Enhancing Customer Experiences by Unifying Teams
Regardless of the amount of change that has hit our industry lately, there is ONE change that couldn’t come fast enough for me.
That is, the need for organizations to create unity between Brand/Marketing and Product teams closer together and get them out of their silos. On the surface, the existence of silos is understandable. Brand/Marketing and Product are structured differently, sometimes with competing KPIs, processes, and timelines that reflect their unique challenges and opportunities. Having been a creative on both the Product and Brand/Marketing sides of the coin, I’ve felt the searing pain of silos, and the agony of trying to abolish the blinders. Blinders, when left in place, shortchange both the brand and the customer.
In some cases, the right arm doesn’t know what the left arm is doing. In others, the two groups are not only siloed but also competing. It's not uncommon for product and marketing teams to toil in stealth, hiding work from each other. This creates inconsistent messaging, ineffective product launches, inefficient resourcing and prevents progress. Ultimately the customer suffers.
If companies remove the silos and create closer collaboration between these two groups, both the business and the customer will win. The following are five ways to bring these two groups together.
1- A strong vision or north star that aligns both groups.
Don’t underestimate the power of a strong brand vision or north star with which both can align. With that in place, no matter the differences in KPIs and workflows, the work is guaranteed to have a sharper point of view that distinguishes your brand from competitors. It will also ensure much stronger creative solutions on both sides, regardless of the medium. Best of all, both the brand and the consumer will win.
2- Walk a mile in each other's shoes.
As an exercise to create empathy and alignment, what if the siloed teams traded briefs for a moment, or simply had visibility into the others’ challenges? Both teams know the brand inside and out, but may actually have very different perspectives. Make sure there are lines of communication – even friendship – in place, whether that’s via a social hour or a more formal meet-and-greet. I have experienced a product team providing feedback that they hated some brand concepts. Turns out they were basing their opinion on insights to which the other team did not have access. Without a known line of communication between the siloed teams, they had no way to surface the insights. Instead, they turned to venting about what could’ve been.
3- Mutual visibility into roadmaps and/or upcoming work.
What one team has coming up on their plate may affect or even be a springboard for the other. There may be the ability to share resources, connections, or ideation. An idea for product exploration might have the ability to be repurposed and utilized into a marketing concept—storytelling on social media for example—or vice versa.
4- Understanding the power dynamics at play.
Which team has a larger seat at the table? Are they competing for resources, influence or decision-making capability? Do the teams feel like two very separate and disparate businesses under one brand? A savvy leader of both teams should be aware of and sensitive to the dynamics. Then work to create safety and harmony between the two.
5- Use data to reduce disagreements and prioritize initiatives.
Initiatives that are aligned to both qualitative and quantitative data create clarity that can reap big benefits for all. There are a few landmines and nuances with this one. Especially when one group may have a glut of data, while the other gets little. I’ve experienced moments where data is used as a hammer to shift the power dynamics. If one group begins spitting out minutia such as, “The best performing colors are red and green,” this is not only myopic, but patronizing to those with years of creative experience and education. Transparency of data, plus a feedback loop to review and update decisions, will be key to creating trust and collaboration.
There’s a big opportunity in the small changes needed to break these silos. Improved work will be done, better results will occur and a stronger brand will result from ensuring free-flowing internal communication, not to mention harmony, between the two teams. After all, aren’t we in the communication business?
Behind the Byline: Nöelle Newbold
Noëlle has unfailing confidence in the value of creativity to ensure effective communication and design. She has earned multiple industry awards, including the Cannes Titanium Grand Prix for her work on the Nike+ Fuelband platform and app. Yet she believes that awards are merely a bonus for doing the job right in the first place — that being, to sell a client's products or services. To that end, her creative approach deeply values consumer and category research. Noelle's thought leadership on creativity has been published in Campaign Magazine, and she has served as a judge for The Webby Awards and the Latin American Design Awards. Her career experience includes work in mass market campaigns, web and product design, branding, e-comm, digital platforms, and ecosystems for clients such as Spotify, Nike, Converse, Got Milk?, Burger King, VW, Old Navy, Johnson & Johnson, Verizon, and MTV. Prior to BASIC/DEPT®, Noëlle worked in various creative department capacities for Spotify, R/GA, Crispin Porter & Bogusky, Lowe & Partners/NYC, and Time/Warner.