The decades of growth up till a couple of years ago, and the recognition of the key nature of a robust marketing input to corporate success has left many organisations, particularly brand heavy consumer organisations with a marketing overhead problem as times change.

They have a structure that is often 5 layers from the CMO to the assistant brand manager, organised along brand lines, and recently supplemented with category analysts, social media experts, and other service roles. All this at a time when consumer brands are under huge threat from retailer owned brands, global marketing, fragile demand, the erosion of the ability to differentiate by the ubiquity of information, and agile low cost competitors.

Just getting rid of every third head makes little sense, all you do is lose corporate memory, so you need to reorganise to deliver productivity from the investment in marketing overhead, although inevitably there will be personnel losses. Three questions to consider:

  1. Is marketing activity aligned to corporate priorities?. Many times I have seen lower levels in marketing departments beavering away at projects that bear little resemblance to the strategic priorities held in the corner office.
  2. Are project portfolios run alongside brand initiatives to ensure that the silos that evolve when brand groups are relatively autonomous are removed?.
  3. Have you made the hard choices about what projects will proceed, and which will be relegated to the car-park?. This is sometimes very hard, but is a crucial circuit breaker for innovation, with the caveat that those projects left are appropriately resourced.

This is not easy stuff, and most fail the test, which results in sub-optimal resource allocation decisions.