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The NDA Roundtable: What exactly is ‘growth marketing’ anyway?

As we continue to navigate the shifting post-pandemic landscape, the concept of ‘growth marketing’ has gained increasing traction among the marketing community. With marketers under more pressure than ever to maximise the effectiveness of their online and offline budgets, many are focusing on activities that can move the dial on key metrics, such as conversions and revenue growth.

New Digital Age (NDA), in association with marketing transformation consultancy CvE (ControlVExposed) recently hosted a roundtable of senior professionals and subject experts to break down the topic of ‘growth marketing’ in more detail. Part one of the resulting articles follows.

NDA editor Justin Pearse chaired the discussion and was joined by: Paul Frampton, President, and Aidan Mark, Global Director, Performance Strategy, CvE; Seb Bardin, Head of Ecommerce Marketing, Unilever; Rory McEntee, Brand & Marketing Director, Gymbox; Adam Wright, Head of Digital, Beiersdorf UK; Gareth Turner,  Head of Marketing, Weetabix; Benazir Barlet-Batada, Marketing Director Confectionary UK&I, Mondelez; and Tushar Kaul, Chief Marketing Officer, Bella and Duke.

Mondelez’s Barlet-Batada opened the conversation by questioning whether ‘growth marketing’ should exist in a category of its own. She said: “Surely the ambition of all types of marketing is to drive growth of some kind, whether the growth is in terms of  retail sales, ecommerce performance or brand recognition? Everything we do, ultimately, is about driving growth for our brands.”

‘Growth marketing’ should be framed in terms of experimentation and structured learning, according to Bardin of Unilever’s digital acceleration team. Explaining how his team works with one or two retailers at a time, enacting more of a ‘startup’ mentality than would normally be allowed. He said: “We then take those learnings and cascade them to other parts of the business.”

This definition of growth marketing as a ‘test and learn’ exercise was endorsed by Weetabix’s Turner who spoke of balancing resources between traditional campaigns and more responsive, agile work, long-term versus short-term. He commented: “The long lead-times associated with major brand campaigns can make it difficult to be agile and it takes time to measure their impact, so we use smaller, more focused projects to test growth ideas and generate data.”

Kaul of Bella and Duke added another interesting definition of growth marketing into the mix: “I take the view that you can either recruit orders or you can recruit customers. To me, true growth marketing should be about recruitment of customers, a high lifetime value cohort of people, that will stick with you and drive sustainable business.”

Full funnel thinking

Determining what exactly ‘growth’ means to your organisation and identifying where that growth is coming from in your marketing funnel is crucial for modern marketers, according to our expert panel.

Wright of Beiersdorf described growth marketing as a ‘holistic approach’ to looking through the entire marketing funnel: “Our growth team is focused on understanding the co-dependencies between lower funnel and upper funnel. We needed a repeatable playbook and a clear data strategy that was able to measure brand impact at the top all the way through to ecommerce impact at the bottom. For me, growth marketing is all about being really persistent on one specific area of the funnel and optimising that towards a specific goal.”

Online fitness platform and gym chain Gymbox has grown rapidly in recent months. McEntee of Gymbox found common ground with the other contributors, agreeing that everything marketers should ultimately produce either growth or, at the very least, a learning opportunity. He said: “As a membership and subscription business, for me, growth marketing is about identifying the different channels that draw people into the top end of our funnel, and then keeping them there.

Simply put, drive more people into the funnel; reduce the number of people dropping out at the bottom.” Mark of CvE added that ‘measurement’ is a key part of enabling a more advanced discussion around demonstrating growth, particularly in examining the role of short-term versus long-term initiatives. “The metrics we use can lead us to favour certain parts of the marketing mix, perhaps unfairly, over others. At CvE, we’re trying to harmonise that by establishing a neutral methodology that recognises all forms of growth.”

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