Is It Time For a New Marketer Archetype?
Updated: Sep 1
A few years ago, I was working with a marketing team at a large social media company. We were re-envisioning the role the team would play Vis-à-vis the product group. These highly educated marketers were order takers, morale was low, and they were facing a reorganization and being asked to justify their existence. One day, while we were workshopping a mission for the group, the team froze. Something was happening in the platform feed. There had been another mass shooting, and fake news was popping up faster than their mitigation team could shut it down. I watched as this team of Type A marketers swirled, deflected, and panicked. There was nothing they could do. They had no idea how to escalate possible solutions to the increasing trauma that was unfolding online. They had no playbook for this scenario. This surprised me. How could a company so pervasive in the world, so seemingly sophisticated, not have a defined role for marketing in crisis? These things sadly happen every day in our culture, yet there was no plan. But as I pondered it more, I realized it actually made sense. Since there was no clearly defined identity for marketing in their "normal" world, how could there be a defined role in this situation? My heart ached at their helplessness.
It's no secret that marketing is often considered a tactical function in Silicon Valley, acting more like a project management team to get products into marketing. There is a common sentiment that anyone with a computer can market. Sales and product leaders struggle to figure out how to partner with marketing. Since there is a lack of clear definition for the organization, let alone an engagement model all too often, the marketing team shrinks from conflict, fails to take a stand, and instead continues to relegate itself to a disempowered, order-taking role. This not only impacts morale, but can have a massive impact on the success or failure of the customers' experience of the brand. I know you must be thinking, "How could people who have access to customer behavior data, own the media channels, and are counted on to engage consumers, be so afraid to lead? Don't they know that what they create matters not only to the health of the businesses they serve, but more importantly, to the community of customers, partners, and stakeholders that benefit from their company's presence in the world."
More often than not, marketing leaders, overwhelmed by the complexity and visibility of their jobs, become targets for the issues across the organization. Also, quite often, their peers in sales, or product leaders, who have fine-tuned the skill of negotiation, overpower them with their opinions. Assuming this role is not only bad for business, it's bad for the heart and soul of marketers as people and professionals. Burnout is rampant and ineffective. Tone-deaf marketing is a scourge on our markets. Sure, part of the blame sits in the C-suite, but the solution is on marketing and the way we present ourselves to the business and act on behalf of customers.
Is your marketing organization your organization's secret weapon or the dumping ground when growth is slow? Is the CMO your go-to for market insights that keep the company in tune with emerging market conditions and cultural change? Or does your marketing team spend their creative energy justifying results to a wide array of conflicting demands, hacking together an inadequate customer experience from an increasingly complex mix of touchpoints, trying to keep a team engaged amidst the panic to drive short-term growth? If your answer is "yes," it's time to take a look at how your team sees themselves and their mission.
It's time for marketing leaders to consciously create a new archetype.
How we operate as individuals, teams, and organizations has everything to do with our archetypal understanding of what a customer-centric marketer looks like and how they behave. The first step is a mindset shift. A new vision of who we can become as marketers. The impact we can have, the stories we want to tell, the ways we work together to make magic from complexity all impact our archetypal image. Will we be heroes, lovers, transformers, or will we be victims of circumstance?
Every team needs the support to envision their archetype and then space to explore, embody, and evolve these new ways of being. With the right structure and nurturing, they can become empowered individual leaders working together to co-create a cultural operating model that magnifies success and minimizes struggle. This model becomes the grounding force of a successful team of customer-oriented leaders ready to tackle any turn in the business, change in customer behavior, or unforeseen crisis.
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