What’s in a name? We need to talk about those job titles...


Time to get back to basics on job titles? (Source: Photo by Ben Rosett on Unsplash)

I work in an industry that cries out to be taken seriously, yet is filled with people who call themselves ninjas, gurus, and evangelists. Call me boring, but I believe it’s time to get back to basics when it comes to marketing job titles.

Last week, a friend of mine posted a eulogy on Facebook for his recently deceased father. As my fat fingers moved across the emoticons to find the ‘Sad’ face in a very modern show of support, I managed to accidentally set off ‘Haha’. It sounds like the perfect set up on a sketch of Curb Your Enthusiasm. Mortified, I rectified the situation in a split second, but after double, triple, quadruple checking that I really had posted the ‘Sad’ face, my mind wandered to a feature I’d read about the world’s first ‘Emoji Translator’.

The Emoji Translator might on the face of it sound spurious, but actually, Keith Broni has a degree in business psychology and his job is to help companies understand the context of emojis, as their meaning can change according to platform and country. His job title describes exactly what he does.

Unfortunately, a culture has emerged in marketing where many feel that if they give themselves a rare and eyebrow-raising title it will make them appear fully in the zeitgeist. Work the room and you may well meet a “rock star” and a “growth hacker”.

Ever met a ‘solutioneer’? I imagine they solve things, but what exactly? A plumber solves problems so could technically be a ‘solutioneer’ too if they wanted to really confuse people.

‘Chief storyteller’ is another. Latching onto marketing’s favourite mantra of the last decade for something that already existed, you’ll rarely hear the words “brand storytelling” without the refrain that “content is king” at some point shortly after.

Marketing writer Seth Godin once said that if you can’t state your position in eight words, you don’t have a position. You could apply that to job titles but slash the word count further.

If you can’t tell people what you do and they have to ask, then you undermine your own credibility. Once you’ve lost that, you hinder your chance of winning business.

Call me old fashioned, but I’d rather the tomorrowists and directors of excellence would just use plain English in describing what they do.