Measurable Marketing Not Always Effective Marketing

I recently took part in a survey for leading marketers who work within the tech space – a sector considered to be at the cutting edge of marketing innovation.

This led me to thinking about why I came into this business, a question we all regularly ask ourselves or are asked by others. In the past, my answer has always been that I was taught from an early age how marketing lay at the very core of modern business. It sets the direction, tone and pace of commerce.

However, I believe that today much of this conventional academic and business wisdom has quite literally been turned on its head. It seems the role of today’s marketers is to sell what the company makes, driven in the main by the pressures caused by the acceleration in the global economic downturn. It’s a theme we investigated last year with our Brand vs. Demand research, which set out to understand whether poor trading conditions have increased the propensity of companies to spend their finite marketing budgets on demand generation, at the expense of longer term brand investment. My good friend and colleague, Rick Segal implored ‘marketers of the world to ignite’, to be at the forefront of economic revival.

So, it’s pleasing to see that almost half the marketers involved in this survey are predicting increases in their expenditure over the coming months, in contrast to the IPA’s Bellweather Report. What is less encouraging is the increased pressure on marketers to justify their existence and activity, solely measured by ‘leads generated’. This is perhaps accentuated by the fact that almost a quarter of respondents feel marketing is perceived ‘poorly’ in their organizations – and quite understandably, marketers have gravitated towards activity which is quick to execute, easy to turn on and off and measurable.

Measurable IS NOT effective.

In life there is generally a correlation between what you pay and what you get. So whilst click-through rates on emails and website hits are both free to measure and very seductive, it takes time and money to measure the value of your brand (many big PLCs value these on their balance sheet as goodwill running into several hundred million). This accounts for the fact that 75% of respondents stated that “brand building” was a key marketing objective, second only to lead generation, but only a fifth of them actually measured it – the lowest of all the metrics cited.

We seem to say one thing but do another. Starkly illustrated by the fact that only 35 of the respondents choose their marketing activities based on ‘alignment with objectives’. That’s the opposite of marketing.

I read recently that the CEO of one of the world’s largest auto manufacturers was saying the company intended to spend the lion’s share of its marketing expenditure on display. I also notice that VW have returned to TV in the UK this year, in both the B2B and B2C space.

In the UK last year online advertising still only accounted for 25 percent of the total spend, topping the £4bn mark for the first time ever, but was still down on TV which grew year on year. Outdoor spending also increased with cinema and radio just about holding their own. The big loser was print, which was down 30 percent, however the national press in the UK still reaches 50 percent of the adult population.

I sat through a wonderful presentation not so long ago, when the CMO of a household FS brand told the audience he would be spending all of his global marketing expenditure on direct mail and telemarketing, because “it works for us”.

I’m not a Luddite, but we need a sense of perspective and to remember what our role is as marketers. The study above shows that the number one role for marketing is to “create leads for sales,” which is a far cry from the definitions I was taught on my MBA. It also led me to consult Wikipedia (as its quick and free) which states:

Marketing is the process by which companies determine what products or services may be of interest to customers, and the strategy to use in sales,communications and business development. It generates the strategy that underlies sales techniques, business communication, and business developments. It is an integrated process through which companies build strong customer relationships and create value for their customers and for themselves …

Whilst we still use blunt and unsophisticated measures, we are destined to follow this ever decreasing circle of influence. So I would like to echo Rick Segal’s words and ask again for marketers of the world to Ignite. And, to do so with a sense of perspective and in the self-knowledge of what our role in the organization really is.

by Danny Turnbull

General Manager, Manchester

Cross-posted at Ignite Something on the Forbes CMO Network