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Measuring the business of marketing

In 2019, Forbes magazine reported that the global marketing industry was worth $1.7 trillion worldwide. Last year, the estimated total for global digital advertising and marketing alone was $322.5 billion, projected to reach $640.2 billion by 2027. These numbers are evidence of marketing’s growing importance as a central consideration in companies’ business imperatives. The Nedbank IMC, an integrated marketing conference aimed at South African and African marketers and trademarked as Marketing is BusinessTM, seeks to ignite conversations that encourage the critical consideration of the business of marketing and its migration from backroom to boardroom. 

From having traditionally been regarded as a tactical cost centre, executives are now eyeing marketing as an investment and driver of growth. When global consulting firm McKinsey conducted research two years ago seeking to probe C-suite opinions of marketing, it was found that CEOs were in support of marketing’s “mission and growth agenda”. This changing perception could be summed up by one respondent who said that marketing and data had become the “first-class citizens in a way they were not four to five years ago.” This “first class” citizenship came down to two main aspects: the measurability of marketing, and the ability of marketing to demonstrate complete ownership of the customer.

In a Forbes magazine column published earlier this year, Dr Debbie Qaqish, a chief strategy officer, underscores the point of customer ownership. She writes that sales teams may only become aware of customers once they are already 70 to 80 percent of their way through the buyer’s journey, while marketers have full visibility of the customer from the get-go, thus being able to influence – and own – the customer journey from beginning to end.

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Dale Hefer, CEO Nedbank IMC

Today there around 8,000 marketing technology tools which marketers can leverage in determining how data can be harnessed to drive proactive and responsive campaigns that not only meet but anticipate customer needs throughout the buyer journey. C-suite executives are becoming cognisant of how this powerhouse of information can significantly impact the company’s profitability and growth. The CMO Council reports that 91 percent of marketers felt that there was an expectation by senior management and board members for marketers to drive measurable growth, with one in three saying that their business leaders felt it was the primary mandateof marketers today.

However, this brings with it certain challenges. The marketing function is being driven beyond branding and into the realm of customer experience and revenue growth. The CMO Council’s research points to the struggles of marketers as they wade through abundant data, and the emphasis this now places on marketing leaders to understand how to integrate customer data, scale customer insights, turn insights into action, and build the customer-experience culture. As many as 60 percent of marketers were reportedly unhappy with the depth and granularity of customer insights, while over 30 percent admitted to not having the data to know, let alone anticipate, their customers’ needs.

Conversely, marketers are also faced with criticism by CEOs over the analytics used to measure campaigns, particularly in the digital marketing and social media space. For example, C-suite executives are critiquing an over-reliance on measurements which for them have no overt link to business goals and growth. Behavioural targeting platform Bango suggests that instead of quoting social media statistics to C-suite executives, such as the number of likes, retweets, impressions and followers, marketers would be better off using social media marketing to collect insights into what customers are buying; focusing on engagement that ties back to sales. Bango cautions that, in a survey of 200 UK-based CEOs, 62 percent felt that too much marketing budget is wasted on activities that don’t deliver meaningful results. If engagement doesn’t tie back to sales then it quickly becomes a huge drain on company resources.

Understanding that “Marketing is BusinessTM” is increasingly important, with the conversation between marketers and CEOs never as crucial as it is today. Marketers are operating within a constantly shifting terrain as marketing evolves from a cost centre to a profit driver. Within this context, CEOs must employ insight when considering marketing’s contributions to growth, ensuring that as a discipline it is neither side-lined (and excluded from boardroom decisions) nor its role in the company misinterpreted.

The Nedbank IMC will further this conversation (amongst others) at the annual virtual event scheduled for 29 July this year, as Nedbank Group’s CEO, Mike Brown, joins in conversation with Khensani Nobanda, the Nedbank Group Executive for Marketing and Corporate Affairs. The goal of the Nedbank IMC is that conversations such as these remain ongoing at boardroom level, where marketing’s identity can be firmly entrenched and its potential articulated against business goals.

For marketers, perhaps the one constant is that their domain continues to change and adapt, and this state of flux is the nature of the beast. Consider a McKinsey article “The changing face of marketing”, which states that “change is the dominant fact of life in every business today. And the ability to master and exploit change has become one of the most sought-after management skills. This is particularly true in marketing, where the very tempo of change is constantly quickening.” While apt for the current business environment, these words were written in 1966. While marketing has always been a part of business, perhaps now 54 years later, it will finally be regarded as business.

Dale Hefer is CEO of the Nedbank IMC, Africa’s foremost integrated marketing conference aimed at local and African marketers, and a consecutively sold-out event in 2019 and 2020 (lauded as the “virtual benchmark”).  This year’s event will be held on 29 July: One day. One stream. 18 top local and international speakers. No sales pitches – just hard-hitting and practical insights for anyone involved in any discipline of marketing.  At any level.  Marketing is Business™. 

Dale is a former Businesswoman of the Year, award-winning entrepreneur and the bestselling author of the marketing book “From Witblits to Vuvuzelas’.  Her second book entitled “Hustling, Happiness, and a Blow-Up Doll Named Percy” was launched on 20 May 2021. Dale is the founder of top advertising agency Chillibush, which she started in 1998 and sold in 2014. By then it was billing more than R100m per year. 

For more information on the Nedbank IMC go to Nedbank IMC Conference.

Website: www.imcconference.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/IMCConference

Twitter: @IMCConf

This page was paid for by Nedbank IMC. The editorial staff of CNBC Africa had no role in the creation of this page.