Secret Marketer: Understand and respect others’ roles, but don’t waste time trying to be them

It is a time of great change within my company and it’s a chance for everyone to focus on their strengths and remember why they were selected in the first place.

Regular readers will know that I am the CMO of my brand’s UK business. It is a time of great change within the company, as the overall brand is globalising and the future for the Secret Marketer is either going to be rosy, or a bit crap.

My ultimate goal is to become the global CMO, so I have put my hat in the ring to take responsibility for all marketing across the 100-plus countries that make up Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA), as the stepping stone to that role. It will build on my expertise running the largest and, undoubtedly, most important country within EMEA and is the role that is closest to the customer and therefore the action.

I am not alone in wanting this role, and my boss – the global CMO – has pointed out that I might also want to consider applying for the job running the “marketing factory” where our global marketing activities are developed for execution within each country. But there are two problems with this: first, putting the words ‘marketing’ and ‘factory’ in the same sentence couldn’t be more inappropriate. ‘Marketing’ should be agile, swashbuckling and exciting, whereas the word ‘factory’ conjures up anything but that. Second, I have built my career on being a front-line marketer, not someone sat in the back office.

The former could be overcome by clever internal branding – ‘campaign hub’, ‘marketing innovation centre’, ‘the place where it all happens’ – that sort of thing. The latter is potentially more challenging. Take the England cricket captain and batsman, Alistair Cook. Now, when the team goes to practice in the nets before a test match, does the team manager try to turn him into a front-line bowler, just because bowling is lacking from his make up?

Alternatively, does an agency account handler get locked in the attic and told to not come out until they have become a top creative? The answer to these is of course no, but the key point is that Cook and the account handler need to respect and understand the other roles; to do that they don’t need to waste time and effort trying to be something that they are not.

Instead, they should focus on making their strengths stronger – they were selected for being good at these things so why waste time on developing skills they do not have, nor really need?

Clearly, if I don’t get the new pan-EMEA role, I will be extolling the virtues of being the factory manager – we all need a job, right? But for now, I am going to be choosy, unless of course, it turns out that they still have a tea trolley in the factory.

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  • Thomas Barta 18 Aug 2015 at 10:33 am

    Dear Secret Marketer, I’m glad to read about your global CMO aspirations and I’m sorry to hear that “factory” may be next. It’s perhaps a coincidence but I read you’re using your past credentials (leading “one” market) as argument for the future (leading “several” markets). That may be tricky. In fact it may not work. Moving the company forward in an EMEA or global role requires different skills from you as a marketer (e.g. aligning different views, working across cultures, driving a boarder vision). You may have these skills – no doubt. But if you’re mainly highlighting your executional one-market credentials, people may see you more suited for, let’s say, a factory? Here’s an idea: In working with many CMOs across regions I’ve learned: stepping up in a company (which is generally hard) works best if you do one thing: develop a vision and a plan for what the company – one level above your pay grade – could achieve or do better. Share it. Then (and only then): ask to lead it. Good luck! Thomas

  • Secret Marketer 21 Aug 2015 at 8:35 am

    Thanks Thomas – I will bear that in mind!

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