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The Marketing Supply Chain Field Guide: Part 5

Marketing Functions and Their Roles in Your Marketing Supply Chain

There are many roles that play a part in the marketing supply chain. However, just as we’ve noted several times, each and every marketing supply chain is as unique as the organization it serves. Some roles that do not contribute to one marketing supply chain may be a major player in another. Much like we did in breaking down the entire concept itself; we’ll take a look at these numerous roles by function.
The obvious starting point for an examination of roles within the marketing supply chain is of course marketing itself. No surprise there! However, the breadth of subject matter expertise these roles encompass is surprising. The variety of names they are given can be endless. Depending on your organization and its definition of marketing, some of these roles may actually be on their own and not under the marketing umbrella. For simplicity’s sake, we’ll try to stick to broad groupings of roles that could be considered marketing functions.


We might as well start with the guys and gals who call the shots on the big decisions. Of course we’re talking about executive level marketing roles; CMOs, presidents and VPs. At one time you wouldn’t have expected executives to be directly involved a day-to-day operation like the marketing supply chain. Today, however, we are seeing more and more hands-on executives as well as leaner and leaner organizations where being a roll up your shirtsleeves executive is a must. It’s common for executive roles to have the responsibility for final sign-off on anything – from creative, to cost, to schedule – within marketing. Even when that authority has been delegated, there will most surely be executive interest in the overall outcome of any project running through the marketing supply chain. Since a well-coordinated, strong marketing supply chain should be capable of reporting on efficiency, speed, budget impact and ROI, among other metrics; it’s an area that marketing execs are finding more value in all of the time.

Brand and Product Management Roles

First, let’s clarify that while brand management and product management are two distinct areas, in terms of the marketing supply chain, these managers are likely to have similar concerns and roles. The projects that are being managed in your marketing supply chain often have the potential to make an impact on the view or experience of the target audience and its relationship to the brand or product. These are important areas to brand and product managers. Projects involving packaging, labeling, package inserts, product instructions, point of purchase materials, promotional or sales collateral, manuals or publications for education or training are big contributors to positioning, recognition and customer experience. As continuity across every customer touch point is of obvious concern to those in brand or project management roles, there’s a good chance they and their approvals will be included within an organization’s marketing supply chain.

Communications Roles

While it’s certainly feasible to consider other roles in this discussion to also fall within the realm of communications; it’s the classic public relations, publicity, and promotions roles we are focused on here. Communication managers may actually be the creators or owners of projects being managed in your organization’s marketing supply chain. In that case their role is evident. Even if they are not the creators or owners of a project, people in communications roles may have contributed to it. Continuity of message, consistency of voice and appearance and contribution to an organization’s reputation in the marketplace are of great concern to communications professionals. In many organizations the communications department is required to approve any materials that can impact those areas. The same is often also true when comparisons or claims are made in the content of a project. In addition, it’s not rare to find people in communications roles that have been given day-to-day responsibility for protection and execution of trademarks and other branded intellectual property. Even if a project was vetted and approved by communications in an earlier phase, such as during the creative process itself, communications roles may still be present in other places of your marketing supply chain.

Creative Roles

Another marketing-related functional area that is often included in the context of the marketing supply chain is creative – home to designers, copywriters, art directors and of course creative directors. Much as in the case of communications, some of these roles can fit into and often cross paths with other marketing functions. However, since creative roles are responsible for creating what becomes a project to be managed in the marketing supply chain, their interaction is somewhat clearer. Since we have already said an organization’s marketing supply chain is everything between creative and final distribution that is involved in bringing a marketing material project to fruition, it’s a safe bet that someone in some creative role will be involved in providing files, layouts, designs, artwork, copy, photos and any other asset that is required to go from idea to production. Sometimes the responsibility for managing brand assets such as logos and color schemes is a creative function. Someone in creative will also often be the one to provide the specifications, beyond the design, that are part of the vision for the project; stock choices, finishing and the like. Approval of proofs, production changes and quality checks are other areas where creative roles will tend to cycle in and out of the marketing supply chain.

Outside Contractors

Start talking about outside contractors in relation to marketing roles and it’s likely thoughts will drift toward those who fulfill creative roles; ad agencies and freelancers to name a few. In cases where an organization has no in-house creative department; the contractor will likely take on any creative roles within the marketing supply chain. In cases where contractors are working with in-house resources, contractors may be required to be involved along with the organization’s own people. Such a structure can add an extra layer to approval of proofs, quality checks and even transfer of creative assets to and from the vendor.

Strategy and Analysis Roles

Strategists are more likely to be involved in provision of information, data and direction in their roles within the marketing supply chain. Although often considered a marketing function, the input of those in strategy roles is often related distribution and implementation of the project after it has been produced. However, in the case of a project that has unique properties like segmented or regionalized distribution, or when a split test between two different versions of the project will be executed, strategists may be involved in approvals and even specification development. Analysts could really be involved anywhere along the marketing supply chain, especially if there is enough captured data to determine process efficiency and effectiveness. Of course a common point of interaction with those in analysis roles is after the completion of the project when all of its data can included in processing of metrics such as reach, return on marketing investment and market impact. Robust project management tools that track all project-specific data and actions are helpful to analysis within the marketing supply chain.

Are there other roles within the marketing function that could be involved in an organization’s marketing supply chain? Absolutely. There are certainly roles we’ve listed here that some may not consider to be marketing functions. That is yet another example of the extreme uniqueness and fragmentation that keeps so many from achieving optimal effectiveness in the marketing supply chain. It’s also another great reason to implement project management tools that are built especially for the marketing supply chain and flexible enough to meet individualized needs. Be sure check back soon as we continue our exploration of the many roles that may be part of your marketing supply chain.