Marketing & Advertising

What Does a Vice President of Marketing Do?

What Does a Vice President of Marketing Do?
This isn't a job for the shy or the timid. Image from Unsplash
Christa Terry profile
Christa Terry March 16, 2020

The higher you advance in the marketing hierarchy, the less likely you are to be immersed in creative work. In a marketing VP role, almost all your primary responsibilities involve management.

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Just about every company with an advertising budget has a marketing vice president working behind the scenes to develop brand-awareness and marketing strategies; when it comes to marketing, the buck stops with them. Marketing VPs are responsible for some great, memorable marketing campaigns. They’re also responsible for the not-so-great, cringy ones.

To ascend to this executive position, you’ll need years of experience in marketing. Killer business chops are also essential to manage a company’s brand development and promotions. In addition, you’ll have to be a good salesperson, although your pitches won’t be directed at consumers. Rather, you’ll need to convince the chief marketing officer, chief executive officer, and possibly also the board of directors that your team’s ideas and the results they’re able to achieve are worth bankrolling.

A VP of marketing also devotes significant time to project management, data analytics, and human resources management. They oversee the work of the graphic designers, copywriters, digital marketing specialists, and other creatives who handle the development of campaigns, but they rarely get involved in the creative activity themselves. They’re too busy making strategic marketing decisions, presenting final products to stakeholders, and making sure the marketing department is running efficiently and cost-effectively.

Put simply, these VPs are former creatives who manage the work of their successors. They do a lot more than that, however. In this article exploring what does a vice president of marketing do, we cover:

  • What is a VP of marketing?
  • What does a vice president of marketing do?
  • What is a typical day like for a marketing VP?
  • Who does the vice president of marketing report to?
  • What is the difference between VP of marketing and CMO?
  • What are the core skills of a VP of marketing?
  • Which degrees does a vice president of marketing need?
  • How much does a VP in marketing earn?

What is a VP of marketing?

The vice president of marketing is the senior manager who leads the marketing team (along with the chief marketing officer). While both develop marketing strategies, it’s the VP who is more likely to get down in the weeds with creatives, researchers, sales staff, and marketing directors to oversee the implementation of those strategies. Correspondingly, the VP of marketing is typically held responsible for the success or failure of those strategies. When a strategy works, they can take credit. When a strategy bombs, they take the blame.

This is, as you might imagine, a stressful role. The best marketing VPs leverage every resource they have on every project, whether that’s data analytics, public relations, or human resources. This isn’t a job for the shy or the timid. The VP of marketing has to be comfortable talking to everyone about everything, and they need to know what everyone contributes, from the executive vice president of product development to the lowliest assistant copywriter.


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What does a vice president of marketing do?

The vice president of marketing develops strategies and oversees programs designed to create brand recognition and demand for products. This can include everything from product marketing to influencer marketing to public relations to digital marketing. The vice president of marketing typically works closely with other executives, like the vice president of sales, the CMO, the CEO, and the managing directors of different departments, to ensure that their firm’s overall marketing strategy is in tune with company-wide goals. On a given day, the vice president of marketing might:

  • Work on branding strategies for upcoming quarters
  • Collaborate with market researchers and analysts to gather customer insights
  • Work closely with product designers to meet customer needs
  • Brainstorm a go-to-market strategy with product management
  • Help set prices for new products
  • Conduct project status meetings
  • Interview candidates for jobs in the marketing department
  • Study data analytics related to recent advertising campaigns
  • Create, track, or review marketing department budgets
  • Prepare marketing metrics reports for the CMO and CEO
  • Track competitors’ advertising and branding activities
  • Meet with the VP of sales to ensure that sales and marketing strategies are in alignment
  • Track messaging and audience response across channels

While VP of marketing is mostly a managerial role, this executive is much more likely to contribute creative input to projects than is the chief marketing officer.

What is a typical day like for a marketing VP?

A lot of a marketing VP’s time is spent handling incoming and outgoing communications. The first thing you’ll probably do each day when you become vice president of marketing is to check your email and respond to any urgent messages. Many companies hold short status meetings each morning, and you might need to review mock-ups of current campaigns before these meetings. Then you might meet with higher-ups to get their feedback on those mock-ups and possibly also approval for any work that’s close to completion.

After multiple meetings, you’ll finally get a chance to sit back down at your desk, recheck your email, and review whatever is awaiting your attention. This might involve reviewing more work, assigning work, giving feedback, or requesting edits. At some point, you’ll stop for lunch, but your lunch might actually be a lunch meeting with potential partners or clients.

