Silos, Sticks and Carrots

Published on LinkedIn January 21, 2017


How many times have you heard the word “silos” at work? As in, “They’re in their own silo,” or “This company has too many silos.” If that’s a common term, mostly likely your company has grown through acquisition. Then the enterprise didn’t do a complete job of wresting control into corporate shared services like Marketing, HR, and Legal. The acquired business units just kept doing things their way, sometimes to the point of keeping their previous brand alive. In these cases, the “brand police” can try to monitor and enforce overt violations. But what about things like “tone” and “message”… is it okay to let the business units talk to their target markets their way? Yes and no. Yes, the marketing/sales techniques used to reach key segments should be highly targeted. But no, the tone of marketing messages should reinforce the official corporate brand and voice. Otherwise brand integrity becomes diluted, and customers become confused.

Time to bring out the sticks and carrots. First, make sure your shared service marketing groups are not actually fulfilling the off-brand materials for the business units. It’s not unusual for Digital or Creative Services to get a work request and just do it. If an audit proves that’s happening, offer assistance. Also make sure the business units are not working with outside agencies who don’t comply to the brand guidelines – maybe even hosting assets on outside servers. Again, offer to help them integrate. But what can be done if compliance doesn’t come? Slowing or stopping their corporate services will just create more of the behavior – maybe even give them justification for building out their rouge marketing teams. The answer has to come from the top. Corporate executives must align and agree – then sponsor change management. They might use carrots and sticks, but the message must be clear, “We are one company. Get it together.” When silos collapse at the top levels, they crumble down through the organization. So if your company has too many silos – and you see opportunities – communicate up. You might get some carrots.


About Lorena Harris

Lorena Harris has more than 20 years of marketing leadership experience with large business service companies. Her expertise is in designing research-based content marketing programs for brand building and demand generation. Since earning her MBA from Duke, Lorena has built revenue-generating marketing programs for $B+ B2B service companies such as Fiserv, First Data and Vantiv (financial services), ADP (employee benefit services), Convergys (contact center services) and Donnelly (publishing services). More information available on
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