The Much-Needed End Of Marketing Cycles

This summer we decided to ask our marketer connections to answer a brief survey. We wanted to learn how they viewed the marketing function and process in the context of an ever-changing industry, and what their main obstacles were against change or evolution.

We sent our survey to CMOs, brand marketing directors, marketing procurement leaders, and marketing insights executives. They all worked at marketing-driven advertisers; no agency executives were included.

We received exactly 50 responses — so, in measurement-technical parlance, this is qualitative research, and the sample is representative only as a cross-section of people in companies we have worked for. Fair enough. The results were fascinating nonetheless.
The most striking conclusion we drew was that, regardless of job title, all respondents ranked their own internal process, or “way of working,” as their biggest obstacle to delivering effective marketing strategies.

In other words, marketers across all disciplines are very aware that they need to bring change to the way they “do” marketing.



A close second was the gap in marketing capabilities that marketers believe is needed in today’s environment. Both obviously go hand in hand.

I think marketers’ responses were painfully honest and very true. Most marketing processes were designed to deliver “campaigns” against “annual marketing objectives,” which are reset every year. New year? New budgets, objectives and campaign!

This approach and thinking is obviously not at all in line with how consumers experience “campaigns” (if they experience them at all — it’s probably better to say “how consumer encounter marketing messages from advertisers”). The year-end/new year reset is artificial and driven by when marketers have budget rather than when consumers have interest or attention. It is as artificial as TV season starts and season ends. It stems from an era when live was far more regimented, with fewer consumer choices and little consumer control.

The other thing about process is that trying to bring order and sequence to building marketing activity against a consumer whose life is now always on, and who could be “in the market” at any moment, is hard. Trying to change some of the cycles is like ripping out the foundations of how marketing has stood up in an organization.

It's not just marketing that lives by the artificiality of budget cycles, tax years, or quarterly results presentations, but the whole company — in fact, the whole business world does.

We, are, however seeing some changes emerging. Budgets are being broken into different buckets: one for “always-on activation” that ebbs and flows with where and when consumers interact with brands, and another budget focused on delivering “big-ticket items” that warrant a dedicated spike.

The “always on” budget continues regardless of season, month or year. This ensures the marketer is “there” at those times and in those places where consumers expect them. A great example is KLM Royal Dutch Airlines which has made “being there” where consumers would like them to be its number-one marketing mission. The company recently added Whatsapp to its marketing mix, both as a selling and service tool.

So as the 2018 budget year planning is in full gear, how will you unshackle your marketing budgets? And how must your marketing process change to do so?

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