Will Harris: the rise of the combined sales and marketing director role

Will Harris
Will Harris

The role of the marketing director is changing, as the business of marketing is changing, so practitioners must let go of their preconceptions and attachment to job titles, and adapt to survive.

Q: My managing director has just appointed a brand director but, rather than have her report to me, the marketing director, he insists that she reports directly to him. Should I be nervous? Have I the right to protest?

A: About a year ago, a firm of headhunters asked me to do some work on what a marketing organisation of the future would look like. I spent some time trying to work out how you could insure against brilliant agency-inspired creative ideas being rejected by myopic unimaginative clients. In the end, I decided that the only sure-fire way was not to hire idiotic clients.

The head of TV at one of my former agencies regularly used to mutter that if clients had to choose between shit and putty, their windows would fall out. He normally did this late in the night as we sat up making needless changes to a perfectly good TV film.

The conclusion to my thinking was that the marketing organisation of the future would probably have a joint sales and marketing director, serving alongside a brand director, both reporting to a chief executive.

Blurring lines

As ever-more of what today counts as marketing is spent in a measurable online manner, the distinction between 'sales' and 'marketing' will fizzle out. If your business has a significant online channel and your marketing efforts aren't increasing sales, then where are they all going?

This instant-win approach will have at least one inevitable, unintended consequence, which is where a strong brand director comes in. As marketing directors start behaving like sales directors, their fixation with the short term will get stronger. Only by having a brand director, empowered to manage the longer-term health of the business and brand, will balance be maintained.

Read the signs

Your boss could be a visionary, ahead of his time. Or, he could be avidly reading the guff about organisational change that London headhunters churn out. Whatever the reason, you need to think about the role you play in a world where much of the 'arts and crafts' may be done by someone else.

Perhaps you need to make a play for a combined sales and marketing role? Or better still, kick back and amuse yourself at board meetings by asking all those annoyingly parochial, tunnel-vision questions about sponsorships and other brand activity that you have spent your whole career fending off.

Will Harris is a former marketing director for Nokia in the UK and Asia region. He was the first marketing director of the Conservative Party and launch marketing director of the O2 brand.

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