Mark Ritson wrote an article for MarketingWeek titled The Seven things marketers need to know in order to answer The Question.
« The Question: “I understand the importance of long-term brand building. I get the need to invest heavily in it. I get all of that. But how do I get X to buy into it and support me actually doing it?” »
« Well, we know that growth and financial success come from a combination of both long-term brand building and shorter-term sales conversion. We also know that these two alternatives each require approximately half the marketing budget, for that success to eventuate. We also know that the two don’t just require separate investments, they demand different objectives, tactics and timelines. And we know that, if you look for returns from your marketing on a 12 month or shorter time scale, you will inevitably undervalue long-term brand building and move too much of your marketing investment into shorter-term tactical fare. »
« This will result in superior ROI initially and, over the next 18 months, a better commercial outcome. But, if you had a sliding doors moment and compared the performance of a company that spends most of its money on shorter-term marketing tactics with one that split its investments equally between longer- and shorter-term stuff, you would see two very different stories emerge over the next five years. »
« The short company would peak at 18 months and then flatline. The long/short version would eventually grow more and, by the five-year mark, all other things being equal, generate significantly more profits in total. »
« I want to write that last bit again because it’s the key point and will come up later. If you split your marketing across upper-funnel, emotional, brand-focused, long-term marketing and shorter-term, rational, product activation, you will make more money. Not in year one. But across years one to five. Despite what the ‘growth marketers’ and ROI junkies might tell you on TikTok, the reason we build brand with half our budget is because it makes us more money. »
« I made a short list of CMOs from big brands. It’s actually a very short list of only six names because I was very fussy about who I included. They had to be a senior marketer in charge of budget allocation. They also had to be someone that knew their shit – a bigger issue than you might think. In my experience the title of CMO or head of marketing does not necessarily connote marketing expertise; as often as not it means a skilled political shapeshifter or someone that built a career on keeping their head down and their PowerPoint up to date. I also picked marketers who originally landed at companies underspending on brand and longer-term marketing, and who had personally changed the game by successfully making the case for brand investment, before investing the subsequent rewards successfully to building brand equity and making more money. »
« In essence, to answer The Question, I went looking for the people who had already answered it. It took me ages to work that out. »
« And, to my delight, each of my experts said essentially the same thing. »
« 1. You need the remit in place
A lot of the work to have influence has to be done long before you need to exert it. That means before you start fixing things you must first draw attention to the lack of long-term brand building and its fiscal implications for the company that you work for. It also means that you are also perceived to be the kind of manager with the track record to be able to fix this problem once you have established it.
While it is possible to achieve these ends from an existing position, it really helps if you are brought in as the new senior marketer from outside. This newness allows you to immediately point out the sub-optimal state of marketing investment at the company as part of your initial ‘first 100 day’ assessment. Your recent recruitment also means you have already been vetted and respected by the senior team, who should trust you to know what you are doing. »
« 2. Manage up, properly…
The first lesson from the six is that most senior executive members have an almost total ignorance of marketing and branding matters, but a recurring fear of being shown up in front of the people they lead. This all might make sense to you, but their background in accounting or engineering leaves them completely adrift in all matters of brand. Lead them gently, authoritatively through the marketing jungle.
The first rule of dealing with C-suite people is that they hate, HATE, surprises. Keep them abreast of everything and seek their counsel and coaching at all times. And remember all board members are not created equal. There is inevitably a triumvirate of executive leaders that effectively run the show – identifying these people and working with them to gain their trust, as you show them the value of brand building, is imperative. »
« 3. The ‘why’ really matters…
Look around the boardroom. Identify the powerful players and work hard to identify what they want. Then drop a long line of breadcrumbs from brand building to these unspoken desires. Again, remember that very senior people almost never accept the opinion of a marketer at face value. But if you can toss those crumbs in the right direction you might enable senior managers to form their own opinions on the matter that align with your intention.
If you stand up in a meeting hoping to persuade board members to embrace brand building, you have already failed. These people aren’t won over with PowerPoint and a couple of dodgy quotes from Les Binet. Before you stand up, long before this meeting is even convened, you win the day by having the three people you need to get across the line already across it…
Learn to market your marketing. And if there is one recurring precept that should underpin all your arguments, it is that everything you propose should ultimately link to sales, profit and growth. The good news is that there is a treasure trove of data showing that brands deliver exactly that. »
« 4. You need all kinds of case studies
Every member of my six referred to the use of other corporate exemplars to move the needle towards longer-term thinking… Second, the reverse also works. Showcasing companies that have moved to shorter, promotional marketing and paid the price is also a winning approach. »
« 5. Brand your branding like a brand…
You need a vision that lays out a perfectly plausible explanation for why your current company was so short-term, and then provides an obvious and easy pathway to a more balanced approach. Once the senior team has bought it, the rest of the organisation can be won over with a program that spells out a new approach…
And remember that the whole endeavour must remain as simple as possible…
Good senior marketers spend a long time, and do a lot of advanced thinking, to produce a new approach that is so simple it can be summarised in one slide and widely seen around the organisation as ‘obvious’. That’s not an insult. You worked extra hard to make it look simple.
Remember that even the best brand building approach might take up to four years to properly bear … »
« 6. Allocate two pots before you pour…
While tactics can do both long and short at the same time, these “double duty” approaches are invariably ineffective…
Ideally, the number might be 60% of the budget, but if you cannot get and hold that proportion for two or three years, you are better off with a consistent, carved off 30% to work with.
This kind of pre-ordained split is essential because it also prevents any of the turf wars over budget that can paralyse marketing teams. »
« 7. Metrics matter
A company that only uses shorter-term metrics and basic ROI on all its marketing investments is always going to favour activation over brand building. It is essential to have the right metrics in place before, during and then after each planning period, not only to assess what has worked but also to ensure that assessment is done in a manner consistent with both long and short approaches. »