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.


Before commenting please read our rules for commenting on articles.

If you see a comment you find offensive, you can flag it as inappropriate. In the top right-hand corner of an individual comment, you will see 'flag as inappropriate'. Clicking this prompts us to review the comment. For further information see our rules for commenting on articles.

comments powered by Disqus
Brand Republic Jobs

subscribe now


John Lewis walks consumers through its history to celebrate 150 years of business
Waitrose boosts content strategy with 'Weekend Kitchen with Waitrose' C4 tie-up
Hottest virals: Cute puppies star in Pedigree ad, plus Idris Elba and Fruyo
Amnesty International burns candles to illuminate new hope
Toyota achieves the impossible by calming angry Roman drivers
Tom of Finland's 'homoerotic' drawings made into stamps
YouTube reveals user habits to appeal to 'older' marketers
Ex-M&S marketing chief Steven Sharp consulting at WPP
Wolff Olins reveals new CEO after Apple poaches Karl Heiselman
Glasgow offers £30,000 prize to best digital idea for 2014 Commonwealth Games
Google's revenues surge but shares drop as it grapples with transition to mobile
Facebook beats Twitter to most 'marketing friendly' social media site crown, says DMA
Fableists believe children like Finn should be outdoors enjoying life
Homebase, Baileys and Camelot join the line-up at Media360
MasterCard renews Rugby World Cup sponsorship to push cashless message
Lynx unleashes £9m 'Peace invasion' campaign
Social Brands 100 Youth: Pizza Hut most social youth brand in UK
Cheryl Cole is wild and arresting in new L'Oreal work
Morrisons told not to show alcohol ads during YouTube nursery rhymes
O2 head of brand Shadi Halliwell departs after 23 years at company in restructure
Tesco hit by further sales decline as it turns to digital Clubcard and social network
Branding guru Wally Olins dies aged 83
Duracell short film captures epic Transatlantic voyage
Ash runs Tinder experiment to show smokers are less desirable to opposite sex
British Airways teams up with Gerry Cottle Jnr for summer of rooftop film screenings
Arklu says 'girls can be superheroes too' with doll design competition
Coke enters squash market with Oasis Mighty Drops
Virgin Galactic signs up Land Rover as space flight sponsor
Motorola marketer Andrew Morley departs as Google gears up for sale to Lenovo
US Airways apologises after tweeting obscene image at a customer