Marketing as a department is a redundant idea, marketing as a function is too limited. But, does marketing as a set of strategic disciplines make more sense than ever?
From department to function to process to discipline
Marketing is going through significant change right now, it has been going through this change for almost 10 years. It needs to. The thought of ‘marketing departments’ is long gone, but a myopic view of marketing as a function or process for management of agencies and production of campaigns still exists. It’s a straitjacket created by marketers themselves and those who can’t see a bigger picture. It’s a limitation that restricts creativity but one that also limited commercial success (increased costs, reduced revenue opportunity, lack of agility, ambition and scale).
There’s no doubt now that marketing is something we all do, can do and should do to a greater or lesser extent. It’s probably better to think of marketing differently, to frame it in a new context, to focus marketing on a higher purpose. Imagine marketing as all the processes, operations and people that help manage the customer experience and build customer value. Imagine it as a framework of interconnected disciplines we execute together. Everyone involved in this will to some extent be a marketer. It includes technologists, mathematicians, accountants, economists, artists, natural scientists, psychologists and many more. Why, because there are a series of interconnected disciplines that come together to generate customer value like: innovation, knowledge management, brand building, customer value management and more. This interconnectedness means that activities and people not associated with traditional function of marketing have a valuable and necessary contribution to make.
Who is the custodian of the brand? The CEO perhaps. Is he/she a marketer, maybe not in the traditional sense, but they are in the ‘real world’. Is a data analyst a marketer? If they are working on any data to do with customer value, yes they are. Perhaps, in future ‘marketers’ may be recognised more for their analytical skills in than their creative skills? What about an accountant? Well, if they are crunching the number on NPV or cash flow from marketing activity, then yes they are. The point is that the activities, the disciplines that drive customer value (marketing) are embedded throughout the organisation. This is important because, recognising this simple fact means that we are more likely to build the right operating models, more likely to manage our organisations effectively, reduce costs and increase effectiveness. More importantly, we are more like to ‘join ourselves up’ in the face of the customer and deliver more value to them.
The challenge and rewards are significant
Unfortunately, embedding marketing disciplines throughout an organisation, in the right way is tricky, even though there are common frameworks, no one size fits all. Existing cultural benefits have to be maintained, ingenuity must not be lost and people need to feel involved. At the same time changes often need to be made, focusing marketing activity on a higher purpose, understanding what customer value actually means, developing more innovative culture, more connected people and getting things done more efficiency. Disciplines should encourage and reward communication, interaction, sharing stories and collaboration internally and externally. The point is to make clear connections and then make these connection work at scale, to create an effective, seamless network of ‘marketing activity’ focused on driving customer value. It’s not rocket science, but it’s not easy. The upside is, well quite frankly, attractive. More engaged people, working effectively to deliver more coordinated customer value throughout the organisation. In hard number that could mean 20% increase in capacity, 15% reduction in costs and who knows in terms of customer satisfaction, engagement, advocacy through better targeting and better customer service.