This is the first of 4-part blog series Consumed with 2018 Planning? Activation Needs Equal Attention. The blog series aims to support the timely issues marketing leaders will face in activating their 2018 plans.
Since 2012 marketing leaders have shifted emphasis from cross functional planning, to content and automation, to analytics, to integration and to the customer experience. Today companies are better at planning and much of the mystery around their technology stack lessens every day. They are rallying behind customer journeys and experiences delivered, in large part, by the marketing department. And they are granting marketing a more central role in planning.
By 2018, marketing plans will aim to drive revenue with heightened requirements for highly personalized and timely customer interactions. To achieve these specific aims, the shift will continue with even more emphasis on improving activation of the marketing plan with better agility and scalability.
We define marketing activation to be an evolution of marketing execution. Execution is linear, and has a discrete beginning and end. Activation is ongoing, and has adjustments may be made along the way. We no longer "distribute" and "deploy" campaigns, we activate them by releasing and adjusting them based on results.
Marketing activation is transforming all facets of how marketing gets done. We avoid long planning cycles for a season or product launch; rather, we create tools, frameworks and platforms to guide teams that create tools and content. We no longer fill out a creative brief and pass it down the line (or receive it, depending on where you sit) and wait months to see the final piece and reporting from your in-house creative and production teams or outside agency. And, Lean and Agile concepts are becoming mainstream for all types of marketing work.
Unfortunately for many firms today, activation is an exercise is navigating corporate bureaucracy, juggling multiple disconnected teams, and succumbing to budget and talent constraints. Those accountable for the success of marketing programming will need to focus on overcoming complications presented by the soup of internal and external resources distributed around the world, gaps in talent, old processes, and ambiguous fencing with adjacent functions.
A recent CMO Council study illustrates some of the complexity, finding that only 13 percent of marketers have a single agency partner. The teams of today include multiple creative partners and contractors, according to 45 percent of respondents. Global business makes this even more complex as 28 percent of respondents are working with multiple creative teams across multiple regions, and 20 percent have turned over creative adaptation to local teams.
For a marketing manager who's just formulated her 2018 plan, and now wants to lay the groundwork to successfully activate her plan, how does she begin to think about spreading the dozens or 100s of initiatives across the many activation teams? In the US? Outside the US? How does she know which resources are best suited for different types of work? How will resources work in concert, when needed? How does she know who has capacity to complete work on time and on budget? How will her peer marketing managers confront the same challenges?
Conversely, those standing in the shoes of an activation team leader -- that is, in roles such as in-house agency manager, vendor manager, scrum manager, or marketing operations manager -- face challenges that are just as stifling:
According to the same CMO Council study, only 50% of the respondents said they had conducted a formal assessment of their creative capabilities, illustrating that many marketers have not given the activation the needed analysis.
In the past marketing managers would plan programs and campaigns in PPT decks and briefs, then the waterfall would have creative and production teams execute. In the digitally transformed landscape, the line between planning and execution is blurred, muddying the waters for how work is activated across internal and external teams.
Thus, to improve marketing activation, we should better understand that the nature of planning has changed, and develop a firm grasp of where planning leaves off and activation begins.
To meet most marketing organizations where they're at today, we can identify inflection points to help set the stage for better activation (these inflection points will be further discussed in future blogs in this series) in 2018. They include:
Heightened personalization and responsiveness expectations in a very complex operating environment is far from an ideal setting to achieve agility and scalability. But for 2018, we believe that most firms are ready to shift their focus to establishing activation norms via new operating models. In part 2 of this blog series, learn how marketing can think about the big picture of marketing's operating model to activate 2018 plans in this complex environment.