A new year, a new set of priorities: Tackling your 2023 budget

Gilroy’s Oliver Budworth writes on how to ensure long-lasting growth and make your budgets work harder in the face of continued uncertainty. 

It goes without saying that 2022 wasn’t the 2022 we were expecting or hoping for, be it the invasion of Ukraine, the ever-present effects of climate change or the ongoing impact of Covid-19. 

The impact of these events touch our personal and professional lives and it’s often hard to know what to do or say that will make any sort of meaningful difference – especially for brands.  

WARC recently published ‘The Marketers Toolkit 2023’ - a comprehensive document that consolidates research conducted within the marketing industry and provides a degree of outlook and guidance for brands and marketers to help navigate the next twelve months and beyond. 

The first chart shows how CMOs are typically ranking the importance of different topics in relation to their marketing strategies: 

CMOs ranking the importance of different topics

The most glaringly obvious point is the first row – the impact of the economic recession, an event that will have a tangible impact on both a personal and professional level. But what’s the relevance of this to marketing, and what could – and should – we all do about it?

There are countless  great pieces of content out there that talk about the recession, so I’m not going to talk about that. Instead, I’m going to use this blog as an opportunity to talk about what you can do with your marketing budgets as we go into 2023, and get them to work harder than ever before and ensure you continue to grow despite the challenge the market this year is going to present.

Getting back to basics

Against the backdrop of everything happening in the world right now, and with the constant chatter about the Metaverse, Web3 and ChatGPT, it’s easy to forget about the fundamentals of marketing – and the models, frameworks and principles associated with it. Here are six marketing fundamentals you can do today that might help you succeed this year:

1. Do a SWOT

I realise this sounds so ridiculously obvious, but I’m often amazed how many people don’t really know what the biggest threats to their brand are at any given moment, or where the real opportunity lies (for example, is there a big opportunity to do something creatively distinct that flies in the face of the sea of sameness that proliferates most categories?). 

Don’t wait. Start it today, and be honest, because the more you put into it and the more honest you are, the more it will reveal and the more you’ll get out of it. 

2. Analyse your 4Ps

What are you selling? How competitive is your offer compared to the competition? Where can people buy it and how easy is it to buy? How are you marketing it to people - is your offer distinctive, persuasive and memorable? If you needed what you sell, would you buy what you’re selling or would the offer from one of the competitors be more compelling? Again, if you’ve not done it, start it today – and be honest.

3. Be a customer for a day, a week, or longer

I recently became an EV owner, and while it’s great to know my daily drive isn’t polluting the air, one of my biggest frustrations is the public charging experience - it’s pretty awful. In fact, it’s so bad that it’s causing many EV owners to get rid of their vehicles. Chargers out of service (or don’t even exist versus what the charge maps state), to high-speed chargers that only charge at 1/5 of the advertised speed, or a plethora of apps and charging processes needed to actually get electricity into your car, it’s definitely not the future of driving right now. 

My point is, while the gloss of battery powered cars is being promoted to us daily, the experience is anything but glossy. Spending an hour in a car park with nothing but an industrial estate for company is not my idea of fun. 

And this experience is the same with many companies; from inadequate customer service to frustrating buying processes, the insight you can gain from being a customer for a day is almost immeasurable in its value to how you can improve your overall CX.

4. Analyse your creativity

It’s easy to forget that the recipients of every single piece of communication you do, are people. While some of the messages you put into market need to be rational, they shouldn’t all be rational. Marketing is only effective if people react to it; noticing it, giving it their attention, and acting off the back of being exposed to it. To do this, you need to appeal to people on an emotional level, which requires being creative.

A good exercise to understand how creative you are, is to take a broad selection of the campaigns you put into market over the last twelve months, and then assess them against the Human Kind Scale - a model developed by Leo Burnett that helps measure how creative something is. You can find a presentation about it on SlideShare, here: The Human Kind Scale.

I know I sound like a broken record, but, again, be honest. Are you making work that’s a 6 or higher?

5. Assess your ecosystem

Nirvana is having a marketing ecosystem that’s connected. When I say connected I don’t just mean in terms of the CMS talking to the CDP (although that is one part of it), but more, having an ecosystem that feels like it’s connected to your customers. One where:

  1. The brand message is delivered in a clear and consistent way across every touchpoint; from a skyscraper to the sales team. And one that’s compelling, differentiating and crafted beautifully to stand out.  
  2. Customer buying journeys are well-thought-through with touchpoints that add value and provide an obvious next-step in the path to purchase. 
  3. Communications that have an idea at their heart and speak to people in ways that are compelling and persuasive.
  4. Technology that personalises people’s experiences in ways that add value not creepiness.

Go long and short

When budgets are under pressure, the obvious move is to cut budget, and investment in longer-term brand building is often the one that’s cut first. But that’s unwise, and there are plenty of articles that support this view such as this from Mark Ritson: Ritson’s recession playbook: 9 steps marketers should take to survive the dark times ahead and this from Lauren Fairbanks: How Smart Brands Win Market Share In A Recession.  

Unless you’ve been under a rock for the past five years, you should also be familiar with the work of Mark Ritson, Les Binet and Peter Field (The B2B marketing growth formula – from Mark Ritson, Les Binet and Peter Field), explaining how a balanced approach to brand building and sales activation is key to driving growth.

While it might be tempting to cut or even, stop doing marketing that can’t demonstrate an immediate return, it’s critical to fight for it. Studies that go back as far as 2003 (Should Firms Increase Advertising Expenditures During Recessions? | College of Business | Oregon State University) all conclude the same; investment in marketing over the long term will ensure greater value into your business in the future.

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