The Lighthouse and the Port: A Metaphor for Marketing and HR

October 3, 2017

The Lighthouse and the Port: A Metaphor for Marketing and HR

Two hundred years ago, the fate of coastal towns depended on two things: the lighthouse and the port. The lighthouse would capture the attention of ships at sea and guide them into shore. As they got closer, the ship’s passengers and crew would eagerly imagine what awaited them ashore. The port was where seafarers discovered reality. Was the town safe, could desired products and services be acquired, were the people welcoming and helpful, and could they get their other needs met? Through these experiences, they would decide if they would again return to this port, assuming there was a choice. If the answer was no, they knew to ignore the lighthouse beacon in the future and continue to look elsewhere.

If you think of marketing as the lighthouse and human resources—shaping people and culture—as the port, you quickly see how intertwined these two functions really are to the fate of any company. 

Today the lighthouse still shines its beacon, but appears in the forms of social media, search engine optimization strategies, experiential marketing and sponsorship events, and all manner of advertising. The port can still be a physical place, but can just as well be experienced in how we interact with a customer service call center or chat line agents on the web.

If you think of marketing as the lighthouse and human resources—shaping people and culture—as the port, you quickly see how intertwined these two functions really are to the fate of any company. This issue of People + Strategy is devoted to the many ways that marketing and human resources have the potential to combine efforts, and how this in turn can grow the business and create competitive advantage.

Our guest editors for this issue are Alison Eyring, CEO of Organisation Solutions, who is also an editor-at-large for this journal, and Jorge Consuegra, a former chief marketing officer who has also held global positions at Pepsi, Yahoo, Forbes, and Microsoft. We chose to leverage HR and marketing perspectives even as we organized our first conversations about what this issue could become. Together, we have curated a set of feature articles and case studies that illustrate just how much can be achieved when these two functions work in unison.

Do the marketing and human resources functions simply coexist in your own organization? Do they compete with each other for budget and resources, including the attention of business line leaders? Or have the discovered ways to learn from each other, share best practices from one another’s areas of expertise, and find opportunities to unify their views among the executive committee? Do they jointly introduce strategies to other leaders, proposing ways to move the business to the next level of performance? There exist companies, HR, and marketing executives at every point along this continuum. As you explore this issue of People + Strategy, consider what you want your company to look like in the future, and how different functions can combine to increase collective impact.                                        

The Authors: 

Marc Sokol, Ph.D., is executive editor of People + Strategy and the principal and founder of Sage Consulting Resources. An organizational psychologist, consultant, executive coach, writer, and speaker on workplace dynamics, Marc has worked in both the public and private sectors, with leaders and companies across North America, Europe, Asia, Australia, and Africa. He is also on the advisory board of the University of Maryland’s Masters of Professional Studies in Industrial Organizational Psychology. He can be reached at marc.sokol@sageHRD.com.