How dual roles for marketers can make brands stronger

Published: 28 Mar 2017 By Charlotte Rogers

Marketers taking on dual roles are being given the opportunity to spread their wings across the wider business and leave their unique stamp on company culture.

How dual roels

Today it is not uncommon to see marketers taking on a dual portfolio, balancing the demands of their marketing function with a responsibility for HR or even a CEO role. The creation of these dual positions is far from a compromise. Rather, it is a strategic decision to connect different aspects of the business or define company culture.

Kathryn Austin, HR and marketing director at Pizza Hut Restaurants, describes the creation of her role as a deliberate strategic business decision to take a holistic approach to developing the brand, covering both marketing and the “people agenda”.

“Because HR and marketing are so intrinsically linked, the overall objectives are ultimately the same. Across HR and marketing we both focus on building a brand, whether this is our employer brand or the Pizza Hut Restaurants brand,” she explains.

“People are at the very heart of both roles. I need to know what people want – whether these are our team members or guests – and how I can best reach them.”

Austin believes that working across both HR and marketing ensures Pizza Hut is building its brand from the outside in. This starts with forging a happy and enthused workforce who provide a better service, which is essential in boosting customer loyalty.

This is the reason that when Pizza Hut embarked on a rebrand five years ago to transform the public perception of its restaurants it was crucial to get buy-in from the employees first. As part of the internal branding exercise Austin’s team introduced Yammer, an internal social media platform that allows employees to share feedback, keep up-to-date with the latest company news and discover training opportunities.

“Our marketing campaigns are crucial to helping us to connect and communicate with our customers, but the reality of our change programme must also play out through our restaurants, and this can only be delivered through our people,” says Austin.

“Ultimately, your employees are your number one marketers. They are the face of our brand and are responsible for delivering a meaningful experience that has lasting impact.”

Austin is a firm believer in combining marketing and HR in one role, although she acknowledges such a position may not work for every business.

“There are a lot of transferable skills across the two roles and when combined they can help to build a strong brand for the business that is firmly reflective of the internal culture. For me, it makes sense as Pizza Hut Restaurants is a business that is very focused on people. But it’s important to consider what’s right for your business,” she explains.

“I would very much recommend that marketers get involved in developing and implementing the training programmes of their business. If they gain insight into how business objectives are being perceived internally, and then delivered to customers, this will help them to shape future campaigns.”

I would very much recommend that marketers get involved in developing and implementing the training programmes of their business.



Kathryn Austin, Pizza Hut Restaurants

The positive synergies of a dual role are clear to Keith Kropman, HR and marketing director at health and life insurance firm Vitality, who sees a common thread running between his passion for people and his “scientific fascination” with human behaviour.

“There is an intrinsic relationship between HR and marketing, which is why our external brand very much mirrors our internal one in reflecting our core purpose,” he explains.

“We aspire to help people lead healthier lives and what a better place to start than with our employees?”

As Kropman’s role encompasses recruitment he looks for passionate people who will identify with and believe in Vitality’s values, particularly when finding people to join the marketing team.

“We know that a healthy employee is a happy, productive and a more engaged one. If they live and breathe our brand, as well as our products, they’ll naturally be our best ambassadors and be there for us in the long run,” he adds.

“Happier employees also speak with confidence and enthusiasm to our customers about what we stand for as a company and the value of our products.”

Defining culture

Often marketers take on dual roles to help define the culture in a new business or following a company restructure. When Sky Bet was carved out of Sky in March 2015 the businesses divided up the responsibility for different functions, including HR. Central to this decision making process was Rob Painter, now Sky Bet brand and HR director.

“This period of change gave the marketing department the chance to define what we wanted our company vision and values to be, but we also needed someone in the HR function to help define our company culture,” Painter explains of the decision to create his dual role.

When it came to recruiting 500 new members of staff for the Sky Bet business, Painter approached the search like a marketing campaign, using social, pay-per-click and TV to engage potential employees in the same way he would consumers.

A business restructure was also the reason Pieter Nota took on the dual role of CMO of Royal Philips and CEO of its personal health businesses. Nota added CMO to his title in May 2016 when Royal Philips divested its lighting division, in its bid to become a B2B and consumer facing health technology company.

He now has portfolio responsibility for Philips’ personal health business, which sells products like toothbrushes and shavers direct to consumers, as well as a group CMO role heading up marketing and brand for the entire corporation.

There are clear synergies between the roles of CMO and CEO, says Nota, as well as some obvious differences.

“The portfolio role I have as CEO of our personal health business is an end-to-end responsibility, cross functional for the entire business. It has all the hard nosed profit and loss aspects, with all encompassing business accountability, but marketing is of course a significant element of that,” he explains.

“We like to see ourselves as a very marketing savvy company in the consumer business. Consumer marketing capability is a very important part of the set of capabilities required for the CEO, because we invest a lot in consumer communications.”

READ MORE: How to build a marketing team from scratch

Part of Nota’s dual role is focused on injecting marketing insight from the personal health business into the professional healthcare sector, in a bid to bring the two aspects of the business closer together.

To this end the team have been working on raising the profile of its professional healthcare business amongst consumers. The most notable example is the 2016 Cannes Lions Pharma Grand Prix winning “Breathless Choir”, a consumer campaign which shows singers with respiratory conditions using Philips portable oxygen concentrators. 

Joining together twin aspects of a company through twin roles has also enabled Nota to broaden his perspective and “spread his wings” across the entire company.

“Of course marketing is a very important part of the role of CEO in the first place, but vice versa having an end-to-end business responsibility, as well as a marketing responsibility, helps me in my marketing work. So it’s a great combination.”

Whether the intention is to drive transformation, connect different elements of a business or define culture in shifting times, the decision to give marketers a dual role has clear strategic, as well as personal, advantages.

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