Is a Chief Brand Officer Necessary?

September 30, 2013

by William Tincup CEO of HR consultancy Tincup & Co.

I had a dream recently that I just can’t shake.  Now, time for me to over-share. I dreamed that the source of most organizational pain might just be that HR and Marketing are NOT supposed to be two different silos. That in fact, they both serve audiences but they do so without each other. My dream ended up being a nightmare including sweats and shivers. More on that later.


Let’s play the “what if” game. Marketing… critical to business usually run/led by the Chief Marketing Officer. HR… critical to the business usually run/led by the Chief Human Resources Officer. Two true statements, right?


And, let’s be completely honest here… I mean it’s a dream and we’re playing the “what if” game… so, let’s at least be honest. Both professions… while noble and worthy… both struggle to get internal respect. Think about it for a moment. Your sales leader versus your marketing leader… who do people respect more? Your finance leader versus your HR leader… who do people respect more? Not in all cases of course… but in general… if we were truly honest with ourselves… we’d pick: Finance, Accounting, IT, Sales and Operations over Marketing and/or HR each and every day.

Truth hurts and I hate it but I think we might want to consider a consolidation strategy. Intro Chief Brand Officer. We still have the need for both the CHRO and CMO positions but they need to be closer aligned than ever before. And, no, it wasn’t because we’re seen fighting over who owns social media and/or the brand albeit that happens on daily basis. At its essence, a Chief Brand Officer could provide three things: alignment, consistency and efficiency. Alignment as in we’re all walking in lock-step, consistency as in we’re all reading from the same page of the missalette and, efficiency as in reducing waste and/or redundancy.

The truth is Marketing and HR both service distinct audiences. Marketing serves communications to two different audiences: (1) prospects and (2) customers. Prospects defined as folks that haven’t purchased from us and customers defined as those that have purchased (and/or are buying) from us.


(** Yes, that is indeed a napkin.  Turns out, my dream inspired a graphic.  Boom!)

HR also serves communications to two distinct audiences: (1) candidates and (2) employees. Candidates are loosely defined as damn near anyone with a pulse that isn’t currently working at our firm and employees are folks that work for us. While not a perfect framework… you can see how communications can and do flow to these different audiences. And, turns out, these audiences have different needs.

Needs, expectations and efficiency be damned.

You’d be shocked to learn that in most organizations: (1) most companies don’t think of our audiences in this manner, (2) most companies don’t share content and/or speak in a synergistic way and (3) most companies think in terms of a fractured brand rather than one brand. Allow me to explain. In HR, we typically don’t think of the concept of audiences and/or audience development, etc. Recruiters tend to “own” the employment brand (ie, what candidates see and feel) and HR, usually communications folks within HR “own” employee relations and/or employee communications. Even within this side of the house, the left hand oftentimes doesn’t know what they right hand is doing… from a brand experience… content experience. Think of it like this… we should use the 80/20 rule here as in 80% of the content is the same and 80% of the brand experience is shared… regardless of who interacts with the brand. The resulting 20% can and should nuanced to fit (read: exceed) the audiences expectations. Yeah, that alone almost never happens.

Communications is just as broken in marketing as it relates to the 80/20 rule and two audiences of prospects and customers. Don’t believe me. Fine. Give it a moment… who owns customer communications within your firm? Okay. Who owns support and/or customer services? Oh yeah, NOT marketing. So how in the holy hell can the brand experience be sync’d? Yeah, it isn’t. A fractured brand experience at best.

So, this isn’t a haphazard ploy to get rid of Marketing and/or HR. In fact, I think the future of these wonderful professions is directly linked with one another. By becoming unusually useful to the organization and creating true brand consistency that cannot be made with pleasant conference room conversations.

What do you think?

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