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The Pros and Cons of Centralized, Decentralized, and Distributed Marketing Teams

Yep, we’re tackling the most exciting subject in marketing. Look out, guys. But seriously, which option should you choose for your team?

It’s a question as old as time (or maybe just as old as the 21st century), should I centralize, decentralize, or distribute my marketing team?

Before you decide, examine the pros and cons of each option and determine which would work best for your team and business. The final answer could depend on your product or service, your size, or your company structure.

So what’s the difference between the three options?

What do centralized, decentralized, and distributed even mean?

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In a centralized marketing team, there’s one department that rules them all (no all-powerful rings though). They control all the marketing activities and initiatives and manage a unified brand image for the entire business.


On the other end of the spectrum, a decentralized marketing team results in multiple departments that are all separately responsible for their own marketing activities. You’ll normally see this in larger organizations that have a number of business units and different solutions.


Distributed marketing teams combine the best of both options above. The central marketing department creates marketing initiatives, templated campaigns, and assets that the local, distributed teams can customize for their markets. This allows the corporate core and the local level to work together to leverage central resources and local knowledge and expertise.

Help, what are the pros and cons of each option?!

Image by Immo Wegmann on Unsplash


There are a number of benefits to a centralized marketing team, but by far the main advantage is the economies of scale it provides. With skills, resources, systems, vendor management, and data all housed in the one department, marketing budgets and investments are easily managed and controlled. It’s cost effective and streamlined, allowing systems and technological integration to be simplified and costs cut.

Centralization empowers marketers to utilize a more unified branding approach, ensuring they take greater ownership and accountability over marketing initiatives and results.

It can also provide a better understanding of the customer journey, as centrally housing all data allows marketers to track every interaction a customer has with their company.

On the other hand, there are a few disadvantages that should be considered. Poorly implemented centralization can “stifle initiative, constrain the ability to tailor products and services locally, and burden business divisions with high costs and poor service.”

Since everything goes through the centralized marketing team, it can often act as a bottleneck for campaign implementation and asset creation. But there are technologies and workflows that can significantly reduce this.

This inability to customize on a local level is the main roadblock for centralization. Different business units or regions need to be able to tailor their marketing campaigns for market conditions, goals, and local language. In this age of personalization, centralized marketing could miss the mark.


This option is often chosen by larger organizations that have a diverse range of business units and solutions, as decentralization allows the business units to market their products without the interference of the parent company or core brand.

This also means that local or product-specific marketers are specializing in their target area or product, resulting in more customized campaigns and improved consumer communications.

Author, speaker, and revenue marketing expert Debbie Qaqish agrees that local knowledge and responsiveness to local markets is a key benefit. “One of the most important roles of the field marketing team is their working knowledge of sales, local market conditions, and local customer idiosyncrasies. In contrast, corporate marketers are so often removed from the local reality, especially customers, they make decisions in a vacuum that don’t always represent the best interests of local marketers.”

However, decentralization does come with its own challenges. With all your decentralized teams doing their own thing, you can end up with multiple different systems, strategies, and campaigns. This threatens brand integrity, inflates costs, and overcomplicates workflows. It can also lead to the duplication of work, poor performance tracking, and a lack of a larger strategic framework.


This option is gaining significant traction with marketing teams as it offers a number of unique advantages.

In a distributed marketing team structure, the central team maintains control of the brand and creates a range of assets, like emails, advertisements, landing pages, fact sheets, and others. These assets are then shared with local teams and can be customized, co-branded, and localized. This provides local teams with professional, on-brand resources that they might not have the budget to create themselves.

Another benefit to a distributed marketing team is that the same systems are used, ensuring that data is stored centrally and no leads or customers are lost. This also allows the central team to monitor marketing performance and track the ROI of campaigns at both a national and local level.

Whatever team structure you choose, you’ll need the right tools to power your team and streamline workflows.

Schedule your personalized demo to discover how stensul has been helping a diverse range of marketing teams decrease email production time by 90% and increase output by 10X.

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