The New Marketing in an Era of Convergence
In a recent blog post on the challenging reality of driving omni-channel experiences, I emphasized the need for convergence within and across the data and technology ecosystems. However, it did not take me long to realize how myopic I was in stating that for a very simple reason – we are now living in an “era of convergence” where the need to converge goes beyond JUST data & technology. It is a necessity that exists at the most fundamental level, I call it “organizational convergence” – driving extreme levels of collaboration in the way organizations are structured and how the different departments operate. A shift from the conventional silo worlds to extremely connected and collaborative operating models that are equally focused and responsible for driving consumer experiences.
On the other hand, isolated pockets of convergence in specific compartments like data, technology, media, channels and others in itself will lead to fragmentation unless the scope of convergence becomes cross-functional. A frictionless consumer experience that allows brands to engage with consumers across many touch points consistently will only remain a myth unless we looked at convergence holistically across three key areas:
- Convergence of Organizational Models
- Convergence across Data & Technology
- Convergence in people skills & capabilities
In many ways, a consumer experience is not just an output of creative, copy, data & technology but rather a reflection of how an organization operates. A fragmented and silo structure will never yield the desired frictionless consumer experience. The convergence in the organizational structure is the driving force that influences how we run the machinery around the “CONSUMER”, and of course one that is most challenging and difficult to achieve at the same time.
So what does it mean to drive convergence within an organizational structure?
In many ways it is the “start-up” mindset that is driven by 3 core drivers:
Consumer Obsessed View — Converge towards the consumer making him/her equally important to all parts of the organization regardless of their core capability because we live in a world driven by consumer and consumer choices. Driving consumer experiences, owning consumer engagement is no longer a marketing prerogative just like driving sales and lifting the bottom line is no longer only a financial or sales function.
From Isolation to Collaboration — Secondly, these circles can or should no longer living in isolation. This is true whether it is sales & marketing or marketing & technology or marketing & finance. Either which way, the objectives, drivers and imperatives for all these org units are more overlapping than ever before.
T-Shaped to Pi-Shaped mindsets – The notion of “marketing technologists” is the perfect example to illustrate what I mean here, brands and organizations can no longer win the race with one track minded people. While specialization and going deep in an area of expertise is key but that knowledge and understanding cannot be compartmentalized in just one area. Challenging ourselves from being T-shaped to Pii-shaped.
It is ironic in a way that very few start ups hold on to this mantra as they grow & scale because while a collaborative & converging model is natural in a start up where one wears multiple hats, it is also the easiest to forget as you expand and have options to distribute responsibilities.
Bob Lord & Ray Velez have shared some great analogies in their book CONVERGE published earlier this year, the APPLE example that completely defies the conventional “matrix” model with multiple P&Ls into a revolutionary global organizational structure that is driven by a single P&L held by the CFO. It is not broken down by departments, markets or regions. Now some may go to the extent of calling everything as “Marketing” and therefore you could argue that the future Marketing Organization may include all other functions, something shared by Scott Brinker in his blog post The many marketing departments of tomorrow.
While some may argue that this is a bit of an exaggeration but there is no denying that these core organizational functions have a lot more in common than ever before and unless they learn to engage, integrate and collaborate closely, there will always be something missing from a consumer and consumer experience standpoint. As the consumer landscape matures, the need for “CONVERGENCE” will no longer be an option but a necessity to survive. For brands it will be a choice between a fast paced convergence or a gradual elimination.