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?