Or, so says Forrester.

Forrester is about to release a report next week calling for a radical shift in the role of the "traditional" Brand Manager. Bottom line, the report advocates for a reorganization and refocus of marketing organizations from "brand management" to "brand advocates" as a response to the onset of the digital age, consumer fragmentation and the rapidly changing marketplace. Clearly, an extremely important dialogue for today's marketplace, marketing executives and companies.

The full report is not yet out, but the findings and recommendations are summarized in CMO Strategy in Ad Age.com. I want to take just a marketing minute to review what Forrester has to say.

Forrester posits that this new paradigm will be "more powerful and consumer-centric, much nimbler, and more real-time-oriented than the brand manager of today -- and they will be a lot more opportunistic in creating media partnerships, and a lot less loyal to their agencies." Key imperatives would include:
- exchanging rigid "annual planning" in favor of greater ability to adapt rapidly to new inputs, insights and rapidly changing market conditions
- greater emphasis on consumer intelligence and analytics
- organizing along segment cohorts (e.g., demographic segments)
- plans based around doing more smaller things quickly based on real time performance tracking and response to market situations rather than planning for one or two home run swings

While I may not be in total agreement with all the recommendations (especially since the full report is not yet out), I am on board with the fundamental assessment that “Marketing” as it is/was in an organizational sense needs to change. Having worked in both large companies and smaller, entrepreneurial companies and startups, as well as spending time in the digital world, I've lived and experienced the difference.

The world has changed, and most of the bigger companies have not fully adapted to the new realities of the new dynamics. Witness the success of smaller, nimbler, more entrepreneurial companies like Method Products and Burt's Bees (since purchased by Clorox) to successfully develop and launch innovative products and outflank established companies. Among other things, these younger companies are:
- much closer to their consumers and engaged in regular conversations with those valued customers
- not constrained to established models and organizational charts – they do what it takes
- constantly trying new things and reading results, pursuing programs that work and dropping those that don’t (I see this as simply disciplined testing and iteration for continuous improvement, not just throwing spaghetti at the wall)
- able to turn on a dime in response to new insights or results in the marketplace (no multiple layers of management approvals to change a promotional offering)

As I see it, what Forrester is recommending is essentially what start-ups and smaller companies have done for years out of necessity. The rapid evolution of digital media and tools will push this trend harder, further and faster. And, nobody knows what the future will present other than more change and evolution.

While we know what Marketing was, we have an opportunity to shape what Marketing will be. The choice remains for all of us: remain enamored with structures and titles of the past OR look to change and create Marketing that is adaptable to today’s reality and the future’s uncertainty.

Put another way: This train has left the station. Are you on it, or waving goodbye?

Views: 299

Tags: Brand, BrandManagement, Digital, Forrester, Marketing, MarketingOrganization, SocialMedia

Comment by Michael B. Moore on October 13, 2009 at 12:50pm
If the advent of the Internet itself didn't fundamentally change how CPG's think about themselves and their consumers, then I'm not sure that social media will either. That's certainly not to say that there shouldn't be some changes; just that I don't think SM will be the catalyst for it.

Also, forgive me if I'm just a bit cynical of reports coming from companies suggesting solutions that, just coincidentally, happen to fit their particular worldview; with solutions that they just happen to be uniquely qualified to offer. :-)

But what do I know? What do you think?
Comment by Ted L Simon on October 13, 2009 at 5:02pm
Ha ha! :-) Gee, you mean that Forrester might be biased in their world view of things because they make money in that arena? Maybe you're not so much cynical as keenly tuned to the realities of the corporate animal kingdom!

I think I understand your perspective re Internet vs. social media and the impact on CPG's. Let me suggest a couple other points to consider:
1. I think we need to broaden our perspective beyond the CPG's. There are plenty of companies that are "stuck" in organizational paradigms that inhibit flexibility, adaptability, quick action, etc. And, yes, many CPG's fall into that category...but some are trying to change that (and deserve some props).
2. The Internet was a first step, not the "finale" or "end point." In gross terms, it really was/is the "Information Superhighway," the technology "road" or "platform" that needed to be laid down so the various applications, uses, communication vehicles, etc. could be built along and on top of the platform. But, that did not bring full meaning to the platform. What is happening with social media today is that the consumer now not only has more access to information, they have exponentially more information, share it with each other and the Brand (if the Brand is listening carefully). Social media technologies have fundamentally changed the consumer behaviors and dynamics in a way that the "Internet" alone did not and could not. When you look at it in this light, I'd say that any CPGer who is not thinking about their Brand's relationship with its consumer in this new environment runs the risk of losing that connection altogether. So, that's how I see Social Media as different from the Internet.
3. While I agree with Forrester's assessment of the market shift that has occured, I'm not sure I agree with the recommended organizational change. I guess they have to suggest something in order to get people to shell out the bucks for their reports. But, I think that some of what they are suggesting does ring true...getting much closer to consumers, not being constrained by old org designs/roles, ability to be nimble and flexible and adapt quickly based on information (when appropriate), continuous improvement efforts based on in market results, etc. These factors are contributing issues to the lack of innovation in many larger companies and why smaller companies are outflanking them.

