When I was first starting in this business, I looked up with envy at the various VPs and C-level executives with their big fancy titles. In my naiveté, success was heavily tied to going from a coordinator, to a manager, to a supervisor, to a director, and so on all the way up to CEO.
Almost 20 years later, I realize how little those titles mean when I now judge a person's level of success. After meeting plenty of 24-year-old vice presidents of tiny companies -- or even more to the point, very experienced and respected directors -- titles mean much less to me now than they did when I first entered the business world. Now I judge personal success on the excellence of the organization I'm working for, how engaged am I with my day-to-day tasks, and if I'm personally satisfied at the end of the week with the work I'm doing.
The digital industry has thrived being the new kid on the block and shedding legacy ways of doing business. In the early days of digital, the traditional teams joked that you could tell who the digital guy was in the room by who was wearing jeans and had facial jewelry. This trailblazer attitude has certainly extended to the job title forum -- would "guru" be acceptable in any other industry?
Silly job titles are not so silly to the folks behind them. Adam Broitman is currently chief creative strategist of Something Massive. However, when I met him a few years ago, his title was "Partner and Ringleader" at Cir.cus so I thought he'd be perfect to comment on this little quirk of our business.
"I have always felt that it is a bit odd for agencies comprising of three people to have a CEO or managing director -- something about that just seems disingenuous," Broitman said. "Given that fact, the fact the name of the company was Circ.us it just seemed like a good idea to forgo traditional titles. After all, John and I (my partner who was also Ringleader) were ultimately responsible for everything, so no title would have properly captured the essence of what each of us did on a daily basis. On top of all of this, John and I are a bit snarky and while we take our work seriously, life is too short to take things like titles seriously."
To demonstrate this point, the following pages contain 17 real titles pulled from the profiles of marketing industry professionals found on LinkedIn. Enjoy!
Digital Marketing Magician
There's nothing up his sleeve -- especially not positive ROI.
Wizard of Light Bulb Moments
How many HR directors does it take to fire a "Wizard of Light Bulb Moments"?
Don't laugh. He's standing behind you right now ready to pounce with his nunchucks.
Okay, I admit I'd be a little intimidated knowing that I was going to have to interview with that lady for a job.
Senior Road Warrior Marketing Intern
I guess it sounds a lot better than "unpaid intern."
The Social Media Badass
These social folks can slap on anything to "social media" and make it a title. (Other titles I came across were Social Media Genie, Social Media Rockstar, Social Media DJ -- even Social Media Vixen! Ooh la la!)
The master mentality
This has got to be a creative guy, right? My gut tells me this is definitely a creative guy.
Direct Mail Demi-God
I would think an omnipotent, all-knowing being would have had the sense to get out of traditional media by now.
Mobile Sensei (and Planner)
I like that he added "and planner" to the title. He must have realized the sensei part was confusing.
Chief Visionary Officer
This "vision" is 20/20 when the campaign starts and blind as a bat when it tanks.
Chief Marketing Guru
Personally, I think the "guru" card has been played out. It's just not creative enough for someone who has reached spiritual enlightenment.
Chief Thought Provoker
Honestly, this sounds like that smelly guy in the office who doesn't understand why people laugh at the "Battlestar Gallactica" toy set on his desk.
Not a lot of thought put into that one. Maybe they're trying to demonstrate that they spend more time thinking about their client's business and less about their title?
Founder, Chief Creative, Inspiration, and Elation Officer
OK, we get it -- you're important. But honestly, it sounds like someone needs a hug.
Chief Instigation Officer
You looking at me? Grrrr...
Random and hilarious
Chief People Herder
Sounds like he could be replaced by a border collie.
Director of Fundom
My personal favorite! I'd love to party with that dude but not really sure if I want him to steward my multi-million dollar marketing budget.
(Disclaimer: No offense to the folks behind these titles, just having some fun.)
Someone who also has experience with this is Bill Furlong, currently VP of business developent at Bizo, and a pioneer in this industry who as seen it all. Furlong points out that generally these funky titles occur more in the start-up world than larger, established companies:
"I have started a few of these [start ups] and thought I was the most creative innovator around when I cooked up a few new titles. When I met an actual Chief Wahoo, and wasn't at a Cleveland baseball game, well, then I knew it went a bit far. And slapping about anything onto [chief] is getting really tired. C'mon -- inflating the perception of the executive or size of company can get pretty obvious. All in all though, let's give the entrepreneurs credit as there's a lot to this title making craft that legacy companies are learning from too."
What are your thoughts on funky titles? Are there any titles that I may have missed? Please weigh in below!
Josh Dreller is senior director of client and industry solutions at Visual IQ.
On Twitter? Follow Josh Dreller at @mediatechguy.
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"Young wizard make euro money," "Funny muscular shaolin monk," "King with crown," "Businessman meditating in lotus pose," "Portrait of a serious young man," "Border collie," and "Photo of energetic business people" images via Shutterstock.
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