Marketing is in the midst of a revolution, and change agents are in demand like never before. But as the recent shake-up at Walt Disney Studios shows us, driving change can be risky business — for marketers and for the C-suite.
In case you haven’t seen the news, here’s a brief recap:
Last Friday, Ricky Strauss was named President of Marketing for The Walt Disney Studios, a marketing position widely regarded as the most influential in Hollywood.
Strauss, who comes to the role with 25 years of experience in the film industry, will be replacing M T Carney, a marketing maven in her own right, but one who nonetheless drew criticism for her lack of movie marketing experience and inability to crack what some call the film industry’s “clubby, inbred culture.” (Carney, who was hired in April 2010, announced her resignation earlier last week.)
What lessons can we learn from this shift at Disney? Is this a cautionary tale for marketers, for business executives –or possibly, for both?
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First let’s take a look from the marketing perspective.
CMOs today are charged with driving change, but as we all know, change doesn’t come easily, especially in industries governed largely by tradition, convention and legacy lists of “how-tos” in dog-eared marketing playbooks.
As I see it, step number one in that situation is to start building relationships. Then, you can use those relationships to form the bridges to change. Your primary goals must include understanding the culture and building credibility and key champions. If you don’t, you’ll just become a piñata, and it will grow increasingly more difficult for you to establish a foothold. Never underestimate that change is hard, and prepare yourself for a long, (mostly) uphill battle.
Fortunately, these days, technology can help. Customer (or in Disney’s case, fan) data needs to equip marketing to be the advocate for change. Catchy headlines aren’t enough. Today’s marketing automation solutions allow marketers to convert raw facts into the actionable insights that can drive focus and early value, provide the foundation for collaboration,integration and innovation and ultimately, prove ROI.
Clearly, change agents need to push. But, they need to have a thoughtful game plan, and they need to be accountable, as well.
Even so, I see the news out of Disney as a cautionary tale for C-suite execs, as well.
By some accounts, Hollywood insiders scoffed at an outsider on their turf. But, were they missing a key point? After all, aren’t your customers, your fans, your audience, outsiders, too?
Like marketing, the film industry is poised on the cusp of massive change. Who better to champion that kind of transformation than an outsider? During her tenure at Disney, Carney reportedly made important upgrades to planning and processes, while also reallocating funds from traditional to new media. By ending this experiment with her, is the company risking the tenuous ties recently forged via its new social and digital strategies?
There’s no question that revenue is the single most important metric –and yet, that kind of tunnel vision is now fatal. Marketing today is complicated and multi-dimensional, and to truly build business value you need to maintain a broad perspective, one that emphasizes the integration of marketing with other essential business processes.
Will Strauss, the “insider,” keep The Walt Disney Studios headed towards the future? Let’s hope so. Now it’s his turn to strike that delicate balance between scrambling for demonstrable ROI today and driving the change that’s required for success tomorrow.