We have a paradox in front of us these days.
One group of people is decrying the problems of the marketing department, and talking about what the future marketing department will look like.
The other group is saying how important customers are, and how the knowledge traditionally held in the marketing department is now critically important to business sucess.
Both of these things are true.
Some of this came into focus for me recently while reading John Bradley's column in Strategy Magazine, "Balls, bollocks & cocks on the block". Bradley compares the performance of Shopper's Drug Mart (a large retail chain here in the great white north) with Kraft, and finds Kraft wanting. Specifically, he sees Kraft attempting to build direct customer relationships via recipe delivery thingy "What's Cooking", and finds it problematic that they never bothered to close the feedback loop. They didn't fine tune their recipe delivery based on his selections, and they didn't follow up when he unsubscribed. He attributes this to underfunding of a good idea.
On the other hand, he sees Shoppers Drug Mart as disciplined and integrated, having avoided the fight for resources that plagues organizations with multiple brands. Here's the stuff I circled and tore out:
"In my experience, probably the biggest impediment to radical change in a business is the brand management structure. No surprise really. After all, it was invented for the express purpose of generating a Darwinian battle for resources; not for realigning organizations. And once a brand management structure is in place, the danger is that the rest of the organization thinks that marketing is something the marketing department does rather than something the business does, which makes single-mindedness even harder to achieve.
"The bottom line is that marketing-driven companies have the ability to push through and implement radical change; marketing department-driven companies don't. The clock is ticking as much on the traditional brand management model as it is on the big ad agency model."
All businesses have a larger service component than they did in the past, even manufacturers like Kraft. And services require integrated thinking because they involve delivery on an ongoing basis. Services are intensely operational.
When brand management was introduced to a lot of service companies, they brought this legacy of siloed thinking with them into the marketing department. We seem to finally be through that phase of evolution.
If you are in an industry where customer experience is a key differentiator, strategic marketing is going to be the job of every senior person: thinking about what customers to serve, and what the value proposition is.
Tactical and functional marketing is what will be left in marketing: media buying, creative production, research co-ordination. But they are not going to be running the place.
Another perspective on this issue is here at Church of the Customer