25th of February, 2024

Why Combining a Marketing Role with a UX Role in One Person is Destined to Fail

Don’t fall for the spell. (Image: Matt Studio, Pexels)
Don’t fall for the spell. (Image: Matt Studio, Pexels)

In 2016, I partnered with a marketing agency in Liechtenstein, and the owner of the company believed our collaboration was a match made in heaven. They were convinced that Growth Marketing and UX were basically pursuits of a shared goal. With the underlying idea of optimising output from companies to deliver on what users were looking for, the potential of combined marketing and UX, on the surface, seemed to make a lot of sense.

The local agency I worked with back then was not just about growth marketing. It covered nearly all areas of digital marketing services.

It was an open secret that I didn’t want to participate in this part of the business, but I believed I could provide substantial help in the UX part, for the creation of online content, websites, and product creation.

Occasionally, we met startups in the early idea stage, and we helped them with finding a strategy, product positioning, and even concepts for product development. This is an area where I’m able to contribute, because I bring extensive startup experience from Sydney’s Fishburners Startup Hub as well as years of experience in user experience design.

In some areas, our collaboration worked out quite well. In others, our expectations clashed because of substantial differences in what each area, marketing and product design, attempted to achieve.

Growth Marketing is a hack

From everything I’ve learned about the topic, I think Growth Marketing is a hack. It always has been, and by design, it cannot be something else unless you remove the underlying principle: the promise of endless growth if only you learn to utilise the techniques and tricks to manipulate content, search engines, and customer minds.

It’s a bit like snake oil, the remedy that’s promising to fix nearly everything, as long as you believe in it.

Snake oil salesmen in the Wild West famously tried to make money with their mix of fluids. In the best case, these concoctions were harmless, lethal at worst.
Snake oil salesmen in the Wild West famously tried to make money with their mix of fluids. In the best case, these concoctions were harmless, lethal at worst.

A well-established, internationally operating marketing company 1) recently posted a job offer for a “Head of SEO & UX (80% - 100%)”.

This stirred memories from the time of my partnership with that local marketing agency. Although I don’t know more than what’s on their website , as well as the basic description of their job posting, I think the idea behind this combined job role is a result of fundamental misconceptions.

The idea of magic spells

Similar to its cousin, sales, marketing has always been prone to make-believe, short cuts to success, and gold-forging alchemy.

Back in 2011, Alphabet, then still named Google, was deeply involved in the creation of the new religion, the idea that manipulation of the customer is the new mantra in advertising and search optimisation. The dawn of “Performance Marketing” was all the rage. In the few years that followed, until around 2014, the company actively promoted a book called “Zero Moment of Truth”. The pamphlet describes a kind of secret formula, a chain of states you have to create, to let the customer arrive at the purchase decision for your product or service, what Google called a “zero moment of truth”.

Alphabet seems to have abandoned 2 this mantra, if not at least neglected it to some degree, although the advertising industry appears to be in denial about that.

Manipulating customers with what they want to hear to arrive at a purchase decision is eradicating the potential value of good experiences they could have with the product itself.

The problem lies not in the idea of analytics, data collection, and identifying behaviour patterns, but in back-engineering search algorithms to figure out patterns that can then be manipulated to deliver higher rates (SEO). Advocators will claim that it is a legitimate and working methodology, as long you don’t overdo it.

But the issue begins with extreme, sometimes unrealistic expectations and the beat of the drum of the inbound marketing funnel, which promises companies to suck in their customers and spit them out when they’re ready to buy.

By design, SEO and UX are contradictions

Why are SEO and UX contradictory methods? Seemingly, the potential for harmonisation of what businesses want and what users are looking for sounds like a common goal. But buying reviews and placing search-manipulating, keyword-driven articles, optimising marketing content until it funnels users into a selling target, is not what makes a product great.

Designing a great product is what makes the product great.

It is what makes people want to use that product, and it is the main factor why they will buy and then return to use your product. And as a consumer, marketing a product as “perfect for you”, when it isn’t actually delivering on that promise, is deceptive and will turn the customer’s attention into rejection. In the worst cases, it might turn someone from a potential brand ambassador into an active enemy, telling others to avoid your products.

Product design has the greatest potential when you learn from customers and implement features and functions that meet those expectations. That doesn’t mean you have to literally ask them what they want and then just build it. That’s where the design process comes in, to help you figure out what’s really going on and come up with ways that will solve the actual problem.

The divergent job description

Making your product great has a lot to do with optimising, yes, but not just in marketing. Because if the promise (marketing) does not match the fulfilment (product or service), your spending on marketing and growth hacking becomes a money-consuming, value-degenerating engine.

Don’t misunderstand my message here: marketing definitely has its purpose and utility. But driving growth quickly without having a product or service with solid, great, and reliable qualities is going to kill you—it’s as simple as that.

For your customers, this kind of betrayal is literally like having fallen for the cliché salesman, good at blinding customers with their smooth talk, projecting fake empathy for you, until the point you signed the contract. Then they’re done with you.

The secret of successful products and services lies not just in being different (the differentiator), but in providing a stellar experience that is so much better that people are even willing to pay more for it just to get that better experience (UX).

The right job for marketing is to take the product alignment and product promise, a crystal clear positioning of the product and all qualities attached services may have, and bring this message out in a clear voice.

You can optimise your messages all you want on all channels you deem helpful for your purpose. But pure manipulation until your content matches what customers have been searching for will actually create the wrong kind of audience. It will raise doubts, grow mistrust, and draw customers who don’t care about trust and loyalty—in both directions.

Separate expertise with combined power

The best way to benefit from both marketing and SEO on one side and product design on the other is to put them in the right order (first product design, then marketing) and have people who are experts in their own field work out the strategies to deliver on their part.

Don’t try hiring a one-man-band (Image Source: One-Man-Band, by Brett Hardy)
Don’t try hiring a one-man-band. (Image Source: One-Man-Band, by Brett Hardy)

Don’t try hiring a one-man-band. Hire a dedicated marketing manager to do your SEO, and base their input on what the product actually does best, and how it is differentiating itself from competitors. Hire a Head of UX to lead your UX team, for user research and to develop a product that fulfils the needs of customers.

Most importantly, in marketing, take notes from user research done in product design and compare them with what you believe is the right message. You can then go ahead and spread your messages in various channels and work with the analysis and feedback results to optimise your output.

But always stay authentic, and make sure you’re not adding keywords about what people are interested in, if it has nothing to do with the core of your product values. You want to build a relationship with your customers, and you won’t win their hearts by luring them in with false hopes.

The most value you can generate from learnings made in marketing outside of your product’s or service’s capabilities is to feed them back to your product and development teams. Therein lies the potential for improvement and more success in your business, because input from users is what makes your design team come up with its best work.


1) To be clear, I wish marketing agencies all the best on their journeys. I think any company should go for what they believe in. The thoughts I describe and share here are about better products and services and, on the other side, what I have experienced as failed concepts or misconceptions in marketing.

2) Google last updated its “Zero Moment of Truth” blog in 2014.

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