I recall talking to James Elias, Google’s Marketing Director, at last year’s Marketing Leaders Programme about the unprecedented pace of change we are seeing in the world and the implications for organisations. James’ view was that with the world moving so fast, if your internal pace of change is slower than the pace of change externally then you’re going to be in trouble, so you need to be focused and not get caught trying to do too many things. We believe it’s the customer experience that organisations need to be focused on above all else. Whatever the technological advances, it is this experience that builds meaningful relationships with the people behind the devices and will drive sustainable growth.

The 4S Marketers: How to design the Marketing Organisation of the Future

As the customer champion, Marketing is well placed to drive the organisation behind this shared purpose of creating motivating experiences. However Marketing cannot fulfil this role operating as a siloed function seeking to influence the broader organisation as it does in many organisations today. There needs to be a change in how we approach Marketing Organisation design, both how Marketing works in the broader organisation, as well as the roles and capabilities of the Marketing function itself. To create motivating customer experiences, you need to organise around the customer experience.

This is the central idea of a new white paper we have created with ideas and practices based on Brand Learning’s experience working with over 120 of the world’s leading organisations. Here we have included an introduction to the key ideas and hope you will contribute your own perspectives to help us in shaping the conversation.

1. Organising Marketing to work within a Customer Ecosystem not just as a Function

Organisational design must move beyond functional and even cross-functional working to a customer-centred operating model built on a shared understanding of the customer ecosystem and the desired customer experience. The priority is to establish Marketing’s way of working within a ‘Customer Experience Engine’ to strategically shape this experience and with the ‘Customer Experience Execution’ teams responsible for delivering the experience across every customer interaction point.

For example at P&G, Marketing plays the role of business leaders working in their cross-functional brand teams (Finance, R&D, Operations and Market Strategy and Planning) to create outstanding customer experiences ‘starting with the store back’. The cross-functional teams are joined up behind a clear brand purpose (e.g. Pampers ‘helping mothers care for their babies’ and toddlers’ healthy happy development’) and ways of working underpinned by a culture where the ‘consumer is boss’.

2. The Customer Experience Engine - Marketing’s way of working with Insight, Innovation and Customer Development

At the heart of this ecosystem is what we call ‘The Customer Experience Engine’ - how Marketing needs to be organised to work fluidly in a spirit of partnership with Innovation (including R&D), Customer Development (Sales), and Insight to create motivating customer experiences that drive sustainable business growth. There is no-one-size fits all approach but we believe there are key principles for success.

  • The Insight function needs to be empowered as part of Marketing, synthesising advanced data analytics and cultural anthropology into human insight to enhance the customer experience – this needs to be a continuous flow of insight that is sought and applied rather than a rigid one off process
  • Marketing needs to be organised to drive innovation (either with Marketers in key roles in an Innovation function or innovation being led from Marketing), supported by an operating model that brings together internal (e.g. technical experts from R&D) and external talent (e.g. customers) in a ‘social movement’ to innovate around the customer experience. This may require a rethink of traditional models, such as Pernod Ricard’s Breakthrough Innovation group – a ‘start-up’ style unit of 10 senior people outside the traditional organisation focused on ground breaking innovation.
  • Marketing and Customer Development must genuinely engage as equal partners, built on a shared view of the customer ecosystem and the value that must be delivered to all stakeholders (e.g. consumer, shopper, retailer, expert) in creating the end-user experience. This needs the cross-functional leadership to drive this joined up customer agenda, supported by integrated business processes and a customer-centred culture.

3. Our new 4S MarketersTM Model - ‘Scientists, Strategists, Storybuilders, and Socialisers’

What are the implications for the structure and capabilities of the Marketing function itself within this? In short, it will be the same but also different. Marketing will still comprise Category / Brand teams marrying the right blend of Developers and Activators but with the focus on the customer, where, when and how skills are applied will be different. This necessitates new capabilities for existing marketing roles and totally new roles within the function: our new 4S Marketers ModelTM.

Brand Developers - Strategists and Storybuilders

Brand Developers need to shift to playing the dual role of Strategist and Storybuilders, creating aligned category, brand and customer engagement strategies guided by the brand purpose. The focus needs to be less on management, more on shaping evolving brand stories through continuous dialogue with customers across the customer experience. For example, Pernod Ricard now describe the responsibility of their Brand Strategy teams as ‘shaping the long term experience to drive engagement, dialogue, participation and activation’.

Similarly as marketing organisations increasingly become publishing organisations, content marketing is critical to Brand Developers’ roles, supported by content creators and editing teams. Whilst there are Marketing functions out there doing content well (e.g. L’Oreal with its Makeup.com) there’s equally a lot of content that is still focused on promoting a product and not a genuine value exchange with customers. In an increasingly opt-in culture, businesses need to fully embrace this mindset shift with the ambition of organisations such as Coca Cola with their Content 2020 initiative.

Brand Activators – Socialisers

Brand Activators need to be reframed as ‘Socialisers’, socialising new experiences and content, and then evolving through continuous two-way conversations with customers. This will require Community and Conversation Managers to engage in ongoing dialogue not only externally, but internally with the Brand Developers to identify trends from customer conversations and respond with agility. Equally, traditional roles need to be rethought; for example, Retail Activation teams need to be harnessed to create customer experiences that fulfil the brand purpose rather than simply executing promotional materials. The ethos is that of Method who are relentless in delivering a customer experience behind their purpose to lead a ‘Happy Healthy Home Revolution’ and will only work with retailers who will enable them to achieve this.

Insight – Scientists, Storybuilders and Strategists

Data scientists are already recruited by leading organisations across sectors (diverse companies such as Microsoft, Starbucks and HSBC), but the new breed will need to be both Scientist and Storybuilder with the skills to not only analyse relationships from big data, but also synthesise data-driven insights into compelling stories to engage their organisation. Similarly Neuroscientist capabilities will need to be integrated into the broader Insight function as well as the specialist labs already set up by companies such as Coca Cola. Cultural anthropologists (e.g. like Genevieve Bell at Intel) who study human culture and future trends will humanise the data, which can then can be actioned to drive new propositions and better experiences by Insight Strategists.

4. Making change happen in practice

It is clear that one of the biggest frustrations from leaders we talk to is organisational structures that may look good on paper but don’t work in practice. We believe this is due to an insufficient focus on how organisation design is integrated with the other core drivers of capability (process, skills, culture and people), and so in the white paper, we also consider the importance of these wider drivers of capability in ensuring the whole organisation is working practically together to create better value through the customer experience.

We’re excited about the opportunity to create a marketing team, joined-up with the rest of the organisation, to design and deliver a growth-creating customer experience. It supports the new imperative for marketing we’ve blogged about, and it creates refreshing possibilities for the future roles of marketers. So, how will it work in practice? We’d love to hear your views and experiences. Do the 4S Marketers™ resonate with you? What are the capability challenges presented by The Customer Experience Engine? Comment below, share your thoughts with us on twitter or on LinkedIn. And join our email list to get the latest thought-pieces on how to build customer-centred capabilities that drive growth.

This post is by Rich Bryson, Group Client Director at Brand Learning