L.L.Bean and Washington Post on Why Integrating Departments Made Sense

Posted on by Patty Odell

Many brands still maintain marketing departments scattered across the company, disparate teams working in their own silos and not necessarily connecting with other key teams—even competing with other teams. More often, brands are centralizing those team to create unity and cohesiveness in marketing—and experts say that make sense.

merging departments

Washington Post CMO Miki King

At the Washington Post, marketing had a broad function before CMO Miki King came on board several years ago. A large group of people comprised the local print marketing team focused on home delivery while just two individuals focused on digital marketing selling digital subscriptions. As digital subscriptions grew, so too did the team. King spoke recently with Digiday in a video about the importance of merging the teams within the publishing company.

“We really wanted to make sure the two groups weren’t speaking two different languages because we had this print team doing things the way they had been doing them that made a ton of sense 10 years ago, but as we started to have more conversations about the voice that we wanted to have to the market we thought it was really important for us to be speaking in one language, one voice,” she says.

The teams were integrated: the digital and print marketing teams and the local and national marketing teams.

“There is not a single person now on the entire team who focuses only on print subscriptions, so we have integrated that in every way,” she says. “The person leading that team now works directly on national branding, instead of specific to the DC market and that was 90 percent of what it was doing. We stopped, quite honestly, on anything that is focused only on the local market.”

The integration required training. A culture shift was necessary among team members that had primarily been working on the print side of the business to help them understand that the business is transitioning and that doesn’t necessarily mean there isn’t a place for those that were part of the legacy business.

“It was a matter of having them work with our folks on the digital team, having them work with folks on our analytics team to encourage more shared learning. We didn’t have a lot of major skill gaps where people just couldn’t do the work that we had. We let natural attrition take place in some cases … and rather than backfilling those roles specifically, we expanded the roles of other folks who were left on the team some of which took on more digital responsibility,” King says.

The message now is that while the news may be happening in the Washington, DC, backyard, here’s why it’s relevant to others across the country and world.

“Our goal is, how do we meet the reader where he or she is to put them on the path to a subscription,” she says. “We think there is a huge opportunity in reaching the digital reader.”

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L.L. Bean Shifts Focus

Another brand that recently combined various departments is L.L.Bean.

L.L.Bean is two years into a transformation journey, shifting focus to align with its new, refined brand positioning: For the Shared Joy of the Outdoors. Part of that transformation has been to blend experiential, PR, social, partnership and charitable giving to create a new department, brand engagement, that was created by and is led by Director of Brand Engagement Kathryn Burke Pratt.

“Historically those five channels have resided in different parts of the organization. We brought them together under one roof over the last two years. What we see is that those types of marketing channels work better together so we really approach all of our work agnostic of the individual channel and think about the idea first and how does that idea get expressed across those channels,” she says.

The new department has allowed the team to execute robust campaigns like its successful “Be an Outsider at Work” and “Boots & Brews” and to be more efficient staging programs like grand openings that live across all of our channels.

“It’s really exciting, but being able to point to the benefit of having all of these channels under one jurisdiction is really exciting to see,” she says.

“Being an Outsider at Work” was born of an insight—and academic research—that people would like to spend more time outdoors, but that work was preventing that. The campaign, run last summer over six weeks, launched in New York City’s Madison Square Park with a pop-up outdoor office space with group and individual work areas. The experience then hit the road over six weeks with stops in Philly, Boston and Madison, WI. The campaign also lived on Bean’s social channels and included a variety of marketing content.

Social chatter about the campaign was 4.4 times higher than the industry average. The media showed interest, including an article on the front page of USA Today, the largest newspaper in the country. The campaign is also credited with a cultural movement as evidenced by the January 2019 New York Times article citing L.L.Bean’s survey in an article titled “The Next Frontier in Office Space: The Outdoors.”


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