4 Types Of Marketing Cultures: How Fast Is Yours?

Kitty-Purina-AMarketers everywhere may be talking about creating a fast-moving culture of innovation, but most CMOs will tell you it’s an arduous, uphill climb.

A new report from Forrester says the trait shared by companies that are either the most successful innovators, the fastest, or both is knowing exactly what kind of marketing culture they already have, and what kind they hope to build.

Starting with the University of Michigan’s Competing Values Framework for Cultural Assessment, Forrester further sorts marketers into four distinct categories, and separate cultural norms:

  • Risk-averse:   These are companies that innovate only when forced to, and generally have “command-and-control personalities,” and often operate in highly regulated industries -- especially in financial services, health care, pharmaceuticals and government services. Because they feel less threatened, they tend toward conservative marketing programs that are safe and effective. 

  • Pragmatists:   While this culture is also typically conservative, it tends to be driven by consensus. As a result, it is slower to react to changes in its markets (and so is often under siege by smaller, newer, faster competitors.) They are likely to believe they are customer-focused, and may even have funding in place for marketing innovation, but resources are only available if ROI is proven beforehand. “Innovation still focuses on the product or service, not on new ways to market,” writes Bert DuMars, Forrester analyst, in the report, called “Culture Is Key To Marketing Innovation Velocity.” Employees at such companies -- often CPG players -- “have limited flexibility and require leadership approval to adjust any program or campaign in flight.” 

  • Experimenters:  While they are speedy innovators, they typically don’t have a long-term strategy. “They create rapid marketing innovations as point solutions or tests but are not building a long-term marketing innovation foundation or culture,” he adds. “They actively set aside a larger-than-average budget for innovation programs but don’t learn from their successes or failures.” Most often, this culture exists in larger, multi-brand companies, and may be seen as rogue internal groups that cannot sustain their efforts.

  • Customer-obsessed cultures:   Forrester says these companies, such as Nestle -- which are both the rarest and most successful -- are able to “flexibly innovate to achieve audacious goals,” and CMOs at these companies are generally immersed in the wants and needs of its customer base. “They build an accelerating innovation culture that allows them to be the disruptors in their markets. This culture knows it needs to be fast-moving … and post-digital by nature.”



Fostering faster thinking within a marketing culture requires concrete financial support, including budgets that support cultural change, such as Coca-Cola’s Liquid & Linked: 70-20-10 marketing strategy, which it says calls for spending “70% of a brand’s marketing budget on “now” or low-risk marketing-proven programs, 20% on “new” emerging trends that are beginning to gain traction, and 10% on “next” or completely untested and unproven elements.”

Also essential are building a “ground up” departmental architecture, which recognizes that the best innovations typically come from individuals and teams -- not the CMO -- as well as setting “audacious” goals, “a long-term goal that stretches the organization to think outside of its comfort zone. Finally, it stresses hiring digital practitioners who are also great communicators, partnering with a local university or student organization to make sure you’re tapping newer, freer thinking talent.

“Marketing innovation is hard and getting harder,” adds Forrester’s DuMars. “To be successful, CMOs must build a marketing innovation foundation and culture that emphasize a post-digital mindset and encourage and reward employees for bringing innovative ideas to marketing leadership.” 

The report was based on interviews with such companies as 7-Eleven, Arby’s, Chick-fil-A, Cleveland Clinic, Estée Lauder, Nestlé, and Skinnygirl Cocktails.

1 comment about "4 Types Of Marketing Cultures: How Fast Is Yours?".
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  1. Maryanne Conlin from RedRopes Digital/4GreenPs, May 21, 2013 at 9:42 a.m.

    Excellent article - though it concentrates on financially stable established companies rather than growth or new companies.
    Since most smaller companies tend to be innovative from the start, the trick is growing the company to profitability while keeping the innovative culture.

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