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Becoming Foundationally Organized

by Steve Giannini

Marketers are no strangers to chaos. As I reflect on life before the pandemic, I remember speaking with friends and customers in various marketing and communications roles about their constant battle to navigate the chaos of marketing. Something I’ve always admired most about them is their ability to create their art — to orchestrate meaningful brand stories and experiences — and not only survive in the chaos, but thrive in spite of it.

Like a conductor of an orchestra, great marketers are able to bring their teams together to create something bigger and more impactful, despite the chaos. It is team collaboration at its finest. A well organized and managed team working better, together.

It’s an ideal state, but the chaos for marketing and communications teams isn’t going anywhere. So as we gear up for yet another week of remote-work and economic challenges on a global scale, marketers find themselves at an inflection point, spread out and spread thin. But the teams who are able to work better together will be the ones who create impact and survive this season of chaos.

So what do brands need to do to make the right type of impact, today and in the future? How can I, as the leader of a marketing software company whose mission is to help marketing and communications teams work better together, truly help our customers through this season? I think the answer lies in helping teams find simpler, better ways to be effective through the chaos. To help marketers focus on what they can control, not on what they can’t. To help them become foundationally organized.

Perhaps there’s something to be learned from the teams who do it best. Since starting Opal in 2011, we have helped marketing and communications teams from the world’s most iconic brands bring their stories, messaging and experiences to life. Our customers have ranged from Nestlé to NASA, Microsoft to Apple, Target, UnitedHealthcare, T-Mobile, Activision, Old Navy, Airbnb, Whole Foods, Starbucks, Uber and many more. Watching these brands and the teams that bring them to life transform as they become more foundationally organized has truly been a special opportunity. To learn from and support some of the very best at what they do is something I am extremely proud of.

Over the years, I’ve noticed these teams have one thing in common: a dedication to creativity and storytelling. Their brand stories are not only effective, they’re memorable… iconic even. And, having insight into how they work behind the scenes, I know they share a common philosophy that allows them to work better together to create these impactful stories. These brands build their marketing and communications success on a framework that allows them to be foundationally organized.

Becoming foundationally organized means rallying around a philosophy that prioritizes getting everyone on the same page. It means having the critical visibility, alignment and efficiency your brand needs to not only survive the chaos, but eventually thrive.

Let me give you an example of what it means to be foundationally organized, as a brand, from the perspective of a marketer.

Say you’re the marketing manager for a DTC brand. Your goal is to convert as many customers as possible and make every marketing dollar you spend work as hard as possible. So you develop a strong brand identity with compelling visuals.You orchestrate beautiful, memorable campaigns that come to life consistently at every touchpoint, from social to retail to print to influencers. You are a storyteller, an artist… the conductor of your brand’s small, but powerful, orchestra.

When you’re foundationally organized as a brand, and as a team, that process is organic and fluid. You have the visibility your brand needs to make informed decisions, you are aligned to a strong voice, or set of values, and you work efficiently throughout your team to execute quickly.

Let’s say you’re that same DTC marketer but without a system in place that allows you to be foundationally organized. Your team is fragmented and working in silos. Your work lives in spreadsheets, project management tools and email. You rely on meetings and memos for visibility. No one is aligned. Your consumer experiences are inconsistent or confusing. You feel defeated, uninspired, ineffective.

Whether you’re leading an amateur orchestra or a philharmonic, your job is to organize everyone and create something beautiful. There is an accepted hierarchy and structure to the process. Without organization, there is chaos. But with the proper structure, a beautiful experience is created. It is truly one of the world’s greatest art forms. And the most effective marketers lead their brands with that same sense of order. They are foundationally organized.

Just like in an orchestra, effective marketing teams share these three characteristics that allow them to become foundationally organized.

  1. They prioritize visibility. Without context, how can you make informed decisions? Marketers must be empowered to see and understand how their work relates to the bigger picture. They must have the ability to visualize campaigns—past, present and future—and surface gaps, dependencies and opportunities that empower everyone. When marketing teams have visibility, they have ready access to the information needed to produce effective work.
  2. They are aligned. Marketing content fuels consistent, memorable brand experiences. But most teams lack structure and operate in silos, which can lead to inconsistent experiences that can negatively impact the brand. Adopting a unified approach to marketing organization provides the backbone for successful campaigns. When teams are operating in sync, individuals are empowered to self-align, messaging is well orchestrated and campaigns have greater impact.
  3. They work efficiently. Yesterday, today and tomorrow, marketers will always be challenged with accelerating complexity. But traditional ways of working—spreadsheets, presentations, email and endless meetings—were not designed to keep pace. The results are reactive marketing processes that stagnate the organization, making it both painful for individuals and dangerous for the brand. To be effective in the face of this complexity, now more than ever, everyone on the team—from content creators to senior executives— needs to be working in concert. When the entire team is working better together, teams produce higher quality work, faster.

Ready to become foundationally organized? Here are three simple ways your brand’s marketing and communications teams can become more effective:

  1. Deploy a master Marketing Calendar. Ideally, one that allows you to zoom out for context and zoom in for clarity. Start organized and stay organized around your brand’s stories and messaging, moment by moment.
  2. Break down team and channel silos. This is not an easy one, but you have to start somewhere. Make sure your teams and people are aware of what’s going on throughout the brand. Give them the context necessary to self-align and make informed decisions.
  3. Work smarter, not harder. If you’re aligned across your org and have the visibility needed to make critical decisions, you’re on the right path. But beyond this, working more efficiently also means having a dedicated space for your work to live. An organized environment that prioritizes storytelling and the creativity marketers need to be effective.

Brands who come out of this season foundationally organized are the ones we will remember for years to come. They will have a focus on strong storytelling and consistency of message. They will value creativity and innovation throughout their organization. Their marketing and communications campaigns will effectively connect with their audience. Just like a beautiful piece of music, their brand experiences will be memorable. This is effective marketing and communications at its best. And it’s only possible when brands become foundationally organized.

If you’re interested in reading more about how marketers can become foundationally organized, check out this ebook we published recently with several of the most creative minds in DTC marketing.

Soon, we’ll release another ebook developed in collaboration with marketing expert and author Carla Johnson on how to drive creativity and innovation through effective marketing and communications teams.

I couldn’t be more excited for the future and look forward to experiencing the stories our favorite brands are creating. If you have any questions about Opal and our platform, or want to learn more about how to become foundationally organized, please reach out.

In the meantime, stay well, stay connected and keep innovating. 

About the Author

Steve Giannini


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