The End of the Marketing Department?


Should the marketing department be dissolved? In the 1960's, David Packard thought that marketing needed to be spread throughout the organization. 

Is a marketing department an antiquated organizational structure? Is it possible to distribute the functions within other business areas with a dotted line relationship to a CMO, VP or Director of Marketing? Is this a ridiculous idea? 

Gary Vaynerchuck likes to say that you should be marketing in the year you are living.  It is 2014 and sometimes the organizational structure of companies are not what it was in the 1970’s when I started working. Although in 1979, Ra El and I were a bit ahead of the pack. 

When we ran our wholesale bakery business, Rachel's Brownies in the 70's and 80's, we never thought about departments. Granted we ran a small business, were a bit naive and untrained in the ways of business.  At the time it didn't make sense to think that quality, for example was only the concern of a quality department.  I never thought of having a marketing department either since I  liked the idea that every person who worked in the business had important contributions to our brand. 

I don’t know if this idea is viable today in mid-sized or larger organization, but it is an idea that warrants discussion. 

Take the product development team: 

Shouldn't they have someone who deeply understands the brand promise, as part of that team? Why market the product that the product development team creates? Why not build into the product, its own energy source, point of difference and wow factor that helps the product market itself. An embedded marketing person can be the brand sheriff filtering products through the brand promise. 

Take the logistics group: 

If part of your brand promise is about the way the customer is served, don’t you want someone writing stories about how your business takes logistics to another level? Could marketing people be embedded within the logistics team to hear, see and experience those great points of difference and help bring voice to them in the market place? 

Take the sales team: 

What happens when a marketer’s view point is front and center in the sales cycle? Marketing can be a foot on a brake when a salesperson is like an accelerator. Perhaps placing a marketing person within that team can help balance when you need to be thinking long term versus short term. A marketers perspective is focused on building long-term value, not just this quarter's sales. 

Putting people with marketing instincts at the front line, can also help spark creativity and unique approaches to reach customers. For the marketer, It makes sales issues real and not academic, as they can be behind a desk. Some companies believe it brings a more complete relationship engagement to the process when sales and marketing people both calling on customers. In B2B situations, often someone needs to talk to the marketing department as well as purchasing or other groups. 

Could you really spread your marketing team like seed pods throughout an organization to help spread the brand culture? 

Yes, but. 

Matrix organizations are complicated and take the right mix of people and personality. I think dotted line relationships are difficult to manage but given the right culture and attitude, we may see more brands being spread throughout a business.  Keeping marketing isolated and in a silo, may not be a wise approach in the future. Maybe the answer is to have the marketing team spend 3 months out of the year within a different department of the organization to help it gain new insight, perspective and ideas. 

I’d love to hear your thoughts. You can post a comment on the blog, email me your thoughts at or find me on LinkedIn or Twitter

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