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Opportunity in Adversity

To borrow from the song: ‘If you tolerate this then your children will be next’ – why brands and corporate mindsets must look beyond their short term horizons and embrace change.

Disruption in customer behavior and engagement models bring the most significant challenge – and yet within that the most significant opportunity – for the modern marketer in a generation. And the corporate bottom line? Unilever’s suppliers are claiming 30% savings on agency and global content operating costs, P&G are quoting savings in the same areas approaching $1bn. What other part of the P&G business could deliver that right off the bat within 12 months? Any ambitious and stock-scheme incentivized CEO would take that, right?

The modern marketer faces many challenges, something we have written about in a previous blog. There’s also the issue of mindset, and how this now has to think big, and think different in terms of the approach to content and agency operating models. From the CEO downwards, spanning all functions. The opportunity is simply too big to ignore, and the risk of shareholder revolt an ever-present threat.

Embracing change requires a new mindset. Thinking beyond mindsets that may include: short termism, resistance to change, lack of personal financial motivation, apathy for the volume of work needed to embrace change, fear of the unknown, an accepted lack of power and control over local markets, cross functional accountabilities and guarded departmental or local subsidiary fiefdoms with their isolated P&Ls. Or just not knowing which leg of the proverbial elephant to begin with.

Every client we speak to knows that action is needed, accept they need personalization at scale, and are convinced they need to overhaul their global content and agency operating models (WFA and The Observatory research indicate 71% of brands know they need to change and are entering an agency review) but are faced with the question ‘where do I start?’

Let’s be clear – the longer brands wait to change, the worse the situation will become. Much is said (by those with a vested interest in maintaining the status quo while they re-invent themselves) along the lines of ‘there’s too much content out there already’ and too much noise. That is simply not true. It is true that there is a lot of rubbish content out there. But new models of customer engagement are content hungry. Brands need more, better, increasingly-personalized content, to publish across more touchpoints, faster, with less budget. Brands are already struggling to afford running their content and agency operating systems as they are. Something has to give. The EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is a great enabler for change, as is the increasing shift to SaaS cloud-based technology, but there’s still work involved in adapting. Not doing anything is not a career-sustaining or viable option.

It doesn’t matter what your agency operating model is, or evolves into. Identifying and building the right size, right fit, content operating structures for your organization is a good place to begin. Start by looking at the ‘total cost of ownership’ across your content supply chain – your global content model or models. Apply supply chain methodology, across all your end to end content creation, adaptation and publishing channels. Think of watching a car with tens of thousands of parts purring off the production line with just-in-time parts delivered to the manufacturing line. It’s incredible to see and beautifully choreographed. How good would it be to have a content system that operates in such a seamless way? The wonderful thing is that it does not mean fundamentally changing a thing, or doing anything that your business does not already do. It means joining up the dots, unifying things that are already done with process and technology across departmental silos and geographies.

Departmentalization can be a barrier to achieving this, but a fragmented content supply chain is worth fixing because the fissures across the product (or service) lifecycle, between design, engineering, manufacturing, product marketing, customer marketing, direct and indirect retail channel partner support, after sales, service, loyalty and CRM results in overly complex, expensive and error-prone operating models – which the Unilevers and P&Gs of this world are already harnessing for competitive advantage.

Signs of encouragement

Having said this, there are encouraging examples of corporations that successfully changed their mindset. For instance, Jaguar Land Rover has in the last month publicly conducted a major restructure, globally aligning product marketing, sales, customer service and planning, and PR into one commercial function, called Customer Experience, under the leadership of one board member. This provides a better chance of delivering seamless output from the advertising through to the after sales experience. And Unilever, under Keith Weed, its inspirational Chief Marketing and Communications Officer, has consolidated its global and local marketing units into one team to provide “marketing in a connected world."

Short-termism certainly becomes an issue when the average tenure of the CMO is less than four years and we’re talking about a three to five-year journey. It’s also difficult to argue for investment based on achieving ROI further down the line when boards and shareholders demand immediate returns.

The first things marketers tend to go after when they are new to a role are creative agency fee savings. But this just places the client and their brand in a downward cycle of poorer work, delivered by cheaper agency teams. Instead, you can maintain your access to the best talent and the best creative but focus on redefining the underlying processes.

The first step to optimizing your content supply chain is get your hands around the physical content itself, provide a simple governance framework around how and by whom that content is ingested, managed and published, and join up the dots of the various content operating models that proliferate across your organization. It doesn’t matter then which agency model you decide on, whether consolidated, inter-agency or in-house, because you’re in control.

This is the first step on the path to an intelligent connected content supply chain, optimized customer engagement, efficiency and effectiveness. It might take time to perfect your content operating model but there are some easy steps to get started. Map what you’re doing and identify areas where mistakes are being made. This process is not hard, and will not take long.  Perhaps four to six weeks only to map, and another two weeks to identify the desired fixes. As a process this will repay itself 20 times over in the first year. And it’s a journey worth starting today because you’ll deliver better quality content, involving fewer people, taking less time, for less money. Or have a robust point of view and defensive position in the back pocket for your CEO and the activist shareholders when they come knocking.