Why multinationals are losing the marketing war

I spent a whole day recently discussing web-related stuff with the marcomms manager from a multinational manufacturer. She was well aware that they have a lot to do just to keep up with the standards being set in online marketing by smaller competitors. But having the budget to compete wasn’t the whole answer, it seems. Incredibly, well into the second decade of internet use by businesses, the biggest barrier to engaging with customers and prospects online remains the corporate IT environment.

For example, it’s no use appreciating the potential of, say, a corporate Facebook page for your company if the PC on your desk comes up with an “access prohibited” message when you try to visit the Facebook website. But this is the situation at more companies than you might imagine. Let’s disregard the short-sightedness of any senior management which thinks that it’s unable to trust us to get on with our jobs, and that we’ll be more productive if we’re treated like children. Surely exceptions can be made where necessary?

Inevitably, the answer is no. If the bloke in the drawing office isn’t going to be allowed to access Twitter, then the same has to apply to the marketing department. We’ve seen all this before, and you’d think people would have learned. As recently as 2005, I can remember visiting the impressive UK offices of a large Japanese automation supplier and discovering we weren’t able to look something up on the internet because the marketing department (and the rest of the company) was only allowed access to a few carefully selected websites. And these companies’ sales teams wonder why smaller competitors always seem to have got into customers first.

It’s easy to absolve the corporate IT department of any blame for this state of affairs, because they’re only obeying orders (although that’s one reason why they’re often referred to as the Network Nazis). But they’re complicit in this rank stupidity, because if the senior management is ignorant enough to think their staff won’t find ways around rules if that allows them to do their jobs better, then someone should be advising them that the rules aren’t practical. I follow one company on Twitter whose posts are clearly being sent from an iPhone. What next? A memo to IT asking if it’s practical to block mobile phone use within the building?

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