Why alternative job titles prove marketing is not the ‘colouring-in department’

Does the plethora of new titles for senior marketing roles reflect a change in the nature of marketing, or is it a case of window dressing gone wild?

reinventAlison Jones, customer director of the Co-operative Group, and Chris Macleod, director for customers and revenue at Transport for London, both run the marketing function at their respective employers, yet neither has a job title that includes the word ‘marketing’.

“There are a lot of businesses that put the word ‘customer’ in for the sake of it, because it’s the new trendy thing to do,” Jones told the audience at the Festival of Marketing (10 October).

“But part of my job is looking at the customer, so I’m confident I’m not being too wanky.”

Macleod explained that while he used to be a marketing director, the change in his job title reflects his differing role and responsibility. “The customer title probably has more resonance in our business than the marketing description…because we’re such a heavy customer service business,” he added.

The evolution of marketing roles is a key reason behind the changing job title trend, according to both Jones and Macleod. Another reason is an effort to better explain the purpose and benefits of marketing to colleagues in other departments.

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“Marketing has historically been too associated with marketing communications and output,” said Macleod. Both he and Jones have encountered companies where marketing was referred to as ‘the colouring-in department’ by directors who didn’t appreciate its real function.

“It is our responsibility to show that our roles aren’t just there to advertise what people are selling… if you just think about what the ad looks like, or the media channel you are going to get it to, you just concede to being the colouring-in department,” Jones stated.

Having spent much of her career in general merchandise where fashion buyers merited hero status, she found that the marketing department was always brought in for “the end of the conversation”, leaving her with the challenge of fighting for a seat at the top table. This is a seat Jones now occupies at the Co-op.

New job titles can also reflect how diverse roles, which used to operate as individual silos, are being brought together with more modern business practice.

“A lot of this is about integration and collaboration,” Macleod explained. “There is always a risk of silos developing within marketing, let alone within the rest of the organisation.”