Finding vs. Forgetting

By Adam Morgan, 14/11/2012

Every so often a business magazine will publish a survey of multinational CMOs and reveal what they think they need more of in the next few years. And, with the exceptions of topical hot buttons like social media skills, the answers tend to be the same: more insight, greater creativity, more innovation, new kinds of business partners, that kind of thing.

I am particularly interested in the comment about insight, because in my experience one of the things CMOs should spend more time being concerned about is the loss of existing insight, rather than simply the acquisition of new insight. Every time a large multinational has a re-organisation, it has in effect a corporate stroke: it loses a huge slice of corporate memory. It takes the person who has made Brand X a raging success in Vietnam, and rewards them by putting them on Brand Y in Brazil. The person who really understands what lies at the heart of the brand when it is at its most successful is replaced by a new face, usually with little or no handover. Given the promotional cycle of most large companies, the rest of the team moves on within 14 months as well, and within 2 years, all that knowledge about the brand is gone, and what is left is confined to a few powerpoint decks with half remembered voiceovers. And a new team starts effectively from scratch.

This is about more than inefficiency, it’s about profitability: what is the cost of that learning curve to a company? Particularly when replicated all over a region, or even the world? Technology is now so pervasive, accessible and easy to integrate that there is no excuse for the failure to capture the insight that lives in the mind and experience of a successful marketer before they move on. A CMO’s task today is to help the organisation capture the wealth of what they already know about a brand’s success, as well as seek the wealth of the future. Remarkably few are actually doing that.

This article first appeared in Campaign Asia Pacific

3 Responses to “Finding vs. Forgetting”

  1. Saskia says:

    Can you identify the few companies that do do this and what the impact is on their success? I totally agree with the point of losing insight, but I also think that people lose energy and some perspective if focused on one brand too long, and hence we tend to move the key talent around.

  2. Helen Redstone says:

    Hi Saskia, thanks for the comment.

    We have some examples of brands who have kept a core team on the brand for a long period of time, and how that has contributed to their success – but i think the key point Adam is making is how do we keep hold of that accumulated ‘corporate memory’ when team members do inevitably move on. If you’d like to talk more about this we can put you in touch with some interesting points of view – just drop Zoe a line.

  3. Soydanbay says:

    To build on Helen’s answer, the real question is “Where is corporate memory located really?” It is not a question of IT (cloud technology) It is a matter of employee empowerment and collaboration.

    In complex stakeholder systems, it is extremely important to “invite” everyone to collaborate. It’s key not to impose your will on them. Every individual might have access to a bit of information that is part of something bigger. Only through nature-inspired collaboration techniques we can extract those insights and make them useful.

    Here is a video on the most advanced collaboration techniques. I use some of them and they always deliver: http://goo.gl/qOqKg