So, I confess to not having all the answers either. But, staying pat is not the right prescription, for the reasons I point out above. Not saying the baby needs to be thrown out with the bath water, but maybe pulling that kid out of the water and teaching him a few new lessons would be a good idea!
Comment by Ted L Simon on October 13, 2009 at 5:34pm
LOL! Well, you may be on to something there, Michael. Maybe there is some "corporate nest padding" going on here. :-)

I think I understand where you are coming from in your comparison of Internet vs. Social Media and the impact it did/is/should have on marketing organizations (I broaden out from CPGers, as they are not the only guilty parties and some are trying to change to adapt to the new environment).

However, I think that the Internet and Social Media represent different trends as it relates to consumers, marketers and Brands.
- The Internet was just the "first step" not the "end point," and will continue to be that. In gross terms it was/is the "Information Superhighway," the enabling infrastructure upon which various towns, cities, communities, commercial entities, etc. could be built.
- Social Media represents one of those towns or communities built upon that road. This is where the people are living, communicating, building relationships. The SM technologies have fundamentally altered the consumer environment and relationships by turning what was primarily a one-way dialogue to not just a two-way dialogue, but a multi-pronged dialogue among all members of a community (including the Brand). People are sharing/exchanging information with each other, and the Brand can become part of that exchange if it listens carefully and responds properly. It's the greater emphasis on free, rapid, unfettered consumer and/or community communication that separates SM technologies from the base Internet itself.

It’s because of this deep consumer involvement and multi-way interaction that I'd say Social Media is different and may be more important to marketers than the Internet itself was. I'd go even further to say that any marketer (CPG or otherwise) who is not carefully evaluating their Brand's position, relationship and communication flow (both ways - listening and then talking) with its communities is not doing his/her best to maintain and build those relationships for the Brand's benefit. Frankly, this is Consumer Insights & Marketing Communications 101...just on steroids mixed with Red Bull.

Regarding Forrester's organizational recommendations...While I do feel that they have identified the issue, I'm not as sure that they have come up with the best solution (but, as a market research & consulting firm, I guess they need to have some solution to get folks to fork over the money for their reports and services). And, I'll confess...I'm not sure I have a better solution in my pocket.

However, much of what I noted above is already plaguing larger companies who are struggling to innovate while smaller companies outflank them. The issues of getting truly closer to one's consumers/community and engaging in dialogue to learn from them, not being constrained by past paradigms or corporate "must do's," continuous improvement efforts based on in-market performance, flexibility and ability to move swiftly to address market dynamics (when appropriate)...those are all problems that have been building for years, not just due to Social Media. But, the emerging SM technologies have lowered the barriers for smaller players who CAN (and DO) manage themselves in this nimbler manner, enabling them to accomplish things that larger, calcified organizations cannot.

Like you, I don't have all the answers. I just know that standing pat is not an answer, so I'm all aboard that train and looking forward to where it may take us. Should be a fun ride!
Comment by Michael B. Moore on October 13, 2009 at 5:35pm
I agree with all of your thinking above. I'm just not sure that organizational change is needed to execute that. I was a BM at two CPG's. I understand that model. I've also been in the social media world for the last 10 years and have a good sense as to the impact of that on both consumers and companies. That said, I'm really not sure what the social media explosion has to do with corporate structure. I do think that it has much much more to do with what marketers are doing.

Social Media is a 'game changer' in the sense that it connects people - and in so doing creates powerful communities - in profound ways. It certainly brings about a number of new ways of thinking on the part of brand marketers - both about "their" brands and about "their" consumers.

I'll also reserve final judgment until the complete report is released, but it just seems to me that the change that is required is much more within the minds of those managing the marketing departments than in the way they are organized.

Any other thoughts?
Comment by Ted L Simon on October 13, 2009 at 5:51pm
I think we have some common ground in that we both see a need for a revised mindset on the part of marketing organizations, leaders and managers. There's no question in my mind about that at least,

Where we may diverge is whether there needs to be some organizational change to help effect that mindset shift. One could argue that if people could simply change their mindset, that could have already happened. It hasn't, at least not to what I can see or hear. So, organizational changes may be needed to ensure that this shift takes place. It may not be as radical as what Forrester might suggest, but there's room for improvement.

One other area where we agree - let's see the full report. My comments were spurred by an "early summary" released by Forrester and some articles I found (Ad Age had the most complete overview). In the meantime, it's gotten us thinking and talking, and wherever I've posted this it's also received the most feedback of any post I've made. So, it's clearly a topic of interest!
Comment by Michael B. Moore on October 13, 2009 at 6:06pm
One could argue that if people could simply change their mindset, that could have already happened. It hasn't, at least not to what I can see or hear. So, organizational changes may be needed to ensure that this shift takes place.

I hear you and I agree to the extent that organizational change is to reinforce a change in business philosophy or strategy.

