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The Global Might for the Local Fight

The one thing that all global marketing and brand functions seem to have in common around the world and across industries is that their leaders are asking themselves how they can become more effective in supporting the business. And if they are not asking that themselves, their bosses and/or the business leaders will—often citing their own past experiences with companies like P&G, Coca-Cola, Johnson & Johnson, etc.

In reality, there is no one-size-fits-all role for a central marketing team that works for all companies and businesses. For that reason, making any one company’s marketing function the standard for all other companies is misguided.

The ideal way of working for any company’s central marketing team is completely dependent on the industry and category in which the company is operating. Its function and tactics are also influenced by factors such as global competitiveness, commoditization threats, requirements necessary to leverage scale, as well as the culture of the company itself. With all these variables in play and the need for diverse and specific strategies to meet different challenges, each company must discover the best role for central marketing within their unique organization.

To actualize your marketing team’s true potential—start with finding your archetype. An archetype is a basic universal pattern of behaviors or qualities that, once discovered, can help you better understand yourself and others. In our work with global brand leaders, we typically distinguish between a number of archetypes to help identify what type of pattern a marketing team is already naturally following to some extent. This isn’t meant to pigeonhole a team, but to provide a starting point for a discussion around designing the best role the central marketing team can play within a company.

In our experience, there are four archetypes that seem to characterize most central marketing teams, differing primarily in the extent to which each of these roles leverages scale in two main dimensions. Generally, most teams are:

·      Building branding and marketing capabilities centrally or throughout the company, and/or

·      Working on central or supporting de-central development of the marketing mix

Though few, if any, marketing teams align with any one archetype perfectly, many share the characteristics of one or more of the following archetypes:

The ambassador

The ambassador might best be exemplified by the brand leader at a global bank. Typically, this role is concerned mostly with developing and guarding the company’s brand positioning and supporting the different business divisions in its deployment of the brand (assets), as well as global brand sponsorship programs. Under this kind of leadership, the marketing team often partners with HR on matters regarding internal brand engagement across the company, and will often work closely with the corporate communications function as well. The ambassador’s mandate is typically not to build capability in the divisions, nor is it to necessarily develop a global campaign that is used throughout the regions. The needs of the businesses are deemed too different for that to be useful.

The builder

Then, there is the builder, who, on top of the role of the ambassador, is tasked with building the right marketing capabilities throughout the company’s businesses around the globe. To provide an example of someone who personifies this archetype, the global CMO of one of the world’s leading beer brewers comes to mind. He once described his role in building these capabilities to me as “the guy who is responsible for the global might for the local fight.” It’s his role to look after the (relatively small in volume) portfolio of global beer brands, and, in addition, he has to make sure that all local marketers have the right skills to win in their local markets with a balanced portfolio of primarily local and some global brands. This approach makes sense, since beer is one of the most “local” markets around, and scale is leveraged through capabilities that can be deployed locally.

The pilot

And then, there is the pilot, who is centralizing all crucial marketing skills in global centers of excellence and who is not too concerned about building marketing capabilities “on the ground” in markets around the world. For the pilot, the task of the markets is to deploy the global marketing mix and sell the most units of, for example, cellphones. You could say, the pilot has a bird’s eye view, and has the global vision ever in sight.

The leader

Finally, we have the leader, who perceives—and must navigate—a marketplace that is hypercompetitive at both global and local levels. Imagine the global CMO of a CPG company who needs to leverage scale in the marketing mix to its fullest to be competitive, but who, at the same time, needs the best possible marketing skills in the local markets to fight local competitors. The leader often drives the P&L (profit and loss) of the brand and is the one archetype for which the formal authority in the company often matches the big responsibility that comes with his or her role.

Making archetypes work for your team

In reality, it is rare that a global brand or marketing leadership role aligns with just one of these archetypes or fits any of them exactly. There is almost always a blend of these descriptions that applies. Still, the exploration of archetypes can be very helpful when attempting to determine the best possible role for central marketing, especially for companies that are in the midst of change. For example, if a company, after reflection and analysis, finds it would probably be more beneficial to move toward a stronger role of the enterprise brand versus the product brands, the role of the central branding team would have to change to help enable that shift. For example, an ambassador type of role may need to morph into a builder type of role.

Once a company can see its central marketing team through the prism of archetypes, strategy for the function often becomes easier to develop. And choices come from a place of confidence and authenticity rather than uncertainty—or the impulse to imitate what seems to be working for someone else. Archetypes are just another tool, but one that can help your marketing team chart its own unique path to effectiveness.


Chief Strategy Officer, North America
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