The job titles and structure of marketing departments haven’t kept up with the pace of change in that is reshaping the industry.

A new article from McKinsey and Company suggests that marketing departments are stuck in the 1980s and are in need of a massive overhaul to adapt to changes in consumer behaviour.

“Despite that level of change and disruption, if you had put a few typical marketers from the 1980s into a time machine and sent them into the marketing departments of today, they would probably feel right at home,” the authors write.

“The truth is, while the proliferation of new channels and technologies has dramatically changed the environment in which marketers operate, the way they organise and approach their tasks has stayed more or less the same.”

Developing and rolling out large infrequent campaigns, relying on agencies to make the same media purchases and organising teams based on geography or product are outdated, the authors argue.

According to the report, capturing the advantages of data-driven marketing requires new ways of working. That means spending more times with other parts of the business on customer journeys.

In particular, the consultants outline three ways marketing departments ought to change:

  1. Move from linear campaign process to an ecosystem of partners
  2. Scale agile ways of working
  3. Build out a set of supporting capabilities that can deliver great customer experiences


Digital has made the old agency model redundant, the authors argue, as more specialised services in search, social, programmatic, and content management need to be closely coordinated.

McKinsey is tipping more work will shift from agencies to internal teams as brands develop a clearer sense of the value of the new capabilities. Supporting this model requires the role of the traditional brand manager to shift from “leader to orchestrator.”

We pity the poor marketing exec that needs to interpret this organisational structure:

McKinsey Modern Marketing organisation
Source: McKinsey and Company


Agile concepts which began in software development “have begun to reshape the way consumer companies innovate and operate.”

“With agile, companies use data and analytics to continuously identify promising opportunities or solutions in real time, deploying tests quickly, evaluating the results, and rapidly iterating,” the authors write.

This means using data to test and revaluate campaigns while they are in market.

“At scale, a high-functioning agile marketing organisation can run hundreds of campaigns simultaneously and test multiple new ideas every week. These new ways of working enable continuous, data-driven improvements to campaigns and assets, while also providing increased transparency and accountability,” the authors write.

CX capabilities  

The third area, a focus on customer experience, requires marketing departments to work across different parts of the business.

“While most companies understand the importance of a positive customer experience to the bottom line—done well, it can boost revenue 5 to 10 per cent and reduce costs 15 to 20 per cent—few excel at designing or delivering it,” the authors write.

McKinsey recommends starting with customer journey design — not just improving them, but reinventing them with the help of digital technologies to “meet and beat customer expectations.”

If all that seems like a tough ask, that’s because it is. McKinsey doesn’t think any marketing organisation has mastered all three yet. “That’s because it’s difficult and each situation is unique,” the authors write.

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