Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

The Masked Marketer: “CEOs and CFOs need to remember that, in brand marketing, fortune always favours the bold”

In the first of a new series of anonymous opinion pieces, our mystery columnist The Masked Marketer takes on the short-term thinking of CEOs and CFOs and calls for a reframing of what we class as ‘performance marketing’…

Economic uncertainty tends to bring out the best or the worst of an organisation’s leadership. They can either panic or thrive; maintain strategic long-term thinking or default to blinkered short-termism. 

As a relatively young marketing director, it’s frustrating to see so many contemporary CEOs and CFOs become fixated on short-term performance metrics and neglect marketing as an engine of long-term brand growth. However, I also recognise that marketers are partly to blame for encouraging CFOs and CEOs to think that way.

We’ve spent too long making advertising completely illogical, particularly in relation to measurement. Over the past ten years, ad tech vendors have done a good job of convincing CFOs that if you put in one pound in marketing spend, you can get two pounds out, and we can model it and be exact. The reality is that it’s not that simple. 

Despite the industry’s current focus on data and AI, marketing is still a creative industry. This requires room to think. You need to be able to spot trends over a longer period of time. It helps to be able to take a step back, to assess the broader situation for your brand and to invest for the future.

Don’t get me wrong – at heart, I’m a performance marketer through and through. I love data and like informing and measuring my campaigns with data, but I’m still a marketer. CFOs and CEOs may prefer to focus on short-term performance metrics right now, but marketers, as well as having one eye on the here and now, always need to be thinking about brand growth over the longer term.

The bottom line is that, in brand marketing,  if you did a good job three years ago, your ‘here and now’ is going to look a hell of a lot better than it would have otherwise.

Time to be brave

It is exactly because of the current economic turmoil that brand marketers and their leadership teams should be bold right now and start to shift their thinking back to logic and the basics of marketing. Let’s not focus on the product we’re  trying to flog or the channel we’re using to reach potential targets (or ‘users’). We need to put the consumer back at the heart of what we do; to understand who they are, what they feel and how they want to interact with our brands.

That means reframing how we think of ‘performance marketing’ to become a longer-term pursuit and reflect the reality of the situation. Not all marketing activity can or should result in a short-term profit. If you focus solely on profit right now, you may influence your short-term numbers, but you’ll miss out on the consistent year-on-year growth that a longer-term, ‘lifetime value’ model would deliver. You can then layer an econometric model on top to help identify the spending trends that are most likely to drive future growth for your brand. 

We need to blend short-term and long-term brand objectives, using data and technology to inform and deliver our campaigns. Most importantly, we need to lead with brave, creative media investments designed to engage our target audiences as human beings rather than simply to boost short-term KPIs.

The Masked Marketer will return…