Marketing department structures need to change

The way consumers buy things has changed – and yet the marketing department has not!

We’ve all noticed it. We are all part of it. The way in which we, The Consumer, shop has drastically altered. No longer a linear path to purchase, we meander across channel, medium and time. And the brands that are winning our attention are those that can connect with us at every touch point, at every stage of our buying journey with a consistent, coherent, relevant and engaging story. So, why is it that even though the consumer world has changed so much, the marketing department has stayed relatively stagnant?

I’ve worked client side for over 17 years in a number of large organisation. And in the latter few years I have been freelancing – so I have seen a number of differing marketing department structures. And although many of these companies are adapting to the modern consumer with the digitisation of their buying channels – in the main, the marketing department structure remains as it ever has.

I grew up in an era where the Brand Team were where it was at. They created the whole look and feel. The Big Campaigns and the Big Ideas that were then thrown over the wall to the other teams to pick up and try to pull something together that looked vaguely integrated and joined up. Invariably, what was developed by the other offline, online, PR, CRM and internal comms teams felt a little bit like Chinese whispers – The end result, being morphed from the original Big Idea but not really having any tangible consistency. And from my travels around various companies it seems that not much has changed.

More recently I have seen the recognition of what Big Data and a focus on the customer experience plays in driving marketing activity with these departments being bolted into the marketing functions. But if inconsistency of brand message is no longer tolerated by the consumer then the way in which businesses manage their brands must also drastically change. Right?

So how do I see it working

The way consumers buy things has changed – and yet the marketing department has not!
Group of Multiethnic Busy People Working in an Office
  1. Well it must start with the Strategy Team. The big picture overview that provides the clarity and direction for all other decisions. They are responsible for deciding who to go after, building out the personas, developing the propositions and deciding on the experience they wish them to have. In here you heave strategic thinkers, the data gurus, customer experience, research and insight experts.Their starting point is
    • An understanding of the products available to sell and,
    • the financials target that needs to be met
  2. Then there is the Planning Team – those that are responsible for taking the strategy and looking at how it can physically come to life over a rolling period. They are the ones that manage the development of communications plans, schedule campaign activity and media schedules and work with the channel experts to ensure that the plans can be delivered.
  3. Then there is the Creative and Brand team – whether in house or through an agency this team are the ones that manage how the brand grows, its overall look and feel and how can be flexed depending on the channel. They create the overarching Big Ideas as well as all content stories and related assets for all the channels to market.
  4. To get things out the door and in front of the audience you’ll have the Delivery team – bringing in the experts from every relevant field, whether PR, ATL, Direct, Digital, Internal Comms, Social, SEO – working in an Agile format they will take the agreed comms plan, the creative assets and ensure that they get out on time and provide a joined up, consistent engagement.
  5. Last but not lest it has to be the Measurement and Audit team. To keep up with the pace of change we need to be able to fail fast, make changes at speed and continually flex the plans according to the response and reaction received. This team will monitor both the live campaign stats enabling the Delivery Team to act fast on what is or isn’t working. Equally they will build up a picture of overall marketing activity performance and combine other insights and data references to provide relevant information to help inform future strategic decisions.

Marketing teams of tomorrow will need people who are curious, flexible and have a mix of commercial and technical skills. Overall, they will need to find the right structure to enable people to share knowledge and work collaboratively where each person’s skills are used to drive towards a collective and shared goal.

Maybe this kind of structure already exists? When I think of the brands that I feel do great marketing – The likes of Pret a Manger, John Lewis, Amazon ….. I always wonder how their marketing teams are structured. I’d love to know.

If you work in a different kind of marketing team I’d love to hear from you. It’s a fascinating debate and one which I see will continue for as long as us marketers and brands exist!


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