Marketing guru: 'Consider restructuring into Foresight, Activation and Hindsight teams'

A rebrand of your customer insight division, coupled with a minor reorganisation, can go a long way toward making your leadership look dynamic and contemporary, writes Will Harris.

Q: I am reviewing my customer insight division, which, under our previous MD, doubled in size in three years. What does an insight department look like in the social era? And I note that 'foresight' is now the buzz-phrase for insight. Should I rename the division?

Will Harris: I have made a reasonable living over the years renaming things, so I instinctively agree with you. Some minor internal rebranding, combined with a slight reorganisation, can go a long way to making your leadership look dynamic and contemporary. In this instance, have you considered restructuring your marketing team into Foresight, Activation and Hindsight?

The Foresight team will create presentations that you can present up the line, showing exactly who will be buying your product and why.

The Activation team spends all your money and deals with the nitty-gritty of creating consumer campaigns, buying space in media or even managing the digital tasks. It's the least-scrutinised, least-fashionable part of modern marketing, but some people still think it has value.

The new Hindsight team takes the fruits of their labours, and writes a series of presentations about what you have all learned from the experience. It slaves away in search of 'learnings'.

With a bit of luck and skillful internal positioning, this structure will create the impression of a highly efficient marketing machine, feeding off itself in a never-ending arc of improvement.

The more forward-thinking readers will be wondering why you need the Activation team, tying up valuable headcount and budget. Surely efforts would be best served by the Foresight team building complex models using predicted consumer behaviour, and the Hindsight team assessing how they (would have) performed? What better way to run your marketing efforts than with 100% data use and every sinew strained in the quest for return on investment?

Such is the wave of insanity breaking over our industry, often all we have left is data, data and more data. In that environment, the risk of making a tongue-in-cheek case that we just 'cut out the middle bit' is that people simply nod sagely and turn the page. It's the middle bit that makes marketing marketing, and we forget it at our peril.

Will Harris is a former marketing director for Nokia in the UK and Asia region. He was the first marketing director of the Conservative Party and launch marketing director of the O2 brand. He writes the weekly 'Guru' column for Marketing


This column erroneously appeared under Mhairi McEwan's byline in the 16 May 2012 issue of Marketing


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