December 12, 2023

Reimagining Marketing Teams in the Age of Generative AI

By Mushter Moin  
Head of Growth Innovation

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The emergence of generative AI in the marketing world is a transformative event, mirroring historical shifts in how organizations are structured. The evolution from the traditional organizational charts, introduced by the New York and Erie Railroad in 1855 to maintain hierarchical control, to the agile pod models focusing on efficiency and collaboration, marks significant milestones in organizational development. Now, as we stand at the cusp of integrating generative AI, we are witnessing another profound shift. This new era challenges us to reimagine organizational dynamics, adding a dimension of intelligent automation and data-driven decision making to the mix.

As we integrate this powerful technology, we need to reimagine how teams are structured and interact. Wharton professor Ethan Mollick, an expert on organizational innovation, proposes three vital principles:

  1. Enable teams to develop their own methods for using AI effectively by treating it as an additional team member.
  1. Design organizational changes assuming continuing exponential advances in AI capabilities.
  1. Act swiftly to experiment with AI integration rather than wait for extensive planning.

The Limitations of Traditional Agile Pods

Agile pods have been pivotal in streamlining marketing workflows, enhancing efficiency, and fostering collaborative decision making. However, their structure often struggles to adapt to the rapid changes and complexities of today's market. Designed primarily for efficiency and inter-team collaboration, these pods can inadvertently limit the strategic contributions of creative and media teams, relegating them to task-focused roles rather than allowing them to engage in broader, strategic thinking and innovation.

Rethinking Marketing Teams with Generative AI

Generative AI can redefine the role and structure of agile pods, elevating them from mere task execution to spheres of strategic ideation and decision making. This technology accelerates processes such as brainstorming, media planning, and customer engagement, shifting the focus of teams from manual labor to refining and leveraging AI-generated insights for innovative strategies.  

By expediting key workflows like ideation, planning, and personalization, generative AI facilitates the fundamental shift of pods from production execution to strategic innovation. For instance, AI can rapidly generate creative concepts informed by data, allowing teams to dedicate their efforts to selecting and implementing the best ideas. Similarly, AI provides instant predictive analytics to power media planning instead of manual analysis. This transformation enables truly agile innovation and growth.

Balancing Centralized Control and Local Autonomy

Generative AI can significantly enhance the functioning of large, geographically-distributed marketing teams by striking a balance between centralized control and local autonomy. For centralized control, AI can ensure consistency in branding and messaging across different regions by generating content that adheres to global standards and guidelines. This centralization also allows for the efficient distribution of best practices and insights across all teams.

Conversely, for local autonomy, AI can be tailored to understand and adapt to local market nuances, cultural contexts, and customer preferences. This capability enables local teams to customize global strategies and content to fit their specific market needs, maintaining a degree of independence while aligning with overall corporate objectives. This dual functionality of generative AI facilitates both global coherence and local relevance in marketing strategies.

Implementing a New Approach

This new approach requires clear communication across teams, a growth mindset that fosters a test-and-learn culture, and a governance structure that allows for rapid pivoting and iteration in response to AI-driven data and analytics. Marketing organizations should design their pods to seamlessly integrate generative AI as an integral member that influences decision making and strategic direction.

The future belongs to marketing organizations that reformat teams around AI as a core driver of strategy and innovation. This integration promises immense competitive advantage to first movers who make the shift from traditional agile pod structures to a model where AI is an integral team member.