Is It Time For The Chief Brand Integration Officer?

10 12 2009

Once upon a time, marketing was easy.  In fact, Ed or Jimmy or Bubba from sales could handle it.

You didn’t need an MBA: the booming postwar economy made even lousy strategy look like a stroke of genius.

You didn’t even have to understand advertising. You had an ad agency to handle all that Hollywood  junk.  All you had to do was make some phone calls, steer clear of company politics, and have the occasional 12-martini lunch with your pals on Mad Ave.

Fast forward to 2010, and it’s a mess. Your traditional agency still does gorgeous TV, and some of their young guns really do “get” digital. But, maybe their digital offering isn’t as good as agencies that were born digital.

So, how do you manage this?

You can do what most marketers do and work with a crazy-quilt of agencies. You’ll have a traditional agency for TV. Another that does paid search, one that does social media, one that does mobile, one that does PR, digital ad infinitum.  You’ll get best-of-breed thinking, but you’ll spend a lot of time playing coordinator and referee. Oh, and trying to coordinate all the data from these disparate efforts will be a ginormous pain in the shorts.

Or you can go with a “we-do-it-all” interactive agency. They may not be as deep in search as a pure-play search agency, or maybe they’ll be stronger in analytics than in creative.

But at least all your stuff isn’t in silos.

Except… it still is.  If you’re like most marketers, what about the impact of the other 80% or more of your spend that remains in traditional? How does all that integrate with your digital efforts?

The Integration Problem

I’ve worked in traditional, digital and now I’m on the client side. Having seen a 360 degree view of this, I’m more convinced than ever that marketers must take the lead across all these different specialties and integrate them to drive results.

It would be great if you could have your lead agency do this, but you really can’t. No matter how great an agency is, I think it’s impossible to be entirely objective.

Every agency is passionate about their specialty. If they’re not, they can’t be good at it. And as a practical matter, every agency is in business to sell more of what they do. They need to upsell as much as you do.

So the job of integration, of synergizing disparate efforts so that 1+1 adds up to 11, has to be done on the client side. Easy, right? Well… maybe not.

The Overloaded Brand Manager

The job of integration usually gets placed on the shoulders of a brand manager who is already tasked with managing far too much.  Trying to wrap your head around traditional, digital, manufacturing, innovation, social media, competitive threats, private label, and the ugliest roughest retail environment in history all at once ain’t easy.

And, marketing organizations typically lack people who have enough experience across these silos to see the opportunities that exist — and especially not those that can be created.

Is It Time For The Chief Brand Integration Officer?

Marketing organizations now need a senior manager with deep experience in both traditional and digital who is tasked with integrating them.

A strong Tradigital exec who can look at great ideas from different agencies and find the ones that work not just as one-offs, but multiply the power of the overall effort.

Today, 10 years after the dot-com bust, a small number of these people exist. They’re the oldtimers who left successful traditional advertising and marketing gigs to dive headfirst into digital.

What do you think? Does a new position like this make sense? Who ought to do this job, and why? How would this work within a traditional brand management structure?

Comments, please…




6 responses

10 12 2009
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10 12 2009
Rick Liebling

Good stuff Dave. I recently wrote that Choreographer would be a great marketing job title for 2010. In fact, I think you can make an argument for a rethink of the C-Suite. Grant McCracken makes a provocative argument for the Chief Culture Officer. The times, they are a changin.

10 12 2009
Alan Wolk

Agreed Tom – I had called the position a Marketing General Contractor in a post I did back in August which you had contributed some excellent thinking to:

Your post today definitely pushes the proposition a little further and adds some great points.

Hopefully, someone out there is listening 😉

10 12 2009

Thanks Alan. I just went back and re-read your Marketing General Contractor post, and we’re definitely thinking along the same lines. IMHO, marketing organizations have not yet recognized the need to fundamentally re-think how they’re structured. We’re still treating digital as if it’s a set of experiments and not the new way marketing is done every day. I serve as the de facto “Chief Brand Integration Officer” or “Marketing General Contractor” on my brands because my company is small enough — from a creative POV integration can happen at my desk. I imagine something similar is happening at other companies and eventually the org chart will catch up with reality.

10 12 2009

Sounds obvious. In fact, this is a cliché. (To say otherwise would make one an integrated marketing “denier.”) Why does this so rarely happen then, given that everybody knows about the vested interests of creative agencies and their inability to give holistic, objective advice? Reasons: 1) CEOs are not believers and only they could make the hire, 2) the marketing professionals inside companies have their own turfs and relationships/benefits to protect and will sabotage this kind of effort, 3) it’s so easy for sophisticated advocates to argue that their stuff is actually “in harmony” with all other stuff — this is a subjective exercise, and 4) the benefits of complete “integration” (a mythical state) are questionable, given the costs involved (not just in terms of dollars, but in terms of internal conflict and misplaced focus). The exercise becomes more about efficiency than effectiveness.

11 12 2009

Mike, these are excellent comments. The cultural obstacles inside marketing departments are quite real. And it’s no wonder that “CEOs are not believers”. Marketing departments once delivered golden eggs quite reliably. They now deliver more and more goose eggs. Today’s CMO has a mayfly-like tenure.

Some of marketing’s challenges are environmental. There is unprecedented consolidation of power at retail. And, digital has hopelessly atomized what was once an affordably reached mass audience. These have enormous impacts on businesses that are built around an expectation of mass scale. But management can have only a limited impact on environmental factors.

By contrast, rethinking the marketing function itself — however painful — is firmly within a company’s control.

Maybe adding a “Chief Brand Integration Officer” is a step toward something better. Maybe not. But we can be certain that firing last year’s ballyhooed “rock star CMO” and bringing in the next one isn’t doing the trick.

Mike, if you feel this is too likely to fail can you offer a suggestion that you think may have better odds?

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