Why marketing must Learn from the EU

We all know what a mess Europe has been in the last few years.  The lack of central controls has resulted in some slow and often poor decision making, that has dragged the region into another recession and has cast doubt on the future of the single currency.  There is a lesson in here for all those running marketing at a regional or global level.  If they want to run a coordinated campaign across more than one country, they need to take control and be willing to make decisions that will be unpopular at a local level OR they need to accept that their campaigns will not be consistent.  Just as the EU learned, all too late, that it needed to enforce economic controls on Greece, or risk collective failure, so CMOs need to enforce marketing controls.  

The failure and success of some brands is seen when they pitch their business around the world.  Some brands involve local countries but make it clear their vote will only assist in decision making, not define it.  Others are overly democratic and allow local countries to veto certain agencies and thus create a ‘lowest common denominator’ decision, where the least offensive agency wins.  This does nobody any favors and results in two years of misery for everyone but the chosen agency (actually even they don’t really enjoy this process).  

Just as Angela Merkel realized, it’s important to show leadership on critical decisions, so must CMOs.  Now it may be that the company’s internal structure (who holds the purse strings is of course the definition of internal structure) may work against a company running marketing programs across regions.  If that’s the case, then efforts to have a regional or global agency are doomed before they start.  Organizing the financial and human resources are the first step a CMO should take BEFORE they embark on finding the right agency partners.  At the end of the day, agencies cannot make up for the inherent weaknesses of internal structures.  If anything they will amplify them.  If, because of politics, a CMO can’t affect the right changes here, then they should focus instead on having each country make the very best LOCAL decisions and stop worrying about the regional or global brand efforts.  For the agencies involved, perhaps the advice they must all stick with is to avoid pitching business where there are a dozen decision makers spread across a region.  We’ve seen how dysfunctional the EU has been lately.  Businesses that employ the same basic process will fair no better.