Brace yourselves for this climate of change

Everywhere we look we are being battered with messages about change. Each of the three main political parties is telling us we are “desperate for change” and is trying to convince us that it is the one best placed to manage that change.

Back in the world of marketing it is no different, change is definitely afoot. If you doubt me, read Lucy Handley’s cover story on how soon you’re going to be needing to communicate with the 100-year-old consumer. You’ll see that brands as diverse as B&Q, Tetley, Bupa, Knorr, Nintendo and Harley-Davidson have already stolen a march on you.

Indeed, anyone in denial who believes that methods and media channels may have changed but that, essentially, communicating with an audience still relies on old business structures adherering to old rules, should take a moment to examine the news of the past week. A daily look at would have told you that several global brands, including Coca-Cola, Vodafone and Asda, are restructuring their management and marketing teams. And it is wholesale restructuring, not just shuffling a few names and faces.

These brands have identified that change is now present and ongoing. My guess is that nobody knows for sure where the shifts we are seeing in consumer behaviour and communications will take us. However, based on what is currently working and what is not, there should be enough information to tell us that large global businesses cannot function in the same ways that they have in the past. The brands I mention above have all grasped that old guidelines pertaining to brand management and strategy, customer engagement, insight gathering, activating strong customer relationships simultaneously across both global and local markets and, crucially, how marketing activity should be measured, are all subject to review.

“Coke, Vodafone and Asda are restructuring their management and marketing. And it is wholesale restructuring, not just shuffling a few names and faces”

News that Coca-Cola GB marketing director Cathryn Sleight may be leaving her role (her position is currently in consultation) may be a clue as to what kind of state the restructure at Coke will leave its global marketing operations in. Other clues as to what marketing leaders and global teams need to be capable of to cope with the future are out there too. Departed Unilever CMO Simon Clift’s job, for example, was replaced with a new role within the FMCG giant that carried board-level representation and, significantly, included responsibility for PR and comms.

Forrester Research is about to launch a new CMO research study on how best to manage global marketing based on marketers’ feedback from the likes of Inbev, Kimberley-Clark and Levi-Strauss. Reports such as this and restructures elsewhere might contain all the answers for you. Or they might just give you a heads up as to what changes you should be starting to introduce for your brand.

Whatever the case, there are enough clues to be found from within the business world to state a strong case for us all to be sorting our internal structures out, leaving us capable of growth in an unpredictable future.

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