Today I have read this article: “The appointment of a chief digital officer is a bad idea“. It has been published on Marketing Week. Obviously, it collects arguments for the fact that a chief digital officer is something the world doesn’t really need. The author @AshleyFriedlein ends with pretty polemically comparing this discussion to a discussion around the need of a “chief electricity officer” back in 1900.
Actually, this came at the moment where I anyway wanted to blog about a topic that is close to the same issue. What is the role of marketing? How should the interface between product management and marketing be defined?
During my last module @HECParis, we also learned about marketing. For many people marketing is simply the operational part (remember the four P’s: product, price, promotion & placement?). We got presented the strategic view on marketing. Marketing as a philosophy. “Marketing is too important to be left with the marketing department.” (David Packard). The idea of completely focusing all employees of a company on their customers. This is pretty close to Ashley´s article. Ashely suggests that hiring a chief digital officer might be a bad idea because all departments need to think “digital” anyway. With the same logic, one could argue that it wouldn´t make sense to hire a chief marketing officer. Everyone in a company needs to think about marketing anyway.
While I understand this argument, there is an insight I would like to share with my readers: products are becoming increasingly digital and therefore technology driven. Technology can address user needs in a way that has not been seen before. @HECParis we have been lectured about the so-called “R&D push” that marketing should also incorporate in its thinking. One could say “today´s solutions to user needs have become too complex to be left to marketing people“.
At the end of the day, this whole discussion around C-Level titles might be misleading. Let´s be really open to new ways of managing companies but let´s not ignore the fact that digital changes business much more fundamentally than electricity might have ever done.