The most effective marketing strategists are those that view their agencies as an extension of their own team, writes Craig Catley, managing director, Asia Pacific, at StrategyBlocks.
My guess is that if you’re reading this, you’re a curious, committed marketer who fully understands that a well-conceived brand strategy is a powerful asset. Problem is, there’s a pernicious perception among many company executives that brand strategy is simply a marketing tool, the sole concern of the marketing department.
This disconnect often means that for many organisations, the brand strategy doesn’t align with the business strategy, no matter how hard marketers try to make this happen. This is not necessarily through any fault of the marketing department; it’s simply a mission impossible. Why? Because strategy – by definition – is a comprehensive plan that encompasses the entire company, and as such, requires buy-in and action from all departments if it is to be successful and profitable.
Strategic execution is about grabbing relevant opportunities as they arise that will support the overall business plan, while working across departments, on a continuous basis. This doesn’t mean via a wearisome monthly catch-up meeting; this means through natural, on-going dialogue to ensure all disciplines are pulling in the same direction.
The need for collaboration
Despite the hype around the need for ‘collaboration’ in order to thrive in the age of digital, it would appear very few companies are genuinely doing this effectively.
The vast majority are paralysed by rigid silos, with business units working completely autonomously and with little visibility of what colleagues in other departments are doing. Similarly, there are also often unhelpful barriers that exist between client marketers and their creative or media agencies, which prevent the regular, free-flow of strategy-enhancing information.
This effect of all of this is highly detrimental. For instance, in a survey of over 8,000 managers at 250 of the largest companies in the world, nearly one third cited “failing to coordinate across business units” as the number one reason for not successfully executing business strategy. Behind this statistic, many negative situations are going on.
For instance, this lack of transparency destroys trust between departments, which stems from miscommunication and leads to ‘dysfunctional’ behaviour. It also leads to time-wasting duplication of tasks and internal conflict. All these factors eventually impact negatively on company culture.
“Without the ability to monitor business and brand strategy against opportunities, marketers waste time, effort and precious resources”
Marketers understand better than most other disciplines the importance of culture in supporting a brand and its business strategy. It’s widely recognised in the industry that siloes are the enemy of modern day marketing, getting in the way of social media strategies or efforts at the front line to “live the brand.” For brand strategies to truly be effective, all employees need to behave in a consistent way, guided by the marketing department.
This goes for agency employees that work with brands, too. Agency partners are a key link in the chain of successful strategy implementation, but can often be the weakest link because they are overlooked when planning an organisation’s execution.
However, the most effective marketing strategists are those that view their agencies as an extension of their own team, collaborating with them in a non-hierarchical way, rather than the traditional model of ‘client’ and ‘supplier.’ They ensure the agency is crystal clear on how they fit into the process and their contribution, not just to the brand, but to the business strategy as well.
Focus on the APAC market
Today, as many organisations look to expand into Asia Pacific to achieve growth, destroying siloes and aligning brand and business goals have never been more important. APAC is such a diverse market – full of many different types of customers, channels, business cultures and possible brand strategies – making it an easy temptation to stray from the strategic focus.
But to be successful in APAC in particular, companies must be able to carry their brand out of their home region and re-align it in new markets. This means that, while thinking global, they must have a solid understanding of why they have excelled in their locally, then use that as the platform for setting brand and business strategy across new regions.
Somewhat paradoxically, this rigidly actually allows brands expanding into APAC more freedom to experiment with brand and business strategy, within the boundaries of the larger, long term company goals. It means that you can move quicker through innovation cycles (essential in the fast-paced, constantly-changing APAC market), fail faster and incorporate learnings in real time.
Without these boundaries and the ability to monitor business and brand strategy against opportunities, marketers waste time, effort and precious resources. As author and productivity consultant David Allen says, “it’s hard to be fully creative without structure and constraint. Try to paint without a canvas. Creativity and freedom are two sides of the same coin. Want freedom? Get organised.”