Standing firm in times of uncertainty

The IPA has just released the first part of a new series about marketing effectiveness in the digital era. Called ‘Media In Focus’, there are some interesting though worrying data in it.

On the one hand, marketers have revised their budgets up, now standing at their highest growth rate in ten years (to +22.7%). On the other, marketers show increased uncertainty following June’s General Election, which is on top of the slowly dawning economic effects of Brexit, with 1 in 5 marketers being less confident about their financial prospects.

Are the two related?

The answer is that in times of uncertainty, marketers (as with people in general) more often than not retreat to their well-worn paths in search for security. And it’s the desire for social proof – looking to others to see what is the ‘right way’ to behave – that exacerbates this. In this case, it’s the return to the old habit of focusing on quick ways to achieve growth in the expectation this will enable brands to ride out the storm.

It’s this habit which means marketers are funnelling investment into channels that offer the greatest likelihood of short term sales, namely the non-video digital space. Yet, IPA studies have regularly demonstrated that the most effective marketing comes from a 60:40 brand building to sales activation ratio. Contrary to marketers’ reasons for pursuing short term growth, brands that remain calm, steady and resolute by continuing to place a greater stress on providing experiences that make people love their brands in the long term (rather than on short term sales) are best able to withstand testing times.

So, if brand building should dominate at this ratio, marketers need to choose channels that have greater power to drive long term effects, namely reach and emotional involvement. As we see in brand and comms tracking studies, TV and online video are still the most effective media at getting reach, achieving brand fame and positively influencing beliefs and associations when delivering meaningful and uplifting experiences.

The message for marketers then is they need to step back and stop a moment to remind themselves of the lessons learned over the last few years that provide, good, strong and consistent recommendations for how to grow their brands and therefore be more profitable.