It's just that I've been in plenty of environments that enacted organizational change - without any shift in fundamental thinking - and there were zero changes. At the same time, we've all seen plenty of organizations undergo paradigm shifts in thinking (some brought about by management changes) within the exact same structure and they experienced the kind of change that they were looking for.

In general I tend to believe that it doesn't take organizational change to learn to engage with your consumers in more honest and intimate ways and to be more nimble in how you go to market. It absolutely takes a shift in thinking though. :-)
Comment by DavidCrace on October 14, 2009 at 7:16am
Ever have an argument with your spouse and find yourself yelling "I'm not getting defensive!"

I must admit that before I even read the previews of Forresters article, I was defensive. My emotional reaction (and that of countless others I have read online) tells me more than the article.

I suspect that we all know sub-conciously that the brand management mindset, which is 50+ years old, needs to evolve signifciantly. We have been caught with our hand in the cookie jar using models developed for unilateral communciation on 1-2 media platforms and a largely homogenous consumer base.

If nothing else, the Forrester work is going to start lots of people thinking (or defending : )). Exciting mental exercise to start re-evaluating the precepts of our discipline. Found this article on BrandChannel that is a place to start. http://www.brandchannel.com/brand_speak.asp
Comment by Michael B. Moore on October 15, 2009 at 10:43am
I suspect that we all know sub-conciously that the brand management mindset, which is 50+ years old, needs to evolve signifciantly. We have been caught with our hand in the cookie jar using models developed for unilateral communciation on 1-2 media platforms and a largely homogenous consumer base.
I'm just having a hard time picturing how a change in structure is the answer as opposed to a change in "mindset" - as you say. Thinking back to my CPG days, I'm not sure how we could have been organized any differently to accomplish the things that Forrester talks about. It seems to me like its all about culture and approach to marketing. The AdAge article talks about P&G and Unilever adopting Forrester's approach. Honestly, when I think of innovation and consumer-centrism in marketing, those aren't necessarily the two names that come first to mind. Does anyone really think that calling Brand Managers Brand Advocates is really going to make a difference there?
Comment by Alexandra Hobson on October 15, 2009 at 11:06am
I suspect that we all know sub-conciously that the brand management mindset, which is 50+ years old, needs to evolve signifciantly. We have been caught with our hand in the cookie jar using models developed for unilateral communciation on 1-2 media platforms and a largely homogenous consumer base.
I I'm just having a hard time picturing how a change in structure is the answer as opposed to a change in "mindset" - as you say. Thinking back to my CPG days, I'm not sure how we could have been organized any differently to accomplish the things that Forrester talks about. It seems to me like its all about culture and approach to marketing.
I can't imagine attempting to implement any kind of fundamental changes in corporate mindset without reflecting that change, supporting that change, in corporate structure. If a company has been traveling down a certain path for eons, its going to take recalibrating the organizational structure to ensure that any changes stick. Without it, people will tend to naturally revert back to the older state of things. At the very least, changing the org chart in some way establishes the appropriate incentives and organizational guidelines to support management in leading the company on their new path.
Comment by Ted L Simon on October 15, 2009 at 12:18pm
I'm really enjoying this discussion. It's exactly the kind of conversations that need to be taking place not just in a community like The Brand Farm, but in some company HQ's.

I'm more in Alexandra's camp -- effecting changes in mindset usually requires some changes in the organization to support the intended goal. I would even extend that observation to the "marketing food chain" that exists to support operational marketing efforts (internally and externally). Outside support partners and systems will probably need to adapt as well.

RE Michael's point: "The AdAge article talks about P&G and Unilever adopting Forrester's approach. Honestly, when I think of innovation and consumer-centrism in marketing, those aren't necessarily the two names that come first to mind."

Actually, while many think of P&G as one of those inflexible behemoths, let's not forget that they are the company that innovated to establish the brand management system that so many others have since emulated (I remember when Kraft was a sales organization until they totally reorganized themselves into brand mngmt structure, and then became a well-respected "marketing university").

Have they been stodgy, mechanical and rule bound on occasion? Absolutely (I can tell you stories!). But, every organization of size goes through ups and downs. For the past 5+ years there's been so much written about A.G. Lafly and the innovation efforts at P&G you could fill several books. Perfect? No. Trying? I think so.

P&G recognized years ago that a Brand's success is based on a deep commitment, understanding and honoring of the consumer. That's part of the company's DNA. And, I'd posit that it's that very DNA that is leading them to recognize that "business as usual" is not going to keep them as close to the consumer in the evolving market environment.

Do they have all the answers? Of course not. Are they at least looking at this question and trying to figure out a better answer? I have NO doubt about that. That's just who they are. I give them props for making those efforts.

NOTE: FYI, I am not a shill for P&G. :-) I never worked at P&G, but I worked on P&G brands during my old agency days before I flipped to the client side. I My observations are based on that experience, plus my knowledge of people who have worked there and are still there. have utmost respect for the company, but I also have seen it falter more than occasionally (but not more than most...probably less). Dont want this thread to turn into a discussion about P&G, though. The issue is bigger than one company.

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