Is your marketing department still relevant?


A wind of change is blowing in the world of professional marketing. This change seems to have started slowly but is gathering steam and becoming more popular by the day. If you work in an organisation that has a marketing department, you should be interested in this change.

A few weeks ago, consumer goods giant Unilever announced a new global head of Marketing. Ordinarily, appointing a new head for such a huge company is news by itself. However, interestingly, this time what observers are talking about is not just the who the new boss is – they are talking about the new leader’s title.

Many years ago, Unilever’s global marketing head role was called Chief Marketing & Communication Officer. Later, the role was changed to Chief Marketing and Digital Officer. Then it was updated to Chief Digital and Commercial Officer. Now, with the announcement of Esi Eggleston Bracey – a seasoned business manager, the role is Chief Growth and Marketing Officer.

Here is the million-dollar question – Why is the title changing? and why should titles even matter?

Photo: Esi Eggleston Bracey, Unilever                           Credit: AdClubNY

The re-union theory

A possible explanation is that Sales and Marketing are re-uniting.

According to Yvonne Ocloo, a respected Marketing Communication specialist, Entrepreneur and Business Consultant, what is happening is neither a mistake nor a novelty. The changing title is simply recognising a reunion of parts that used to be together. “To me, the stronger the re-union the more it works in our interest. From my experience in delivering the last mile of marketing as an experiential company, consumers do not distinguish between the functions. Marketing and sales are a natural continuum; and the more synergised they are, the higher the return on investment.”

This re-union theory is supported by Anthony Edem Adoglin, an experienced professional who currently uses the title of ‘Sales & Marketing Manager’ in his present role. He thinks: ‘The constant change in title is a result of the sophistication and diversity that comes with the role of marketing.

Indeed, marketing is deployed for the purposes of growth; and any organisation that has a marketing function which does not bring growth is worthless – and so the new title is perfect. The ultimate function of Sales and Marketing is growth – and so both cannot be separated, ever! Indeed, Project Analyst Praise Prah captures this theory simply when he says: “Sales and Marketing are opposite sides of the same coin”.

The technology angle

A second explanation could be how technology has become part of our day-to-day life and is changing the way we work.

Gameli Adjaho, who is one of Ghana’s known promoters of grassroot STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), suggests ‘Digital’ is becoming so deeply embedded into the fabric of business and society it is redundant to emphasise the word ‘Digital’ in a job title. However, from a strategic standpoint, appreciation of user-behaviour and building relationships online may be still key.

In other words, future job roles will not mention ‘digital’ anymore – since it is already the normal way of working. This is a thought-provoking angle that affects not just marketing but other functions like Supply Chain, Logistics and Production. Indeed, technology has changed the way we do even the simplest of tasks; and with advanced technology like artificial intelligence (AI) becoming more common, no one can accurately predict the future of work.

The growth angle

We are seeing a trend across global corporations where ‘growth’ and ‘growth-hacking’ are becoming the norm. It makes perfect sense that roles will more closely integrate with business growth, at least for now until the next global shift happens, says Norvisi Sokpe Ndon – a researcher who specialises in business strategy and insights.

Upon reflection, I see great value in all three angles – the reunion theory, the technology touch and the growth angle, and I would love to broaden the discussion beyond just a few functions. My position is based on recent happenings in the economy which have left businesses with no other choice than to find ways of growing in an increasingly difficult environment.

I am fully convinced that to survive in today’s difficult environment, functions can no longer work in silos – they will have to collaborate more and find ways of linking their work to overall business growth. If changing job titles is a sign that businesses are thinking more of overall business growth and no longer thinking in terms of silo functions, then the new job titles are steps in the right direction.

We can therefore conclude by saying – to know whether any department will remain irrelevant or go extinct in the near-future, just check if the people work in silos or collaborate with other functions to deliver business growth.

>> the writer is a Marketing Leader with a track-record of delivering growth while managing or consulting for some of West Africa’s most familiar brands. Contact [email protected]

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