From there, you’ll settle down to do some competitor research and to track the results of recent campaigns. You might meet with a rep from sales or one of your company’s marketing analysts to determine not just audience sentiment and awareness but also return on investment (ROI). You might spend the rest of your day writing up a report outlining the results of one or more campaigns that you’ll present at an upcoming shareholder meeting.

Who does the vice president of marketing report to?

The VP of marketing is a director-level executive who typically reports to the president of marketing, CMO, CEO, or chief operating officer. That said, every company structures its management teams differently. At some companies, a marketing VP will work almost exclusively with the CMO. At others, they’ll be accountable to many managers, directors, and executives.

What is the difference between VP of marketing and CMO?

The answer to this question isn’t cut and dried because companies can have different management structures. Titles can mean whatever a firm wants them to mean, so the CMO at one company may do the exact same job as the VP of marketing at another. Many smaller companies don’t have anyone in either position. Instead, they have a president of marketing or director of marketing that does the work of both.

In general, however, the chief marketing officer is primarily responsible for strategic planning and high-level metrics related to ROI. Their job is to ensure that a company’s marketing efforts are making money. The marketing VP’s responsibilities are more likely to involve oversight of day-to-day marketing operations. At a larger company, there may be many vice presidents of marketing who all report to the CMO.

What are the core skills of a VP of marketing?

Becoming a marketing leader isn’t just about having the right experience, education, or qualifications. The professionals best-equipped to shoulder the responsibilities of the VP of marketing tend to have the following skills and qualities:

  • Resourcefulness: Marketing standards and consumer preferences can change very quickly. The VP of marketing has to be able to stay in front of those changes.
  • Empathy: Successful advertising, branding, and marketing all involve putting yourself in the shoes of the customer. Great marketing VPs can understand the needs of a wide variety of personas.
  • Business savvy: Marketing leaders realize that while advertising is a creative discipline, it’s also one that exists within the bounds of business. ROI is usually more important than making art.
  • Cheerleading: The VP of marketing has to be not just a brand champion but the brand champion. Their ability to communicate what makes a company’s product or service great is a big part of what shapes the marketing strategies associated with those products or services.
  • Tech skills: Marketing VPs don’t need to be data scientists, but they do need to understand enough about marketing analytics to leverage whatever data is available for reporting and strategic planning.
  • Big-picture thinking: A VP may spend some time working on creative projects, but they should always be focused on the end goals of every campaign.
  • Revenue generation: The marketing department exists to drive sales, full stop. The VP of marketing has to be able to guide the department with that in mind.

Which degrees does a vice president of marketing need?

Companies searching for marketing VPs typically want applicants to have at least a bachelor’s degree in marketing or a related discipline, but tend to prefer candidates with marketing master’s degrees or MBAs. If you think you’d like to become a VP of marketing someday and you’re torn between getting a Master of Science in Marketing or an MBA, you can split the difference with a degree like the MBA in Marketing Management offered by the University of Chicago.

Most marketing MBA programs assume that students already have a strong marketing background and so teach business management and leadership skills in the context of marketing and branding. Some of the best marketing MBA programs can be found at:

Getting a master’s degree is only the first step toward becoming a VP of marketing. Before joining the ranks of senior executive leadership, a VP of marketing typically amasses ten or more years of marketing experience (including at least five years in a marketing leadership role). A VP might spend their entry-level years in content marketing, graphic design, digital marketing, product management, or social media marketing before advancing to a generalist marketing associate or marketing specialist position. Next, they might advance into a management role like domestic or global marketing manager before becoming director of marketing.

In other words, by the time you’re ready to become a marketing leader, you will have proven experience handling advertising and branding projects from end to end.

How much does a VP in marketing earn?

The average vice president of marketing salary is about $146,000, according to PayScale, though that doesn’t tell the whole story. Less-experienced VPs and marketing executives at smaller companies may earn closer to $80,000, while mid-career execs and VPs at larger firms will probably earn closer to $124,000.

Whether the total compensation a VP of marketing earns feels like enough can depend on what a given company expects of its vice president of marketing. Some firms are looking for VPs who will toe the line, i.e., stay under budget while leading the teams developing messaging for the marketing communications channels the company has always used. They don’t want VPs who go off-script unless they’re re-using proven strategic marketing tactics used by established big brands. Some marketing professionals don’t mind working under those constraints if the pay is good enough. Others are willing to take lower-paying jobs at smaller companies that offer executives more opportunities to innovate and get creative with campaigns.

Keep that in mind when you’re thinking about what a vice president of marketing does and whether you want to do it. This can be a creative gig but typically isn’t, and the people most likely to succeed and be happy in this role are those who enjoy management more than creating mock-ups.

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Tom Meltzer spent over 20 years writing and teaching for The Princeton Review, where he was lead author of the company's popular guide to colleges, before joining Noodle.

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