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You Had One Job...

Digital Strategy
Neoliberal Global Commerce Machine
Digital Big Brains
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You Had One Job...

Not. How many of us, actually, do a single thing for work? If you're in the technology, retail, education, consumer products,...

5 Minutes Read


How many of us, actually, do a single thing for work? If you're in the technology, retail, education, consumer products, travel, spirits, healthcare, ecommerce, fashion, finserv, marketing/communications and certainly the start-up-of-any-kind business, you likely do at least two or three things for a living.

Most days I feel like I've got about five jobs. But I'm not complaining, and you probably aren't either. We tell ourselves we live for the thrill of pressure and thrive on complexity. Also, it's just the way it is. This new, buzzed-out shared reality inside the churning neoliberal global commerce machine. And I mean this quite un-ironically and, mostly, without political commentary...

Still, many companies operating in the thin climes of Fortune 1000+ altitude, continue to tinker with their C-level job descriptions and hires. Look no further than the much-besieged role of chief marketing officer for plentiful evidence.

A recent blog post by a trio of PwC consultants inspired me to a deeper think about what sorts of officers enterprises actually do need and benefit from having, as a top-down strategy for surviving at least another seven or eight quarters. Which, perhaps not coincidentally, seems to be the average life span of the unluckily appointed CMOs.

The gist of the PwC guys' pitch is that the world has changed and digital is the thing that changed it. That's why hip, switched-on companies that need to compete with other equally hip and switched-on companies should be hiring impossibly hip and, like totally, switched-on digital big brains if they really do want to win.

This makes zero sense to me. I've been doing digital since there was such a thing, founding a small digital shop in 1994 hanging on for nine wild years across the dotcomeggedon, spending the past twenty-three years living the digital dream. By my reckoning, digital isn't a thing that needs an officer. Digital is the oxygen, the fabric, the sinew, bones and flesh of our businesses, our brands and our marketing. Having a chief digital officer in 2017 seems as ridiculous to me as having a chief electrical officer in 1917.

Make no mistake - every senior exec at the corporate officer level must be a digitalist, in that she's got to understand and apply actionable digital theory to everything her group thinks about and does. Saying a single officer owns 'digital' dangerously creates yet another silo of roped-off competency and turf, at the exact time we need to be reducing if not shattering organizational silos.

I think it's equally wrong-headed to be hiring and listening to chief innovation officers or chief creative officers. Digital, innovation and creativity must be core, strategic characteristics endemic to all leaders and managers of a company if they're going to compete, survive and thrive in this century.

While we're deleting executive job reqs, I think we'll soon see companies losing the chief marketing officer role for a similar reason - marketing in all its manifest forms becomes a function essentially baked-in to everything a business and a brand does. Yes, this from a guy who has spent the past 30+ years in the global marketing services business across every channel and category. A man who's raised five kids on money from checks either signed or authorized by CMOs.

Yet, I do believe there's room for one more officer at the table, one that replaces the CMO role with a more broad and yet intensely specific remit. Value creation, brought to you by the chief value officer. Why would a silo-leveling troublemaker like me suggest adding another C-level?... My defense is simple: it's not a net-new suit joining the harried crowd at the officers' table. Smart businesses will be losing the chief marketing officer job title, replacing them with an even scarier, seemingly impossible three-part remit for the freshly recruited CVO:

a. value creation for the humans we need to get and keep as customers;
b. value capture to the business's bottom line from getting 'a' right;
c. repeat, relentlessly & enduringly.

About ten years ago, another consulting firm (Deloitte) began a modest call for companies to develop this new role of chief value officer, but the job description they were suggesting was much closer to a chief revenue officer with a happy face appended. We're suggesting something different, something perhaps more radical, but something that should have been the first and most important job of all those CMOs spinning through our c-suite revolving doors for the past fifty years - human value creation.

The logic is pretty straight forward. Regardless of what sort of widgets your business makes and sells, you're not in the widgets business - or the selling or the servicing business, or the digital business, or revenue business, or innovation business, or the data business, or the creativity business - you're in the value business now. That's all that matters to the people who matter most to your bottom line: the humans we'd be honored to call our customers.

It doesn't take an officer of any imaginable type or pay level to remind us that, if we create more value for them - and job no. 1, by the way, is replacing all your wasted 'advertising' with value marketing - incremental value will return to the business, its stakeholders and its shareholders. If you really did have just one job, can you imagine how much fun creating value for a living might be?

Me too.

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