With the Right Set of Tools You Can Think Globally, Act Locally

Managing a Company's Digital Intellectual Assets

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One traditional definition of marketing is that it's the function charged with communicating a firm's brand promise and product benefits to the outside world. But as markets grow more fragmented and as businesses grow more complex, the role of marketing is undergoing an under-the-radar transformation. It's becoming the function responsible for managing the firm's intellectual assets.
GlobalWorks is one of a new genre of companies that consolidate and manage a marketer's global digital resources as a coherent, company-wide intellectual asset. | ALSO: Comment on this column in the 'Your Opinion' box below.
GlobalWorks is one of a new genre of companies that consolidate and manage a marketer's global digital resources as a coherent, company-wide intellectual asset. | ALSO: Comment on this column in the 'Your Opinion' box below.

The Dashboard business
For evidence, look to a small New York company named Globalworks. It calls itself an advertising agency. But it's really in the dashboard business.

In the hands of Globalworks and other advanced marketing-services companies (Visible World is another), the dashboard is a mechanism for marketing management. As most communications content becomes digital in form, it will be managed through networked systems that mimic the functionality of an airplane's instrument panel. At a glance, you will be able to locate relevant pieces of content, string them together, test their effectiveness in different situations, watch their progress through a production flow, send them down appropriate channels and measure their impact. Especially in global companies, "dashboarding" promises to settle much of the chaos that characterizes marketing management.

Crossing nations and cultures
Indeed, it was the recognition of that tension in global firms' marketing departments that sent Globalworks on its journey from mere ad agency to digital-asset manager. Its founder, a Russian emigre named Yuri Radzievsky, had a language-management and translation company that was bought by Ogilvy in the early 1980s, when the giant agency was trying to help clients "orchestrate" ad campaigns that could take brands across nations and cultures. Mr. Radzievsky's agency was later acquired by Robert Maxwell, and then the Leap Partnership, all chasing the grail of globalization.

"What I realized through all this," Mr. Radzievsky said recently, "was that strategy, content and distribution are the integrated model, and it can happen only if you have the knowledge of the content globally."

His epiphany came when he read a paper on global technology management by Mans Angantyr, a young Swedish web designer who had done work for MCI, among others. "I realized," Mr. Radzievsky recalled, "that the other half of global brand management is global technology management." Together, they launched Globalworks in 2000.

Central database
While the agency does full-service advertising for major clients, it specializes in creating tools that allow clients to "dial up or dial down," as they put it, what they need in any country -- or any situation, for that matter. They have built hosted systems that allow managers across offices and countries to tap into a central database of marketing assets -- from radio ads to trade-show designs. It reduces costs by promoting adaptation, instead of re-creation, of executions and campaigns.

But the uses extend well beyond marketing, especially if you think of marketing materials not as a thing unto themselves but as a category of intellectual assets that define the enterprise. Thus, for one giant professional-services firm, for example, Globalworks is consolidating knowledge-management systems globally. "They want to distribute their marketing decisionmaking," Mr. Angantyr says. "So how do they do that without losing information that helps them improve?"

Centralization of knowledge
In this way, increasingly, companies will link what they do with what they share and what they say. "The terms 'centralization' and 'decentralization' carry baggage because they imply freedom vs. control," Mr. Radzievsky said. "We're enabling the centralization of knowledge, with the freedom to use it."

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Randall Rothenberg, an author and longtime journalist, is director of intellectual capital at Booz Allen Hamilton.
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