What CMOs need to do to cope with marketing change management

We explore how digital disruption is not only changing marketing channels, but the way teams need to execute strategy and work


Digital technology has wrought unprecedented change on marketing, rewriting both the media landscape and the back-end systems and processes that marketers use to reach it. With so much focus on the technologies transforming marketing, it is not surprising managers and employees feel they are scrambling to keep up.

Jennifer Frahm is the author of forthcoming book, Conversations of Change – A Guide to Implementing Workplace Change, and has worked with numerous marketing executives to implement change programs. She says a key issue marketers are grappling with is the move away from functional expertise to a new space where the capabilities they need are rooted in experimentation.

This means embracing a fundamental shift in perspective away from knowing everything, to instead now being reliant on data to provide the answers.

“Once upon a time, marketers knew their audiences and how to approach those, and they had tried-and-true ways of doing it,” Frahm tells CMO. “With the changes that have come along with hyper-fragmentation, you have to move away from command-and-control. The only way you can control in a fragmented environment is managing data, and being prepared to experiment.”

What it takes to harness change

Managing change effectively means not just changing the technology, but also changing systems and processes and the skills that use it. Ultimately, this can lead to a change in the entire culture of the function.

Frahm says getting it right means balancing change with stability, and that both can exist harmoniously.

“Stability is the strategy piece that we are sticking to,” she says. “The change piece might mean changing up channels, offers, price points – all of those kinds of things – to achieve that strategy. But for a lot of marketing people, they feel like there is constant change all around them, and they don’t necessarily see their strategy as their anchor.”

The reason why you have organisations that are heavily change-fatigued is because nobody has done any work to say ‘here’s the work you did beforehand and here’s what we got out of it – let’s celebrate

Jennifer Frahm


In many organisations, this process of change stretches back over a decade. With so much change happening at a rapid pace of a lengthy period, it is not surprising to see examples of change fatigue. The antidote is something marketing functions are supposed to have as a core capability – communication.

“The reason why you have organisations that are heavily change-fatigued is because nobody has done any work to say ‘here’s the work you did beforehand and here’s what we got out of it – let’s celebrate’,” Frahm continues. “Because those conversations don’t happen, people are exhausted – they have had no dopamine or positive endorphins around it.

“They are also highly cynical, because nobody has actually unpacked what they didn’t do well and what they would do differently next time. So they lose trust in the end of the change process. Whereas if somebody unpacked that, they’d have some hope it would be applied next time, and it would be easier to get on-board with the next change.”

Corporate manager of marketing for luxury consumer brand Lexus Australia, Adrian Weimers, agrees the continued fragmentation of media has led to a need for different skillsets its own people, as well as the agencies it partners with. If Lexus is to develop the strategies and creative necessary to navigate a changing and evolving landscape, greater agility is required, he says.

That belief was put into action recently with the release of Lexus’ new mobile-responsive website, created in collaboration with its digital agency, IE Agency. Weimers says the site was created in a way that flew in the face of existing processes.

“Typically, you would come up with a list of requirements and develop from there, but that takes considerable time,” he says. “This is compounded by a long development phase that upon launch has countless errors that need to be corrected. The collaboration with our digital agency enabled us to develop in a nimble manner – we built something quickly and learned quickly. In the end, we got a great product that was on time, on budget and we knew what it would look like throughout the entire development journey.”

Up next: What Deakin Uni is doing to cope with change

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