What do chief executives increasingly require from marketers? The impossible. Sitting atop corporations crisscrossed with bureaucratic processes, checks and boundaries, they demand that marketing be more ‘agile’. Preaching from the pulpits of their cathedrals of caution they call on us to become ‘entrepreneurial’.
A recent McKinsey report on how marketing should move with more pace quotes the boss of an Asia-Pacific consumer goods company, who urges his marketers to make their launch programmes “bigger, better and faster”. There is no advice, or none that McKinsey relays, on how the tensions between these three mutually antagonistic objectives should be reconciled.
Of the three, the last is the trickiest. Scale and quality can be achieved with the right resources. You can throw money at those objectives and have a fighting chance of pulling off both. And that, in turn, lobs the problem back at the big chief: ‘Hey, how do you expect us to blow everyone away if you don’t release budget?’
But speed is another matter. You can’t buy ‘fast’. You have to be it. You have work hard to understand what to strip out, what to whittle down to its leanest functioning form and what it is that makes our discipline so slow in the first place.
And it is slow, isn’t it? Don’t we have to admit that? Nine months for a new global positioning. Upwards of a year for a new ad campaign. Two years and counting for a launch that everyone thought would take six months. And the hesitancy, in organisation after organisation, over when and how to implement digital business strategies.