How to Create an Adaptive Global Marketing Organization

First Thing: Identify the Context That Shapes Your Strategy

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Steve Noble
Steve Noble
CMOs are entering a new period of organizational change as they restructure to minimize costs, maximize flexibility and place digital and social media at the heart of their global strategies. In fact, 75% of chief marketers are either restructuring their marketing organizations now or will do so by the end of 2011, according to a new Forrester Research survey.

But as you consider a potential reorganization, it's important to first identify the context that shapes your global marketing. Why? Well, consider a recent, spectacular marketing failure from Kraft in Australia.

For decades, Kraft, a global company, has owned Vegemite, a brand that Australians value so highly that we view it as part of our national identity. Around the country, parents -- myself included -- begin feeding the salty, mineral-rich spread to our children as soon as they learn to eat solids. Deep down, we believe it will almost magically help us to raise "Happy Little Vegemites," to quote a jingle that most Australians can sing by heart.

When Kraft launched a brand extension in 2009 -- Vegemite blended with cream cheese -- it invited the people of Australia, already devout fans, to name the new product. From 48,000 entries, Kraft chose "iSnack 2.0" as the new name and launched it during the Australian-rules football grand final, which is the most-watched event on Australian television.

Instantly, the nation started competing to see who could mock Kraft most creatively. #vegefail became a trending topic on Twitter. In four days, Kraft dumped "iSnack 2.0" and went back to the drawing board. Eventually, Kraft let the public select its own name for the product, "Cheesybite," via a public vote.

Crowdsourcing failures are not unusual, but this story is, and here's why: While Kraft was unleashing this disaster upon Australia, it was winning hearts and minds in Greece with an exceptional crowdsourced marketing campaign for its chocolate brand Lacta. Kraft in Greece crowdsourced the creation of a 27-minute film on the topic of love in which members of the public acted as story sources, casting agents and extras. The result: sales growth in a challenging category and an object lesson in how to use crowdsourcing well.

Forrester has just published a report that shows how CMOs can rise to the challenges of global marketing, including the need to ensure all programs in every market live up to a shared standard of excellence. The report identifies three contexts that shape global marketing. The first, "when most marketing is local," is when global firms like Kraft manage local brands like Vegemite and Lacta. The second, "when global brands service global buyers," is when global companies like Levi Strauss and Co. sell the same product with the same positioning worldwide. The third, "when global and local pressures collide," is when global firms juggle competing pressures, such as when McDonald's localizes its menu for India.

In the first context, global CMOs must provide assets that help their local marketing teams around the world to make better decisions more quickly. Part of this is arming them with world-class customer analytics. Another is treating them as a knowledge base that the rest of the marketing organization can mine in search of best practices that will lift the entire company to the same level of excellence.

This is why Anheuser-Busch InBev is asking its marketers around the world how they evaluate sponsorships. Many of these marketers are responsible for brands that Anheuser-Busch InBev sells only in one market, but the company will turn their varied best practices into a shared global approach. As a pioneer in crowdsourcing through its Innovate With Kraft program, Kraft had the opportunity to take a similar approach.

With the second context, the CMO's goal is to shepherd the marketing organization as a global team toward a future in which it makes decisions based on data about customers, rather than relying on habits that evolved within specific marketing channels ("this is how we do PR"), geographies ("this is how we do it in China") or other silos of marketing practice. The CMO will face many obstacles to change, including legacy software that's no longer appropriate and stakeholders who stand to lose their little fiefdoms. However, fast-moving companies with truly global products and brands are starting down this path. They are mapping out multi-year journeys that will break down old silos and replace them with new operating principles designed to help them move more quickly in response to customer insights.

With the third context, the CMO is buffeted by winds from every direction and must show decisive leadership, explaining clearly when a global approach is most efficient and when a local approach is most adaptive. She must elevate data and create a clear brand architecture.

Marketing is incredibly hard to organize, not least because of the current rate of global change. However, with foresight and direction, marketing leaders can create structures that help them to win worldwide.

Steve Noble is a senior analyst at Forrester Research and author of the new Forrester report, "Create an Adaptive Global Organization."
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