As a marketing consultant, I spend a lot of time looking at ads for employment to keep abreast of hiring trends. Clearly, everyone is looking for a leg up in internet marketing, eager to catapult their company into leadership by bringing digital marketing in-house. Positions like VP of Customer Acquisition, Digital Marketing Director, and Director of Social Media are now the norm and fill the job boards. More interestingly still are the ads for VP of Marketing, which read like something directly out of tech manual– Must have e-commerce experience, must know SEO and SEM and a personal favorite, must know Google Adwords.
So maybe some of you are nodding. In fact, maybe some of you have placed these ads. But to someone who has been in the Brand Management game for 20 years, it reads as silly as must know how to place and track a coupon, must have experience writing PR copy, and must understand GRPs would have looked in a VP of Marketing job description, back in the day.
The fact was, as a P&G Brand Assistant right out of undergraduate school, understanding the fundamentals of new advertising and promotion vehicles was the job. We acted as the gate-keeper for our Brand Managers, who also kept abreast on all of the new marketing vehicles available. We recommended the tests, we summarized the results, and we made the recommendations for optimization.
But something different is occurring in the digital age. There seems to be a chasm developing between digital media (the tool) and brand marketing (the strategy). CEOs who have not kept abreast of new technology are afraid to be missing out and are replacing Brand Management positions with Digital Optimization Managers. New start-ups are even worse, hiring Customer Acquisition VPs to drive traffic and acquire funding, without a strategic plan behind positioning, messaging, retention or customer lifetime value. We are creating an era of digital “one hit wonders,” driven by short-term metrics. In short, companies are spending higher HR budgets behind the vehicle and next to nothing behind the message, creating an e-commerce customer acquisition and social media “like” counting bubble that is about to burst.
CEOs looking to build their business as the recession begins to wane need to raise the marketing bar and use this period to refocus their energy on brand building and customer value. Hiring models need to reflect this understanding and VP of Marketing positions need to go back to being filled by those who know the consumer, the marketplace, the product, and the brand the best, and leave the digital specialization to the agencies that report to them.
Leslie Gibbs is the CMO and owner of Digital Branding Partners, a consulting agency based in Santa Monica, CA, dedicated to leading new and existing brands in the development of unique and lasting brand platforms and marketing strategies for the digital age.
Is your marketing department structured for brand development or for digital optimization? It is surprising how few companies are delivering on both.