5 Ways Marketing Organizational Structures Are Changing

It’s become de rigeur for marketing teams to be restructured every couple of years, if not more frequently. These restructures can be as simple as a slight re-organization to accommodate the addition of a new capability, or as complicated as a spill that requires everyone to reapply for their job.

There are several factors contributing to this state of flux: the relatively short tenure of many chief marketing officers; the influence that digital transformation at a business level has on marketing teams at the operational level; the changing nature of marketing communications with the evolution of new channels to market; the need to introduce technology to help us all manage our marketing communications; and globalization—to name just a few.

So how are marketing team structures changing, what are the key trends changing the shape of marketing departments, and how can you decide which of them should apply to you?

No one-size-fits-all model has emerged for the modern marketing department. Some companies favor a decentralized approach. Often the marketing function for multi-divisional teams is centralized, with core functions such as data and technology managed centrally.

Hub-and-spoke models are also becoming increasingly common, with core functions remaining centralized, but mirrored at the business unit level, where digital and social marketing team members may pair with brand and product marketers to execute locally.

In recent years, digital teams have moved out of their silos and extended their digital reach across the marketing team at large, sales and marketing have moved closer together and marketing and product have also moved closer together. Now, more than ever, a successful marketing team structure depends on the right technology, communication and governance frameworks to prosper.

Whichever way your marketing team is set up, the winds of change are blowing and are likely to further change and disrupt your organizational structure in the next couple of years. Here are five of the biggest changes we’re seeing.

Marketing as insights engine

Go back a few years and many marketing teams were not in control of their customer data. Fast-forward to today, and a lot more companies have come to the realization that their marketing needs to be more customer-centric.

To achieve that, data silos are being consolidated into centralized databases often held within marketing, which is charged with being the “insights engine” of the organization.

In concert with this, companies are implementing customer personas and journey mapping and implementing customer-centric marketing programs based on key moments in those journeys, informed by insights generated by marketing.

Guardians of the customer experience

Two in three marketers now say they are being charged with maintaining the customer experience, as well as marketing to the customer.

This has led to the rise of the chief customer officer, which often takes in the role of marketing.

At some companies, marketing now includes responsibility for customer experience design, which may include the website user experience, call center scripts and processes, form design and numerous other capabilities that may previously have rested with departments such as technology, customer service and product.


No one should doubt the impact of a brilliant creative campaign on a brand or company’s health—witness the social media and online sales boost and share price rise that Nike experienced a week after it launched its controversial “Believe in something. Even if it means losing everything” campaign featuring controversial former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

Despite that, agencies are a little on the nose as global marketing trend-setters such as Procter & Gamble and Unilever consolidate agency rosters, cut production costs and bring media and digital programmatic buying in house.

Also coming in house are fast-turnaround creative services such as content and social marketing and business-as-usual digital campaigns.


Following on from the in-housing trend—and in some cases, opposing it—is the trend toward offshoring.

It’s a brave new world out there and it’s no longer uncommon for companies to have digital teams in the Philippines and creative teams in Malaysia—or other labor supply markets.

Particularly when it comes to coding, design and content, the market is global and marketers willing to go the extra mile when it comes to sourcing, briefing and quality control can now buy more bang for their marketing buck.

Some companies are setting up bespoke off-shore divisions to service global marketing teams while others are merely tapping into the many global online freelance marketplaces that have emerged.

Agile marketing

Arguably the most disruptive trend affecting marketing team structures is the advent of agile marketing. Often driven by broad-reaching digital transformation programs, agile is becoming popular in the technology and financial services sectors, where the need to work in agile sprints to implement new business systems is upending traditional ways of working.

Marketing team structures in these organizations are being dismantled in favor of nimble, cross-functional teams and a data-driven approach to marketing, which is conducted in short cycles rather than according to a predetermined, long-term plan.

In some companies, the entire structure of the marketing department changes. The original cross-functional team, or squad, in which the marketing work is done may be a part of a broader “tribe” under one manager or business sponsor—loyalty marketing, for instance. Broad principles, such as brand guidelines, may be set by “chapters,” which are then applied by numerous tribes, and deep skill sets required in each squad may be nurtured in “guilds.”

In committed agile marketing teams, it is not only the structure of marketing that changes; the entire cadence of a company’s marketing activity may be condensed from quarterly to monthly or fortnightly—if the team is running fortnightly agile “sprints,” for example. It not only requires a new mindset—there’s a whole new language to pick up as well.

Meanwhile, here are a few key steps for anyone looking to restructure their marketing team.

  1. Analyze the market

Understanding the bigger-picture dynamics of change in the market is crucial to developing a flexible, forward-looking structure.

  1. Define the current process in detail

Your current marketing procedures should be mapped to a very granular level. Include interviews with key internal client stakeholders to ensure needs that aren’t being met in the current process are accommodated.

  1. Assess the current process against the broader business strategy and marketing goals

Align the process so it delivers on the bigger corporate strategy as well as marketing objectives and pinpoint the areas in which it does not measure up. Remove duplicated processes, confused responsibilities, gaps and bottlenecks.

  1. Design the new model(s)

Design new structures, aligning the new marketing structure to the business strategy. Select the preferred model, being sensitive to cultural fit and the sensitivities of different parts of the business.

  1. Map the transition process

Take the current process and future process and map the transition from one to the other.

  1. Communicate the new structure

Communicate why the change is necessary and inspire stakeholders to get on board.

Change is now the one constant in marketing, so making the new structure and the change management process easy to follow and to get behind is critical to the success of your new marketing organizational structure.

Written by Lara Sinclair for CW Observer