My post last week drew some crossfire between my friends in the C Suite and their senior marketing managers. I raised the question about whether the bean counters were stifling marketing creativity and it looks like I may have ruffled some feathers! No problem with that – a debate is always good. However, I thought I’d take the opportunity this week to compare a Centralized vs. a Decentralized marketing set-up. I believe that both have their merits and an organization that finds middle ground will be the most successful overall – with lead generation, marketing programs and promotions, branding and sales.
The big difference between the two types of organizations, which I talked about last week as well, is the decision making process. While the top rung of management decides on marketing programs and budget in a centralized set-up, this is a shared decision with middle management playing an active role in a decentralized set-up. Yes, I do agree that when marketing is centralized, a strong and consistent brand message is transmitted through tried and tested marketing programs. There are manuals, organized processes and best practices that offer a foundation of excellence. However, the trend we are seeing is that a lot of time is lost administering rather than marketing. The process that is meant to guide gets in the way instead of allowing flexibility to react quickly and efficiently to specific regional market demands.
Now, in a decentralized set-up, marketers have the autonomy to be creative and adapt quickly to changing market needs. The risk of amorphous brand messaging is real, but not one that cannot be avoided with awareness and a sound strategy. In fact, as front-line managers are closer to customers, they have the advantage of knowing how to personalize while keeping key messages the same. Complex marketing processes can be simplified while maintaining the essence of standard best practices. By ensuring there is no duplication of effort between the CMO’s office and regional centers, economies of scale can become a reality.
At this year’s SiriusDecisions Summit, they spoke about “The Dawn of the Demand Center – a center-of-excellence model with advisory, execution and technical resources.” I see this as touting, once again, a centralized marketing set-up as the way forward. The possible outcome? Again, too much power sitting in the boardroom and too little in the hands of those who roll up their sleeves, stick their hands in the dirt and dig up the gold (leads).
In my opinion, an organization can strike a balance between a centralized and a decentralized marketing set up. Moreover, because both have clear advantages and disadvantages, it is imperative to find this middle ground.
I’d like to run a quick poll. Here’s the question: