The rot at the heart of marketing
The reasons for this disparity are many, but short-termism, more than most, is stinking up the marketing landscape and obscuring the truth about which channels are most effective, and on what measures.
According to a survey of the marketing industry by the IPA and ISBA, 75% of marketers and 73% of agencies agree that short-term tactical needs often take priority over longer-term objectives. Meanwhile, as few as 14% of marketers and 4% of agency execs “strongly agree” that marketing objectives focus on the long-term (defined here as the next one-to-three years).
This focus on short-term gains rather than on a long-term strategy has been shown to have an adverse effect on marketing effectiveness. Effectiveness gurus Les Binet and Peter Field said it best in The long and the short of it when they said that, on average, marketers should invest 60% of their budgets in long-term brand building and 40% in short-term sales activation to achieve the best return on marketing investment (or ROMI).
Chasing highly-targeted, short-term sales activations, mostly across search and social, has stymied the use of traditional channels. It’s likely also why perceptions towards these channels among marketers have soured somewhat. But worse still, we’ve seen this approach prop up a five-year decline in the effectiveness of top performing campaigns in the UK.
Emphasis on metrics that prove marketing effectiveness only in the immediate term also skew priorities in favour of campaigns that value immediate sales, and we see this again reflected in the choice of channel.
“Marketers have been conditioned to believe that many established media are somehow yesterday’s news. There’s a lot of received wisdom and an extremely well-funded digital PR machine that fills our heads with messages that are not reflecting results,” says Field. “But when you look at the research on the ground, we see that, certainly for the foreseeable future, a combination of print and digital the two in balance is the smart play.”
Solutions will come once marketing as an industry gauges the effectiveness of campaigns not just on immediate sales but also on more brand style effects.
“This short sightedness,” argues Gavin Wheeler, chief executive of WDMP and non-executive director on the DMA Group Board, “doesn’t only devalue campaigns that create mental brand equity, influence future sales or prime consumer emotionally, it obscures the power of some channels to achieve both brand and activation effects.”
Refocusing on effectiveness
Shallow, often deceptive metrics are a scourge unto the digital marketing industry. Likes, clicks and impressions are fine for racking up the zeros, but say little about marketing effectiveness.
Most worrying of all, we’re seeing this focus on quick returns hurt marketing effectiveness, particularly when measuring long-term return on investment, brand equity and readership satisfaction.
Speaking about the consequences this approach brings for channels like print media and others that tend towards long-term effects, Enders says “in effect we believe that a nuanced, analogue tool has been replaced by a too-simplistic digital tool with unverified consequences for many brands”.
Measuring marketing effectiveness remains a challenge, but still marketers must not make the mistake of believing a one size fits all approach will do. Nor should they deprioritise the value of creative and assume science tells them all they need to know.
Short-termism in marketing has certainly elevated ROI, rather than profit growth, to a higher status than say reach, scale or even emotion. On the latter measure, we’re seeing more brands harness the power of the tangible to create an impact, make an emotional connection and improve recall. And those who resist the pull of digital are toying with print media conventions, challenging our associations with traditional media and creating interactions that feel fresh and authentic.
But the real winners in this fast-changing media landscape will be those who discriminate not on the basis of channel but adapt based on the objectives at hand. The marketing press have waxed lyrical about the benefits of integrated marketing through the years, but it’s time now to turn those words into action, and with strategies that transcend traditional boundaries.
In the words of Field, “we are being over-hyped and over-sold on a uniquely digital future. We need to get real and take a more evidence-based view of what really drives effectiveness.”