Creating a culture of change

Creating a culture of change

Many businesses are failing to adapt quick enough to changing customer needs – and it is often a failure not of strategy, but of culture. How can marketers work within their organisations to build an agile culture that is open to change?

2018 is seen by many as the year of transformation. Just a year ago, when Archie Norman joined Marks & Spencer as chairman, he issued an immediate call to arms: “Over not five years, but probably 15 – maybe even 20 – years, the business has failed to change in line with the customer, and as quickly as the competition. The failure is not to do with the strategy or the intellectual approach nearly as much as it is to do with the organisation, the culture and the capability.”

Indeed, particularly in the retail sector, change is afoot for many due to a failure to keep up with changing consumer behaviour. Namely, Tesco recently launched its new discount brand, Jack’s, in a bid to take on Aldi and Lidl. “The new retail format will be operated separately from the core Tesco business and, as such, benefits offered will be different from those offered at Tesco,” the company said at the time. Mark Dodds, chairman of CIM’s Food, Drink and Agriculture committee, commented: “Our insight shows shoppers today are looking for low-frills, low-price groceries, which is why it makes sense for Tesco to introduce Jack’s.”

Meanwhile, supermarket rivals Sainsbury’s and Asda are engineering a merger. Supermarkets also face increased competition from Amazon, which owns Whole Foods Market and offers online sales of products from the likes of Morrisons and Booths. It’s a bold move by Tesco – but at the right time, having recently posted a sharp rise in annual profits under CEO Dave Lewis. How will a company that has a strong brand and a strong existing strategy transform itself? This comes after axing Tesco Direct earlier this year, which is widely seen as an acknowledgement that the retailer could not out-Amazon Amazon.

In changing times, marketers are increasingly at the vanguard of changes in consumer behaviour, and experts at building value propositions and implementing them in the marketplace. Above all, of course, marketing is key in navigating the road to profitability. Modern marketers, says James Webb, managing director of recruiters Propel London, should be at the strategic heart of their businesses. “Companies looking to deliver radical transformation want demonstrable track records in being able to adapt strategies to the emerging opportunities – driven by technology – in each market the candidate has experience in,” he says.

“The days are gone when marketing existed as a cut-off silo. Marketers must be able to plug into every aspect of their business, and help drive innovation and revenue from every department. This is especially true of the office of CIO, given the technical nature of a lot of today’s marketing activity.”

Speaking exclusively to Catalyst in the latest edition of the magazine, Scott Allen, CMO (UK) at Microsoft, said: “Beyond sales, you also need to think about how the culture of the marketing department fits into the culture of the company as a whole. At Microsoft, we’ve taken three key themes identified by our CEO, Satya Nadella, as being vital for the business and looked at how marketing can make a difference to those areas. They are: having a growth mindset; customer obsessed; diverse and inclusive; making a difference; and being ‘one Microsoft’.

Discussing the need for marketers to influence culture at a strategic level, he added: “The CEO and senior team also need to believe that marketing has a role to play at the top table, and that means marketing must be directly relevant to the business. The only way marketing is going to take a seat at that table is if the starting point isn’t about marketing, but about the business itself. In that way, the role of the senior marketer is to go beyond being a pure marketer and become a business leader. This is when transformation really starts to happen, and the technology acts as a catalyst – to build the case and stimulate change.”

As Peter Drucker famously proffered, culture eats strategy for breakfast. In a time of constant change and with more businesses hitting the wall, this adage has never been more resonant for organisations looking to maintain their competitive edge in a consumer-focused world.  

For more insights from Microsoft’s CMO Scott Allen, read the digital edition of Catalyst now. To gain access to exclusive content, including Catalyst magazine, become a member of CIM from just £13 a month.

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