There's No Good Answer for What to Call Marketers

Jonathan Salem Baskin on Marketing and Leadership

By Published on .

I remember when "word processor" was the job title of the guy who worked the Wang we'd set up in our mailroom. I'd give him pages typed on a Selectric and a few days later get something back to proof by hand.

Since then, not only have all corporate departments changed over to newer ways to get work accomplished, they've changed the very nature of their work.

Take social media, which could exist in corporate communications, sales, customer-relationship management/loyalty, your web group, or even as a stand-alone entity -- well, not so much stand-alone, since each of the functions now overlap.

Jonathan Salem Baskin
Jonathan Salem Baskin runs Baskin Associates, a global brand consultancy, and blogs at Dim Bulb.
Everything your department does sort of exists everywhere it does it; our "what" has evolved in tandem with the "how" of marketing execution. Things get even dicier when you try to describe functional nitty-gritty roles and responsibilities. Both the "where" and the "who" no longer have neat labels.

This confusion has implications for corporate governance, how you staff projects, your success at recruiting and retaining talented people, and their success at introducing themselves at cocktail parties.

At least I understood what that word processor did for a living, and it sort of made sense that he sat near the postage meter. But other than busy, there's no good answer for what to call most of the people in marketing today. Many of them don't even sit in the office.

The CMOs I know mostly work around the issue, keeping an informal list of skill sets and managerial prowess. Everyone has a few staffers who are "in charge of getting things done." In departments chock full of redundant hierarchical titles, some VPs are more equal than others. Some are experimenting with titles based on project roles, much like designating positions for baseball players, relegating hierarchy to personnel files and job reviews. Younger recruits seem more comfortable with this approach than those of us who are in mourning for our career-path ladders.

Others are mimicking agency titles, even if I couldn't tell you what "innovation managers" or "content leaders" actually do. Market validation is important -- salespeople get to call themselves "grand poobahs" if that's what it takes to get retail appointments -- but I don't understand how it helps you staff a project.

An intriguing possibility would be to let employees accrue status and expand the scope of their responsibilities via their performance and affirmation on projects, so they'd gain points for being team players, pleasant, effective, etc. -- kind of like gamers on "World of Warcraft" or some other online role-playing game.

I should write something up on that idea. If I get it to the world processor, maybe we'll see something typed up later this week.
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