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Marketing Operations: What's in a Name?

May 02, 2014|Marcia Trask

As marketing operations evolves to a strategic advisory function that aligns marketing strategy and operations, some organizations may decide a name change is required to reflect the function’s greater organizational responsibility and strategic value.

In Romeo and Juliet, William Shakespeare gave us the memorable quote of “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose/By any other name would smell as sweet.” In this quote, Juliet argues that the names of things do not matter (e.g. Montague vs. Capulet); what matters is what things essentially are.

Nakano CSMsNot to contradict Juliet, but an argument can be made that the connotations of names can have a strong impact – both positively and negatively. This is evident in the slew of euphemisms that permeate modern speech. This is why “sanitation engineers” manage trash day, and people with thinning hair are “follically challenged.”

In b-to-b marketing, it is curious to note the interesting connotations that have developed around the term “marketing operations.” This is especially noteworthy given how recently the function was introduced as part of the marketing ecosystem. Some companies are comfortable using the name as is. Other organizations go to great (and sometimes highly creative) lengths to call the operations function something completely different.

While the effects of marketing operations name changes are readily visible, the root cause is not. There seem to be three different mind-sets at work:

  • It’s neutral. People in this camp are fine with the name “marketing operations.”
  • It’s limiting. People with this view seem to consider the word “operations” too tactical or limiting, given the wide scope of the typical marketing operations function.
  • It’s not complimentary. Some people just don’t like the term “operations” and go to lengths to avoid it.
Ultimately, the name of the marketing operations team doesn’t change its significance within a company. But it is concerning if the name reflects a lack of understanding of the function’s value. It’s one thing to name the operations team the “insights” group because it drives a culture of data-based decisionmaking. It’s another to call it by this name because operations is perceived as a group that simply builds and runs reports.

It is worth noting that marketing operations has grown so broad in many organizations that its underlying disciplines are emerging as distinct functional teams that displace the marketing operations parent function. This can be seen in the growth of separate data, reporting/analytics, marketing technology, and budgeting and planning teams in larger companies. Marketing operations teams are also proliferating as the function expands from its traditional home in corporate or global marketing to regions and business units.

As marketing operations evolves from its past as the “island of lost projects” to its future as a strategic advisory function that aligns marketing strategy and operations, it will be interesting to see how many organizations decide a name change is required to reflect the function’s greater organizational responsibility and strategic value.

Marcia Trask

Marcia Trask is a research director for SiriusDecisions' Marketing Executive Services. She is a passionate marketer with over 20 years of marketing experience in the technology industry. Her areas of expertise include strategic marketing planning and investment, campaign development, marketing technology, business transformation, process engineering, and marketing and sales alignment/enablement. Follow Marcia on Twitter @marciatrask.

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