Brand marketers all face one common struggle. It’s a challenge so prevalent that Mark Ritson calls it simply and ominously 'The Question'.
It goes like this: “I understand the importance of long-term brand building. I get the need to invest heavily in it. I get all of that. But how do I get X to buy into it and support me actually doing it?” - The Question
Sustainable business growth is driven by a combination of short term sales conversion and longer term brand building. Both are equally important, however as sales are immediate, easy to measure, and come with dollar signs attached, these are the metrics CEOs, CFOs and CMOs tend to focus on.
This makes carving out budget for brand building harder than resisting that second chocolate biscuit on your 3pm snack break. For some logically-minded business leaders, putting money into something as seemingly intangible as brand just doesn't feel like a smart bet. Why carry out a brand activation when you can run ads that drive sales? The short-term sugar rush of immediate ROI is a lot more tempting than long-term brand health.
Building a brand will make your business more money - the data proves it. But it’s a long game. It can take years of brand marketing and focusing on the upper funnel for the results to pay off – and we’re wired for instant gratification.
But without doing the critical job of building future demand, existing demand will run dry and success will plateau. So your job is now to communicate that long term brand building will have dividends in the long run, which is hard. Luckily, you’re a marketer, so you need to brand your brand marketing to communicate its importance to anyone outside the brand marketing fold.
C-suite executives want to know exactly what brand marketing dollars are going to achieve for the business. You should be able to draw a clear line between marketing spending and strategic goals, and you should be able to defend this point with supporting metrics.
For example, if marketing leadership is a goal, then brand awareness will be a key metric to track and report on – justifying budget for brand building strategy.
It might sound obvious, but according to the CMO Report, nearly 17% of marketers could never or rarely show the impact of marketing spending on KPIs such as brand outcomes on the way to financial returns. Only 41% could build a business case based on how marketing spending is aligned with business priorities and strategies.
Mark Ritson also makes this point, noting that although marketers are supposed to understand their audience, they often fail to see what senior leaders want. “Look around the boardroom. Identify the powerful players and work hard to identify what they want. Then drop a long line of breadcrumbs from brand building to these unspoken desires,” he recommends.
Oftentimes, what the powerful players want is profit and growth. So, make a clear connection between brand and sales, profit and growth. Ignoring long-term brand building means missing out on future sales. This is the key point to communicate to anyone focused narrowly on ROI and sales – the job of marketing is to both harvest existing demand AND build future demand.
Ever heard the saying “show, don’t tell”? It goes for your budget conversations, too.
Simply making sweeping statements about an influx of future sales won’t get your higher ups across the line. You need to use evidence, and show how other brands have leveraged brand marketing to dominate a market and ensure a steady flow of sales into the future.
Case studies of other brands are an effective way to demonstrate this.
In the CMO Survey, nearly 20% of marketers responded that they measured brand awareness “almost never” and nearly 30% almost never measure brand associations, affinity or personality. Taking an ad hoc approach to these measurements – or neglecting them altogether – won’t help you get more budget. Having regular reports on these metrics will help show the correlation between brand building activity and a change in metrics.
And measure frequently – up to date knowledge will drive the most productive budget conversations, so you need to be looking at your brand metrics quarterly. Only 10% of marketers in the CMO report said their budgets were revisited every month or quarter. Adjusting a budget throughout the year might be an opportunity to secure more for your brand building.
Making sure the metrics are visible is also important. Tracksuit’s dashboards can give a beautiful snapshot of brand growth, even for people not deep in the details of brand activity. “Tracksuit provides us with ‘always on’ insights on how our brand is perceived and compares us against the competitors we care about. The information is easily digestible and shareable and has taken a lot of manual effort out of our work,” says Karena Goodall, Customer Research and Insights Manager of Kiwi Wealth.
Matt Rossi, head of brand marketing at Eucalyptus, makes a real-time connection between brand activity and shifts in metrics. “Being able to slice our brand data by geo, demographic and stage of the funnel means we can see where there’s clear space or where we’re losing ground. We’ve made several programming, channel and messaging decisions based on this data and then refreshed Tracksuit – far too often I’m told – to validate the activity,” says Matt.
Being able to show a clear link between activity and brand growth can help you get more buy-in.
Simple dashboards mean you can show clear growth and compare against competitors. Having simple, accessible reporting helps. And when you’re given more budget, you can track the impact in real time, feeding back reports to show the value of your efforts and helping to direct more budget where it matters.
In his survey of six senior marketers, Mark Ritson identifies the importance of understanding and communicating effectively to the decision makers, calling out the need to manage up. Noting that C-suite members hate surprises and might feel out of depth when discussing brand – an area outside of their remit – he recommends to “keep them abreast of everything and seek their counsel and coaching at all times.”
It’s also worth noting that CMOs can be left out of cross-functional engagements at C-suite level. A Deloitte survey of C-suite executives revealed that only 17% had collaborated with a CMO in the previous 12 months – a figure among the lowest for all C-suite positions.
Building relationships with non-marketing leaders is an important part of sharing logic for marketing spending and illustrating that it’s an investment, not a cost. CMOs should be aware of the dangers of focusing on short-term metrics like sales revenue and advocate for long-term brand building efforts with the CFO and other senior leaders.
Building relationships strategically can help establish the trust, confidence and patience of the C-suite when it comes to brand marketing. Laying this foundation before you set foot in any budget meetings means most of your work will already be done. Trying to stand up and talk brand, without having had the opportunity to discuss it one-on-one in prior meetings, means your budget meeting is doomed to end with an unsatisfactory outcome.
Essentially, you have to market your proposed marketing budget (and surely that’s within the realm of your capabilities). Use all of your brand savviness to understand your C-suite audience, cater to their needs, build a relationship with them and move them down your sweet, sweet funnel until they are fully ready to get onboard and become loyal fans – and eventually advocates – of brand marketing.
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