It still takes longer for brand owners to create new marketing campaigns than it does to develop new products or services.
Process revolutions in design, manufacturing and distribution get new products and services quickly to market. But then the supporting marketing campaign is late, poorly thought out or otherwise ineffective.
That's because traditional marketing processes, resolutely linear as they are, cannot keep up with the pace.
The track is slow and all too familiar: The marketer identifies the target audience, pinpoints and develops support for the benefit of his product and then communicates the brand promise through a range of media and tactics. The process is highly focused on the strategic end of the marketing funnel -- on the cerebral elegance of marketing thinking.
In the Internet age, marketing is shifting to the executional end of the marketing funnel.
Hit the customer with a proposition, measure what works and what doesn't, discard the waste and concentrate on what's effective. Agile marketers must cater to an explosive universe of myriad small customers: individuals, small offices, home offices -- a maelstrom of emerging companies and countries.
To grow their brands, marketers must win everywhere. That means marketing materials have to be flexible and multipurposed. Every member of the brand team must be able to share, manipulate, update and repurpose materials on the fly.
Most important, the marketing organization must be able to do this at the point of contact with the customer, as channels have become the locus of marketing. No longer a simple conduit to consumers, marketing partners have their fingers on the pulse of the marketplace and can fix marketing mistakes before they happen.
So instead of a costly and slow survey of opinions, brand owners that apply the Internet to marketing processes can get instant reactions to early-stage ideas and lose no time in getting tested ideas to market.
Salespeople, local agencies and retailers are able to take approved elements that consistently deliver the strategic message and arrange them, freely and creatively, into fresh, new communications.
Approvals are automated and meetings replaced by online ideation. All assets, ideas, templates, guidelines, best practices and resources are available to everyone on the marketing team -- anywhere at any time.
By putting the marketing process itself online, brand owners can take advantage of the kind of hyperlinking and multitasking that only the Internet can deliver. The Internet can make all kinds of templates and best practices available through a click on a browser.
Marketers can link instantly to a global resource base of advisers and suppliers. Pinpoint matches can be made between the best of these resources for the task at hand.
The partnerships can be dissolved just as quickly, so that each party can move on to the next application of their highest and best use.
The key is that such global collaboration must take place in real time, instantaneously.
AT NET SPEED
Faster is better. In fact, faster is fundamental -- at least for brands that expect to triumph in today's high-speed global marketplace. The penalty for not sharing, not collaborating and not moving at Internet speed is failure in a hypercompetitive world.
The reality of conducting the business of marketing online hasn't completely materialized yet, but it's starting to.
They are staking out their own secure places on the Internet where the entire brand marketing team can go to get information, share, collaborate and apply brand marketing assets and advanced brand marketing processes.
Had Procter & Gamble Co. adopted a similar approach, it might have tempered its well-documented loss of market position resulting from a certain slowness to launch new products.
Perhaps Ford Motor Co. and General Motors Corp. would be better able to keep pace with the accelerating pace of marketing innovation in cars.
This much is clear: Speed to market, collaboration and focus on the executional end of the marketing funnel are mandatory for global marketers. Hyperpartnering, speedy identification of what works and universal sharing of assets, standards and best practices will separate the global brands from the also-rans.
Ultimately everyone -- the global marketing team, channel partners, agencies, collaborators and resources -- must be on the same page at the same time, moving at the same speed.
Mr. Hastings is CEO of Magnifi, Cupertino, Calif., whose magnifi.net allows brand owners and agencies to exchange marketing ideas online.