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Change of Power in Marketing Departments

by Scott Nelson  |  October 15, 2009  |  2 Comments

I came up on the database marketing side of marketing departments. We had the people, the budgets, the toys, and the power in most organizations. Marketing was all about targeting and segmenting, and whether we contacted via direct mail, or later, email, we pretty well drove the results of the marketing group overall. That is not to say that the creative and advertising people weren’t important, but since it was hard to quantify their contribution, my fellow database marketers always felt pretty smug.

I think that the power is shifting now, however. Not back to the mass media guys. I still believe that, while important, the period of power that group once had is long gone. No, I believe that power is shifting to the Head of Social Media (or whatever title he or she might have). This may seem strange as many firms do not even have a person in charge of that area yet. In fact, one bank I talked to recently said that they planned what passed as social media strategy over lunch with a 20 year old intern who was the only one who knew anything about the area. But in those that do, increasingly, the social media head is driving the social marketing strategy, and in the process, the broader marketing strategy.

This does not mean that they have the budget yet. Or that they are reorganizing the marketing function. But it is in their area that all the real activity is occurring. Direct and email is still going out. Commercials are still being run. Collateral material is being printed. All as it has for decades upon decades. But the real buzz is coming from the social media area.

I recently talked to a manufacturing client that I have talked to for years. They are rather conservative when it comes to marketing in general. They were well behind the curve in campaign management and analytics. Gartner would classify them as a type C, technology laggard. But they realize that the future of marketing is social networking and social media. So they appointed a young woman right out of college to start developing their strategy. She called me the other day and we talked about the normal things…Facebook, Twitter, and blogging. But she also wanted to bounce some ideas off me that I didn’t expect. How to use Wave. How to tie into gaming systems. It was a real interesting discussion, but it became even more so as she starting talking about her vision of making the products seem “cool” on line. About how they would tie all the other channels to reinforce what was going on online. In other words, she was driving the marketing strategy. The reason? The head of Marketing is 64 years old, has his secretary read emails to him, and in general, sees no need to worry about this new fangled Internet thing out there.

Extreme, to be sure. But a harbinger of the future. Social media is going to drive the marketing department of the 21st century. And firms that want to take advantage of it want to get some good, sharp talent in that roll sooner rather than later. And listen to their “crazy” ideas.

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Category: crm-strategy  social-media-strategy  

Scott D. Nelson
Managing VP
12 years at Gartner
18 years IT industry

Scott Nelson is a managing vice president in Gartner Research. He is responsible for managing research in the area of CRM. His particular research focuses on CRM vision and strategy.


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