CMOs – Disintegrate Your Marketing Silos!

Digital Marketing silos

This guest column is by Airtel’s Former Head-Digital Marketing & Google’s Programmatic Evangelist, Rahul Ramchandani

A beautiful HBR article on silos published in August 2011 begins like this:

When we ask executives, What is the number one innovation killer at your company?, one of the first words we always hear, always, is “silos!” Recently, one executive even muttered, “fortresses.”

Unlike most of the management terms that come and go, the discussion on silos has never tapered. The reason can also be explained by what Niccolo Machiavelli said more than 500 years ago which remains true even today, quoted by the same HBR article, and reproduced below:

It must be considered that there is nothing more difficult to carry out, nor more doubtful of success nor dangerous to handle, than to initiate a new order of things. For the reformer has enemies in all those who profit by the old order, and only lukewarm defenders in all those who would profit by the new order, this lukewarm-ness arising partly from fear of their adversaries, who have the laws in their favor, and partly from the incredulity of mankind, who does not truly believe in anything new until they have had experience of it.

In spite of best efforts in designing org structures, and especially as companies grow, it is almost inevitable for silos to emerge. Silos can be destructive, cause unnecessary politics and lead to suboptimal success for the overall organization because of siloed targets, and therefore must be broken down. It’s more difficult to break down silos by changing org structures or roles and responsibilities, which inadvertently always has an impact on the morale of the employees and the culture. Fortunately, technology can play a big role in this – with platforms and systems being the bedrock that break through the barriers that exist as a layer on top by being the foundation of data, measurement and logic on which cross-functional decisions can be predicated upon.

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I’m talking about a unified view that shows the path to achieve organizational level goals, with the role that each team plays at every level. Needless to say, every team should be able to relate to their role and hence the segregation needs to be such. But broadly, wouldn’t it be great if Finance could have a real time view of the spends by Marketing to generate measurable impact that is leveraged by Sales to produce ROI.

Since I’m most familiar with Digital Marketing, I can talk about the various silos that exist in most large companies, and how they can be easily broken down.

Digital Marketing setup for a large advertiser in India.

Marketing silos in most big companies

What you see above is a typical Digital Marketing setup for a large advertiser in India. Not surprisingly, Brand & Performance Media are the two largest silos, creating artificial obstacles to natural synergies. As user journeys become increasingly cross device, branding kind of questions like unique reach and frequency will become relevant in performance campaigns, and typical performance metrics like final conversions and LTV will become relevant for branding campaigns – the lines are already blurred, and money will have to be spent in the most efficient manner.

Digital branding has to go hand in hand with Performance as the goodness of online branding is often lost in a CPX engagement (cost per action X where X could be a successful purchase, transaction, lead, download, etc.) which relies mostly on a last click attribution. Offline is often another silo, not measured along with Digital, in spite of the fact that it is now possible to measure TV scientifically (I’m not even talking about the panels that cannot pretend to adequately represent a good sample for a population that is as large as ours), as well as look at surrogate ways of measuring print and OOO.

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Both Branding and Performance teams can benefit enormously by breaking the silos between them. There is a huge silo which is conspicuous by absence in the image above – can you spot it? Else, compare the image above with the one below.

Creative in a silo is most pronounced, even by design.

Creative in a silo is most pronounced, even by design.

Creative in a silo is most pronounced, even by design. Most advertisers are so used to working in silos between creative and media, that it has almost become a way of life, with agencies often having either creative or media capabilities only. Just that, the success of a campaign can be 70% about the creative, and not the media placement. In our experience of running campaigns, we’ve witnessed CTRs improve by as much as 50 times by just changing the creative!

In 2014, HBR came out with fresh thinking on tackling the silos in Marketing specifically, advocating the role of a Chief Marketing Technologist.

tackling the silos in Marketing

The Rise of The Chief Marketing Technologist – HBR, July-Aug’14

While this article mentions 81% of international organizations having a CMT equivalent role in 2014, we still haven’t heard of any advertiser in India in 2016 (including the supposedly out of box thinkers in our overtly funded startups) having any such senior designation. This goes back to my initial theory, that it is very difficult to break down silos by playing around with org structures. Given that we haven’t even heard of any HR thinking in India around this kind of a role, I imagine that silos are going to haunt our digital marketing setups for a long time to come.

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Except if CXOs step in, and embrace platforms and systems that break down these silos and enable the very elusive unified view, while different departments continue to work as if nothing has changed. It is now possible to have a unified view between offline (TV,SMS) and online, between all channels of online (search, social, display, video, email, affiliate) across devices (for cross device journeys) and more broadly, between the larger silos of Media, Creative, Research, IT and Analytics – so that insights that are garnered can be immediately actioned and tested. Talk to your IT partner, and get this going. The fun part is that all this can be implemented in under 2 weeks, allowing you to put an end to a problem that has been haunting management for more than 500 years!

Featured Image Source: SimpleHQ

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  • Gayatri Kapur

    Brilliant piece, Rahul!