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P&G Logo(Marketing Week, 2014)

An interesting article in AdvertisingAge this week discusses a change in titles for some of P&G’s marketing leadership. Specifically, as of July 1st P&G has announced a shift in the titles of over 100 of some of its senior level managers. The title “Marketing Director” and “Assistant Marketing Director” will now be given the title of “Brand Director” and “Assistant Brand Director” respectively. The decision comes as part of the consumer packaged goods company’s organizational redesign aimed at creating a “single-point of responsibility for the strategies, plans and results for (each) brand,” a spokesperson told Ad Age.

Along with this change in title comes, at the very least, a clarification of the areas that the two roles will be held accountable for. These areas include: brand management, formerly known as marketing; consumer and marketing knowledge, also known as market research; communications, including what used to be called external relations; and design.

This is not the first time that this particular role has changed titles either. Over two decades ago the title of “Marketing Director” within P&G used to be called the more arcane “Advertising Manager.” That transition was meant in part to recognize that advertising was no longer the only method employed by marketers to build their brands. Also for some, the word advertising has a tendency in consumers’ minds to be associated with short term connotations (getting the business) that aren’t well received by consumers.

In an article in Marketing Week Hugh Burkitt, chief executive of the Marketing Society, admits that “marketing”, like any other term, can go in and out of fashion and that it “does get some abuse and can take on overtones of selling and forcing people to do things they don’t want to.” While shifting perceptions of the term may be sufficient motivation for some firms, for P&G such a benefit seems either to be an ancillary factor in the decision or incidental in nature. However, the benefits of making a change in the title of a more prominent role to reflect changing consumer views could be considered an effective marketing decision and strong enough justification to do so.

The decision by P&G is considered by some media outlets to be a signal of things to come within the marketing function of large organizations; however, it’s not the first time that a large company has re-framed the role and perspective of members of its marketing leadership from a marketing focus to a consumer and brand focus. Marketing Week notes that other companies have employed similar practices such as Visa calling their top executive within marketing the “Chief Brand Officer” and Vodafone naming the highest marketer within their organization the “Head of Brand, Reputation and Citizenship.”

Will these shifts signal a trend towards recognizing marketing internally (within corporations) and externally (within the public) as encompassing a wider range of areas and responsibilities related to the long term growth and development of brands with commensurate actions taken by those who see this change in role? Or is it just a matter of companies responding to a public that has become increasingly cynical when it comes to the idea of marketing with a change in the presentation of these roles? To some these kinds of actions might be seen as the corporate version of a “wolf in sheep’s clothing.”  However, even if that is not the case the transformation of an organization’s understanding (and in turn execution of a role), especially a senior one, is never easy.

  • Do you think that these kinds of title changes for roles are always strategic in nature or, in some cases, a PR tactic?
  • In the case of P&G what kinds of performance measures and systems do you believe would help enable these brand leaders to live up to their new title and responsibilities?