The perennial question of whether to centralize or decentralize the marketing organization is again top of mind. Digitally ambitious businesses are drawn to the idea of atomizing marketing resources, and dividing them among local and divisional leaders to deliver customized, customer-driven programs. Without a central governing body, however, each suborganization is at risk of adopting a parochial view that hinders collaboration. Viewed in black and white, it can feel like an age-old dilemma: embrace efficiency and a cohesive vision but accept some bureaucracy; or prioritize dynamism and risk incoherence.
Dynamism wins for today’s marketers. Fifty-one percent of survey respondents say their organizations will achieve some version of decentralization by 2022, up from the 20% that are decentralized today. Digital transformation, increased brand relevance and alignment of marketing strategy with the business are among the top motivators of change.
Independent of structure, marketing leaders report that their organizations’ ability to deliver on the marketing strategy and increase both new customer acquisition and existing customer loyalty hinges on three key capabilities: marketing technology strategy, adoption and use; customer analytics; and customer experience and insight. Yet these same capabilities also rose to the top of the list of organizational gaps that affect customer acquisition and loyalty.
Seventy percent of marketing organizations fill resource gaps by contracting with external agencies. Yet marketers want to reduce dependence on agencies for core activities like strategy development and instead use them only to fill tactical needs. Agency spending, in fact, shows slight declines, and 63% of respondents say they have shifted some agency spend. The differences are small, however, and movement is slow.
A lack of consensus on the value of agencies could explain why. When asked to share their main reasons for using internal marketing talent, and likewise to share their main reasons for using external agencies, the top-performing answer was the same for both: to improve operational efficiency.