Should You Centralize OR Decentralize Marketing Campaign Operations?

Growing marketers must inevitably decide what operations to centralize and what to decentralize. For functions like data quality management or vendor management, centralization is an easy decision. The decisions around marketing campaign operations design and development are more difficult.

If you are a growing enterprise with regional and perhaps international locations, and you are going through a digital transformation and building out a marketing operations function, you must inevitably decide what to centralize and what to decentralize. For functions like data quality management or vendor management, centralization is an easy decision. The decisions around marketing campaign operations design and development are more difficult.

The Case for Centralizing Marketing Campaign Operations

What skills and resources are needed to operate a campaign center of excellence?

  • Analysis and reporting skills
  • Program and campaign architecture and design, including multi-channel campaigns and ABM. These people should also be experts in the buying journey and the personas.
  • Power-users who can build and launch whatever you dream up. This includes marketing automation platforms, CRM, inbound technologies, website CMS, social technologies and paid media expertise.
  • Campaign project managers who can coordinate the entire campaign development process and the creation of assets just in time for usage in campaigns
  • In some cases, you may also need the data gurus to identify the hottest segments to target.
Centralized marketing campaign operations
Centralized marketing campaign operations. | Credit: Pedowitz Group by Kevin Joyce

Establishing the campaign center of excellence at HQ and centralizing the campaign power users and designers in one place has some advantages:

  • Best practices can be centralized and shared more easily
  • Brand consistency can be more easily managed
  • Avoids the difficulties of finding experienced power users for MarTech globally
  • Drives maximum re-use of campaigns and assets
  • Creates a tight knit team environment for mentoring and skill development
  • Provides a single coordinated set of content requirements to creative team
  • Provides a single set of data segmentation requests to data/segmentation team
  • Drives consistency in reporting and facilitates global rollup of demand generation reporting
  • Promotes less dependence on regional marketing people to execute campaigns so there may be more predictability in campaign schedules

All this sounds great, but there are some drawbacks, especially if you are in the regions!

  • Regions have much less control over what campaigns are created and to whom they are sent.
  • Regions may feel the process is too slow, and it takes too long to get a campaign out.
  • Regions may struggle to have their input incorporated into campaigns and may not get campaigns that are precisely targeted to their region.
  • Regions may become frustrated that they do not have the power to be agile and create quick one-off campaigns around events and local activities.

The Case for Decentralizing Marketing Campaign Operations

The alternative to centralizing all of the campaign design and execution resources in HQ is to decentralize the function, encouraging regional campaign design and development.

Decentralized marketing campaign management.
Decentralized marketing campaign operations. | Credit: Pedowitz Group by Kevin Joyce

Many organizations choose to build campaign design and development centers across the globe. There are some clear advantages.

  • Moving demand generation closer to the customer just seems logical. The regional marketing teams have their finger on the pulse of their markets, they know the content that will resonate, they know what their sales teams will value, they probably know the channel partners in the region. Bottom line, they can fine tune the segmentation, messages and offers better than HQ.
  • The regional marketers also do a lot of tactical marketing, events and promotions that require campaign support (email, paid media, etc.). Having that close at hand, under their own control gives them the flexibility to be responsive to sales requests and create and distribute their own content freely.
  • There will be less need or localization and translation since much of the content will be sourced locally.
  • Having a global demand generation team could enable you to offer 7×24 campaign services to all regions and turn around campaign builds in less than 24 hours.
  • There are still some in the HQ CoE who crank out best-practice based campaigns that can be shared globally.
  • The roles of campaign designer, power user, and regional marketing manager may be fulfilled by just one person in smaller regions, making campaign creation faster.

This sounds attractive, especially if you are scaling global operations, but there are drawbacks.

  • Great responsibility follows inseparably from great power. When we distribute the power and technology to all the regions, they need to understand that they have a responsibility to not SPAM customers, abide by the brand guidelines, align their messages to the approved messaging architecture, be rigorous in their use of QA, and coordinate their campaigns with the occasional global campaigns that emanate from HQ.
  • The content calendar and editorial calendar for the organization as a whole will be more difficult to coordinate as more regional campaign centers emerge. As a result, there is a risk of duplication of effort between the regions and HQ. The regions need to share their editorial calendar and content calendar with other regions and corporate for coordination and sharing.
  • There is risk that best practices will not be shared or followed by the regions. In addition, the level of sharing of great campaigns or offers will only rise to acceptable levels if you make it someone’s job to drive it.
  • Finding experienced marketers in using Marketing Cloud, Pardot, Marketo, and OMC is difficult enough in NA and EMEA. Imagine how hard it is to find them in South America, or China. Now add in experience with AdTech as a pre-requisite.
  • The demands on the creative/content team, and the reporting and analytics team, will increase with requests coming from all regions independently and not prioritized.
  • Regional marketing teams often report into the region’s General Manager, who, being compensated heavily based on sales results, may often usurp the regional marketers to focus on short-term marketing tactics as the expense of long term nurturing programs.

These drawbacks are not insurmountable. Addressing each of these as you build the global demand function is highly advised.

Next Steps If You Are Deciding Which Route to Take

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Which model is more customer centric, and will deliver better customer experiences across the globe?
  • Which model is more flexible, scalable, and agile?
  • Can you start centralized, define many of the required processes and then gradually add campaign development centers in the regions?
  • Can you put in place some templates, best-practice based campaign examples, process and governance so the “great power” you distribute can be used wisely?
  • Can you segment the marketing databases and limit permissions to reduce your exposure to a rogue region campaigning to the world?
  • Can you hire or train the people you need in the regions you want to support?


How has your company organized demand generation? Please share your experience in the comments below or via email: