Marketing, as a function, has evolved tremendously over the last decade.  And in very good ways.  At the core of this change is that marketing is moving from being an art to solidly a science. And most importantly, marketing continues to gain a seat at the big table in a strategic sense.This means that the stakes have never been higher for marketing departments to perform.

But, many marketing departments are still structured in a way that worked fine in 1997.  Not 2017.  There’s a head of marketing, functional product marketers, internal communications, digital specialists, market researchers, and likely inbound/campaign specialists. And of course there might be some PR people thrown into the mix.

So what’s wrong this structure?  Nothing inherently in terms of what the people do, what’s problematic is that it is often, by its very nature, a collection of small little silos inside a bigger collective silo. 

For 2017 and beyond, I would encourage every CMO or VP Marketing to step back and do a complete evaluation of how their group is structured, what they are measured on, and most importantly, rethink how and what marketing strategy is.

Below are a few questions for thinking about marketing differently. 


  1. Who owns brand strategy?
  2. How does brand strategy differ from marketing strategy in your organization?
  3. Does your team fully understand how your brand(s) is differentiated in a meaningful way? If not, your own structure might be getting in the way of facilitating that understanding.


  1. Who owns customer insights?
  2. Is that from the marketing research folks? If so, here’s a big change that needs to happen in the short term. Modern marketing can’t function without a deep understanding of the customers and market.  Traditional market research captures a moment in time, typically from a historical perspective, which is interesting, but not terribly helpful.  Insights must be captured, analyzed and acted upon every minute of every day. 
  3. Is your department set up to do that?


  1. Does your organization think of digital as a “thing.”?
  2. Is digital something that a person or a few people own (or even worse, do you have a “digital department”)?

Here’s something to think about: digital is marketing and marketing is digital. Digital is a way to make things happen—better, smarter and more efficiently.  It’s not a department.


Marketing didn’t get to the big table because people like creative. It got there because of strategy and measurement. 

  1. Do you have the right people on your staff to think of marketing scientifically?
  2. Are you using the traditional marketing KPIs (like market share, etc.) or are you using more meaningful measures?

Challenge what you measure to only the things that really matter in growing the business.  If you can’t red-line it back to revenue, it’s not a KPI.


  1. Does your marketing department structure look like an HR org chart? If so, it’s time to get out a clean sheet of paper.  Don’t get me wrong, org charts serve a purpose.  But they are terribly inefficient for doing what marketing has to do every day. 
  2. If you could recreate your marketing department structure, what would it look like?
  3. How would you remove the lines between the functions? What if instead of “lines,” you had “circles”?
  4. And even more interesting, what if these circles were Centers of Excellence that can fluidly morph in and out as needed for any marketing activity?

I’ve recently helped several organizations re-think their marketing structures, and I will say that it’s not easy.  There’s baggage.  There’s old-school thinking. There’s resistance to change. And of course, it almost always points out the gaps of expertize within the organization. 

But what I will say is that if you have not done this exercise, start it now.  You don’t need to turn your entire department upside down, but it can be done in a reasonable, phased approach. 

One final consideration: when you take out that clean piece of paper and reimagine what your department could look like, make sure the customer appears on there somewhere, ideally in the center. Leave vacuums to Dyson.


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