The Nike+ suite of personal fitness products and services, for instance, combines a deep understanding of what makes athletes tick with troves of data. Nike+ incorporates sensor technologies embedded in running shoes and wearable devices that connect with the web, apps for tablets and smartphones, training programs, and social networks. In addition to tracking running routes and times, Nike+ provides motivational feedback and links users to communities of friends, like-minded athletes, and even coaches. Users receive personalized coaching programs that monitor their progress. An aspiring first-time half-marathon runner, say, and a seasoned runner rebounding from an injury will receive very different coaching. People are rewarded for good performance, can post their accomplishments on social media, and can compare their performance with—and learn from—others in the Nike+ community.
Companies are using this model to create task forces for a range of marketing programs, from integrating online and physical retail experiences to introducing new products. When Unilever launched Project Sunlight—a consumer-engagement program connected with its sustainable-living initiative—the team drew talent from seven expertise areas. The international cable company Liberty Global uses task forces to optimize the customer experience at key engagement points—such as when customers receive a bill. These teams are led by managers from a variety of marketing and nonmarketing functions, have different durations, and draw from each of the three talent pools in different measure.
CMOs and other marketing leaders increasingly operate as orchestrators, tapping talent from inside and outside the company to staff short-term task forces. Those task forces bring together people, each with one of three kinds of focus: think, feel, or do. Depending on the task, the mix of those three types shifts. Here’s how cable service provider Liberty Global mixed team members for three task forces. Choose a task force to see the team’s think-feel-do mix and the results they got.
As companies expand internationally, they inevitably reorganize to better balance the benefits of global scale with the need for local relevance. Our research shows that, as a result, the vast majority of brands are led much more centrally today than they were a few years ago. Companies are removing middle, often regional, layers and creating specialized “centers of excellence” that guide strategy and share best practices while drawing on needed resources wherever, and at whatever level, they exist in the organization. As companies pursue this approach, roles and processes need to be adapted.
How do you get a six-tier wedding cake to dangle from a crystal chandelier? Very carefully. When The Big Bang Theory actress married her tennis-pro boyfriend on December 31 and wanted a wedding that was over the top, L.A.’s Butter End came onboard with a literal upside-down cake. Thanks to a custom rig and a platoon of sandbags that matched the weight of the cake, the suspended confection was secure and ready for showtime. While the flavorings weren’t as dramatic, they were untraditional: almond with toasted almond cream cheese buttercream frosting and chocolate almond cherry with cherry cream cheese buttercream frosting.