The Bureaucratization of Marketing


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It’s getting ridiculous. Everyone wants to be a chief.

First we had Chief Executive Officers and Chief Financial Officers. Then we got Chief Information Officers. Now we have Chief Marketing Officers.

But clearly that is not enough. Now I hear calls for Chief Customer Engagement Officers. I’ve even seen a discussion on LinkedIn calling for a “Chief Revenue Officer.” (I assume that that title would encompass the job that used to be called VP-Sales & Marketing.) I have no doubt that soon someone will start suggesting that we need a Chief Social Media Officer.

Pretty soon C Suite meetings will have to be held in a football stadium.

To my mind, this trend is going in diametrically the wrong direction.

The “Law of Bureaucracy” (practically a law of physics) mandates that a bureaucracy exists to perpetuate itself and inexorably expand.

Every “chief” needs Indians. So every chief will – like a force of nature – need more staff. That increased staff must inevitably hold smaller and narrower areas of responsibility, but those staffs still need to justify their existence (and salaries). In government, this takes the form of an ever-increasing number of regulations. In business, this takes the form of an ever-increasing number of binders filled with charts, “analytics,” and jargon.

Bureaucracy does not contribute to the well-being, efficiency, or profitability of an enterprise.

Marketing – and business – needs less Balkanization and more integration.

I understand that everyone wants to feel important and wants to believe that his or her area of responsibility is critical to the success of the organization. But title inflation and micro-miniaturization of job functions will not lead to greater success or revenues.

To carry the trend to its logical extreme, suppose we eventually have a Chief Social Media Officer. Does that mean, then, that beneath him will be a Blogging Manager? A FaceBook Manager? A Twitter manager? And will they need staff, too?

You can see where I am going. Our blogging, FaceBook, and Twitter managers will each produce his own strategy. (No one wants to be just in charge of “tactics.”) This leads, of course, to enhanced tunnel vision and increasingly narrow fields of expertise. And the CMO will be so busy managing an enlarged staff, creating his own strategy, reading (or pretending to read) all the binders being produced, that he will have even less time than now to look up from the trenches.

Marketing (and business in general) doesn’t need more chiefs. And it doesn’t need more bureaucracies to support them.

Business needs marketing chiefs – leaders – who will ensure that their Indians function as a unified and cohesive whole on the economic battlefield. Anything that distracts from that is a marketplace disaster waiting to happen.

The Balkanization of marketing doesn’t lead to strength, and it certainly doesn’t lead to efficiency.

The bureaucratization of marketing is leading to marketing’s dis-integration. And it is making it harder to find – and develop – true and visionary Chief Marketing Officers for tomorrow.

Emily R. Coleman
Dr. Emily R. Coleman is President of Competitive Advantage Marketing, Inc., a firm that specializes in helping companies expand their reach and revenues through strategy and implementation. Dr. Coleman has more than 30 years of hands-on executive management experience working with companies, from Fortune 500 firms to entrepreneurial enterprises. Dr. Coleman's expertise extends from the integration of corporate-wide marketing operations and communications to the development and implementation of strategy into product development and branding.


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