I learned about the naming of Rob Samuels to the position of Chief Operating Officer at Maker's Mark when a reporter called me yesterday for a comment. Dale posted Bill Samuels' announcement of it in Industry News here.
Reacting to the reporter off the top of my head I said a couple of things. Most of all I think it symbolizes Beam's intention to leave Maker's alone, at least so far as anyone can see. Rob is now in place to replace his father when that day comes.
That's all well and good, but the cynic in me wonders how meaningful a title like that is when Maker's Mark is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Beam Global, which is itself a wholly-owned subsidiary of Fortune Brands. You'll notice that the announcement makes no mention of that and encourages the illusion that Maker's Mark is independent, run by the Samuels family, which has not in fact been the case in nearly 30 years.
Part of the problem is title inflation. When I started in advertisiing each agency had one creative director. That was the title of the person who ran the agency's creative department. Today everyone with more than six months experience is a creative director and big agencies have hundreds of them.
When the term 'president' became meaningless because so many presidents were really just division heads, everybody started to be the "Chief" something or other. Now that's pretty debased too.
This is nothing against Rob who I don't know. We've never met. Considering how long and how deeply I've been involved in this business, that may tell you something right there.
So is he really just going to be a brand ambassador? A living link to the brand's heritage, like Fred Noe is at Beam. Not knowing Rob I don't know if his personality is anything like his dad's but I doubt it. Bill Samuels is one-of-a-kind. One hopes for his sake that Rob has been given a job that will make good use of his talents and experience, and not just his ancestry.