Most organizations have someone that they call the head of marketing, but unlike the other departments, this person's job is usually more tactical and less strategic than it could be. That's because the boss isn't willing to let go of the decisions that ...

The mythical “Head of Marketing”

Most organizations have someone that they call the head of marketing, but unlike the other departments, this person’s job is usually more tactical and less strategic than it could be.

That’s because the boss isn’t willing to let go of the decisions that are actually at the heart of marketing.

The boss is holding on tight to the answers to questions like, “who’s it for” and “what’s it for?” The boss certainly isn’t ceding responsibility for the company’s posture and the change it seeks to make.

So, it’s a bit disingenuous to call this marketing person the ‘head’ of anything.

I’m seeing the same thing with project managers who seek to extend their span of control to things that growth hackers get all excited about.

Head of marketing operations is probably more accurate, right?

In fact, the head of marketing is often more of a consigliere, charged with making a case to the CEO. If the boss is any good, she’ll listen carefully, ask hard questions and then make a smart decision. The rest of the time, the head of marketing is mostly following the lead of the boss. That’s because marketing is everything that the organization does that interacts with a member of the public. Marketing is personal, it’s vivid and it has its fingers in everything.

To be the head of marketing, you need the freedom and responsibility to change the way things work, not simply how they’re talked about.

At brand-oriented companies like Unilever, the brand manager has far more influence than she might at a place like Facebook, Basecamp or Slack, where it seems like the degrees of freedom are much narrower. If you want a marketing head, you need to give them the freedom to actually do marketing.

The reason that the tenure of a CMO at a big company averages about 18 months is that it takes a year and a half for the boss to realize that pain-free, risk-free, easy miracles aren’t arriving on schedule.


Of course it could be better

That’s not the question, not really.

The question is, “what are you going to do about it?”

And, to follow up, “what effort are you willing to put in to make it better?”

If you’re not willing to make it better, it’s probably going to stay the way it is.

The first day of summer is right around the corner (or winter, if you live in the other hemisphere).

The changing of seasons is as good a time as any to say, “now, I’m going to make it better.”

The key word isn’t ‘better’. The key words are now and I.


When you’re ready to take that on, we’d love to have you join us and become part of the altMBA. It’s worth checking out–but do it before June 21, that’s our final deadline for this session.


Awkward memorization

The spread of TED talks means that more and more people are being put on stage and told to memorize their talk.

This almost always leads to failure.

It’s not because people memorize too much, it’s because they don’t memorize enough.

Watch a great performance and you’ll see no artifacts of memorization. Instead, you will see someone speaking from the heart.

This is what it means to know something by heart.

Memorizing the words is half of it.

And woefully insufficient.

My suggestion: Don’t memorize your talk. Memorize your stories. Ten stories make a talk. Write yourself a simple cue card to remember each story’s name. Then tell us ten stories.

Be you.

We didn’t come to hear your words. If that’s all we wanted, we could have read the memo and saved a ton of time.

Bring your heart.


Book recommendations–present, future and past

Jerry Colonna, the quiet coach of so many successful leaders, has his first book out, publishing tomorrow. It’s raw, personal and life-altering. It’s called Reboot.

Lewis Hyde, author of the seminal The Gift, only writes a book a decade. The new one is due soon, I’ll be adding it to my stack on pub day. It’s called Forgetting.

Marie Forleo, who speaks clearly and with kindness, has her new book coming out in September. Everything is Figureoutable.

Paul McGowan, entrepreneurial wizard and quite a ruckus maker, has turned his autobiography into a bestseller. It’s called 99% True. A great title, and a rollicking ride.

The inimitable Scott Miller has written his first leadership book, via FranklinCovey: Management Mess.

Chris Guillebeau generous as always, shares 100 Side Hustles.

Charlie Gillkey has an important new book out in September: Start Finishing.

Coming soon, a modern-day classic on naming by Louise Karch: Word Glue.

Scott Perry on our journey: Endeavor.

Magician and speaker Brian Miller helps us think differently about human engagement in Three New People.

Chase Jarvis launches Creative Calling in September. Sure to be a keeper.

And just last week, we re-sold the rights to my book Linchpin in Korea, and I was reminded of how long it’s been since I’ve written about it here. I re-read it annually, and I’m glad I wrote it. It’s certainly the book my readers mention the most often.

Susan Piver to the rescue with: Start Here Now.

The True Believer is a must read. It’s dense, it’s more than fifty years old, it’s an easy read and it’s urgently important.

Surely you’re read Kevin Kelly’s classic New Rules for the New Economy.

And don’t miss Ainissa Ramirez’ Save Our Science.

Cookbooks? Here are two. The genius of Kenji Lopez Alt and the Food Lab and Made in India from Meera Sodha.

Tiffani Bova has written a smart book about smart decisions. Growth IQ.

Years ago, Nancy Lublin wrote a classic about a new kind of non-profit. It’s called Zilch.

I know a lot of authors. And I know the work of even more authors I’ve never met. It’s a privilege available to anyone who wants to take the time to read.


The appropriate medium

We spend all day communicating, and we’ve invented myriad ways to do it. You can buy a stamp, press a button, rent a room or use a microphone. Choose wisely.

Don’t send an email when you should pick up the phone instead.

Don’t send a text when an email makes more sense.

Don’t have a meeting when a memo is more likely to get the point across.

Don’t give a speech when a blog post would reach more people with more impact.

And don’t write it down when it’s better said live…


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