark sweater and pants. They are standing inside the P&G heritage and archives center.

Why it matters: At P&G, we’re committed to making people’s lives better in small but meaningful ways, every day. Consumers want the value they get when laundry stains and odors come out the first time and they don’t have to rewash clothes…when baby stays dry all night and gets a good night’s sleep…when dishes get clean in the dishwasher while also saving water because you can skip the pre-rinse…and more.

That’s why the superiority of our products vs. competition matters and why learning from our long history is so important. We collect, preserve and share the stories, products and sparks of innovation from our past as a catalyst to inspire employees as they work on the future.

How it works: That’s why a day in the life of the Heritage Center includes not only virtual and online requests from employees, but also employees stopping in, looking through the collections, going through the timelines and asking about the stories — whether that’s for some quick inspiration or deep research on projects they’re working on.

A simple Swiffer Wetjet floor cleaning apparatus is photographed against a white backdrop. Black text reads, "A prototype for the swiffer wet jet. 1995."

One great example of an inspirational object in the Heritage Center is a mockup of the original prototype for what became the Swiffer Wet Jet, and most recently the Swiffer PowerMop.

The Swiffer WetJet came from a single consumer insight — that mopping the floor required a closet full of supplies. Researchers looked to remix existing P&G products to change this. Combining highly absorbent non-woven material, like that used in Always pads, with the cleaning power of liquid solutions like Mr. Clean, scientists created Swiffer WetJet in 2001, offering consumers a simpler, more efficient way to clean.

What they’re saying:

  • Fortune Magazine spoke to archives and archivists from several companies with long histories, including P&G, Lego, Coca-Cola, Walmart, Delta, Coach and Reckitt. P&G's Company Historian and Corporate Storyteller Shane Meeker talked about how understanding P&G’s past and our history of serving yesterday's consumers helps us serve them even better today. Learn more by reading the Fortune story here.
  • Learn more by watching “How Corporations Learn History Lessons: Inside The Archives At Delta, Coach, and More” from Fortune (P&G section: 7:26-11:00):

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