CMO Insights – The Marketing Department of the Future


Last week Flock hosted the latest in our series of Chief Marketing Officer Roundtables, and we were delighted to welcome marketing leaders from multinational businesses in a range of sectors including hospitality, sports & apparel, spirits and telecommunications.

The venue was the Library Room of the newly opened Gezellig restaurant, in London’s Holborn. Gezellig is a Dutch word best translated as ‘an atmosphere, which allows good times to happen’, and so it proved to be.

Our theme was ‘The Marketing Department of the Future’ and we had a lively, thought-provoking discussion about the challenges our CMO guests face around this topic, their thinking about the ‘what to do’ and some practical actions to address the ‘how to do it’.


Are we as Marketing Leaders answering whole new questions, or answering the same questions with different means of execution?

The discussion kicked off with a challenge. Is everything about marketing nowadays new and different or is it the same questions and challenges as always, but with different means of execution? This hot-potato could easily have dominated conversation for the starter, main course and dessert, but in the interests of time there was broad agreement that a) the core principles of marketing remain constant, b) digital is no longer a stand-alone discipline but something all marketers must embrace as integral to their role and c) everything moves much faster, which means marketing departments of the future have to keep on running quicker, just to keep up.


The CMO guests were asked to share the issues about the marketing department of the future that cause their brains to ache. Naturally, how to deal with unpredictable and significant change (the D-isruption word) was high on the list, with rapid changes in consumer habits (e.g. carnage in the casual dining sector), trade wars and regulation (e.g. in the 5G networks arena) and positioning pivots (e.g. from B2B to B2C).

I want to get my marketers to think beyond their ‘3 colour approach’ – the methods and techniques they’re used to – and to think in full colour

Other CMO brainaches include:
How to be truly customer-centric? It’s easy to say but has massive implications that go into every part of the business, with marketing required to show leadership and vision.
How to integrate the efforts of sales and marketing? Integrating the teams under one leader is literally one stroke of a pen on paper but making the integration real and effective is a daunting prospect.
How to get clarity over digital and data? Everyone wants to build digital and data capabilities, but how can the terms be defined so they mean the same to all and how can those capabilities be built in a hurry.
How to build around the existing skills and capabilities of the marketing team, however mixed these talents are? Nearly everyone has a legacy marketing structure and it’s simply not realistic to reset and build a new team from scratch. Even millennial marketers can get stuck in their limited range of go-to-tactics and fail to ‘think in full colour’.


As a group we talked about the practical steps marketing leaders can take, to ensure the marketing team is ‘future fit’. Most of the steps are relevant to all in some shape or form, regardless of the industry sector, product category, scale of the marketing team or customer profiles:

“Creativity is just connecting things”

Steve Jobs
  1. Lead the orientation of the business around Customer Journeys. They won’t be neat and linear (more like leaky buckets) so find a visualisation of ‘paths to purchase’ that reflects and represents how your customers behave and connect. This will enable marketing and sales to align their activities to promote joined-up and efficient engagement with customers. Leading in this area gives marketing a renewed sense of purpose and motivates higher quality interactions with other business functions.
  2. Leverage data, always and sensibly. Use data to inform decisions at every step, from planning to execution to evaluation. Maintain a balance of art and science in your decision making so you do not become a slave to data i.e. use data to inform and not replace judgement, consider the role of all channels and not only what can be measured or attributed to. Use what you know about customers to be relevant but not creepily personal.
  3. Build Brand Love. Michael Ball told us that ‘love changes everything’ (go on, look it up) and he was right, even though it can’t be measured in the same precise way as responses to a PPC campaign. Brand love will build sustainable and tangible value that can be leveraged tactically through great channel execution.
  4. Elevate Marketing Operations to the Marketing Leadership Team. Someone has to ensure the efforts of the diverse, specialist talents within the marketing team are pulled together to deliver against a time and budget-bound marketing plan. Your Head of Marketing Operations is your go-to-person for this challenge. If you haven’t got one, you need one, now. And they need to have a seat at the marketing top-table.
  5. Carve Out a Niche for Your Regional Teams. Ever the ‘squeezed middle’, now is the time when regional teams need to have a clearly defined role, as organisations seek to reduce costs whilst maintaining local relevance for global marketing campaigns e.g. to ensure country teams consolidate their local needs into a more efficient regional set of requirements, and/or to convert global strategy into locally usable execution, and/or to create and share excellence in particular skill areas, etc. Whatever the role is, clarity and business relevance is key, or the axe will swing heavily in the regional team’s direction.
  6. Adopt Agile Methods and Behaviours. At its heart, ‘agile’ is about being super-close to the customer, using this proximity to create products and services that are ‘good enough’ to meet customer needs and if they take off, using customer feedback to rapidly make them even better. Marketing Leaders need to learn enough about agile methods to be dangerous (shouldn’t take more than ½ a day) and critically then need to adopt the mindset and behaviours that will enable their marketing team to be agile. That means empowering teams, prioritising rapid iteration and focusing less on deadlines and highly specified final deliverables.
  7. Build Skills Frameworks for all Marketers. Marketers are desperate to know what skills they need to succeed, and marketing leaders need to know they have successors with the required mix of specialist and generalist skills. Create simple and comprehensive skills frameworks, that include details of the specialist skills each role requires, as well as the cross-team core skills needed by all marketers. This will ensure common language and clear steps to career progression for all.

Create brand love through empathy


The sense around the table was that it’s most fruitful to adopt a flexible ‘test and learn’ mindset when shaping the marketing department of the future, whilst having a clear vision of the customer being at the heart of all key decisions.

That means making lots of small changes, using frameworks to define what is going to change and how, so things that work can be repeated and failures quickly halted and learnt from.

Flock has extensive experience in helping CMOs take just such an approach to building the marketing department of the future, whether it be in discrete steps or as a large programme. Do contact us if you’d like to participate in future CMO Roundtables or talk to us about how we’ve helped transform and improve the lives of marketers.