No Money, Mo' Problems as Marketing Budgets Decrease

09 Jul 2018

  • Technology
  • Marketing Technology

After spending the last 10 years of my career working with marketers and leading customer experience with some of the world’s most trusted brands, I thought it was about time I grounded myself in my own research project – to speak with and learn from 50 marketers in just 50 days.

To be honest it seemed like an achievable challenge – didn’t anticipate that organising 50 different marketers diaries was near impossible. I was successful however and the conversations were invaluable. I was lucky enough to meet with CMOs from all over Asia Pacific across retail and banking to not-for-profit.

Importance of customer experience

One thing that we all agreed on during the 50 days was how customer experience continues to become more important and is quickly becoming the new competitive battleground for brands. The investment today in global customer engagement is north of $3.6 billion dollars according to multiple marketing reports. Marketers understand the importance of technology and data to deliver great customers experiences, however most aren’t achieving the results they were promised or thought were possible.

Decreasing budgets

The fact that many marketers aren’t getting the return on their technology investment may have something to do with the fact that marketing budgets have decreased for the first time in four years according to Gartner’s latest Spend Survey. Marketing leaders must now justify their past spend and show the returns they deliver. It is clear that expectations in the boardroom are not being met and it’s time to show results that are actually delivering real business outcomes.

Marketing budget growth takes a turn


The biggest hit has been the investment in martech as it has fallen by 15%. CMOs are pulling back on last year’s high spending commitment amid concerns over marketing’s capability to acquire and manage technology effectively. The need today is far greater than it has ever been in re-evaluating your technology investment, reviewing the capabilities of your resources internally, and creating alignment across the whole business.

Setting Priorities

So what becomes extremely important as marketing budgets are shrinking? Combining the right marketing platform with the right people to execute your strategy successfully.

Over time the obsession for marketers investing in shiny objects has led them to some cold hard truths. In the Mad Men era marketers invested heavily in agencies to think creatively about how they could advertise and communicate their brand to the masses. Many strategically sound concepts were presented. Fast-forward to today and marketers are investing heavily into marketing clouds and futuristic-sounding technology to advertise and communicate their brand at a 1-to-1 level. Technology is not a strategy. It is an enabler to help you implement and achieve your strategic vision.

Mark Ritson, award winning columnist and marketing professor, said shiny objects such as virtual reality, augmented reality, artificial intelligence etc. are distracting us from our real jobs and the big challenges that we are all facing. He said, “The history of marketing is not filled with death. It is filled with evolution and change. Disruption use to look like a VHS recorder. When it was launched in Australia we all assumed that cinemas would die. Except they didn’t. They thrived and they had their best decade.” History tells us we learn to live together and blend together. Things slow down. This same theory goes for marketing. The tactics may be changing but the fundamentals stay the same.

Use design thinking

Elon Musk has pioneered and transformed industries with the launch of Tesla and SpaceX. Musk is the type of businessman who learns by doing. His businesses thrive using the principles of design thinking, in which they are constantly prototyping and failing quickly in order to progress. Tesla however has faced mounting public pressure amid a production slowdown for its Model 3, its lower-priced car. The company recently revealed that it missed its target to produce 2,500 cars a week, disappointing investors.

Musk made a bold statement following the news. “Yes, excessive automation at Tesla was a mistake. To be precise, my mistake. Humans are underrated.” In this one statement he summarises the issue most marketers are facing: the relationship between people and technology. Many of us have shifted to relying more on technology than human beings.

Rely on people

In today’s marketing landscape, you should be increasing your reliance on people and partnerships that align with your desired business outcomes. Businesses need to create internal alignment across five key organisational pillars Brand, Strategy, Technology, Performance, and Experience.

There isn’t a magic marketing machine that will do all of this for you. You need great colleagues. You need excellent marketing partners. And in many cases, you’ll want a level of service with your marketing technology. Software has led many companies to create self-service portals and automated support, and marketers are starting to feel this backlash. Despite technological advancements, sometimes you need a pat on the back and to hear someone say, “we’ve got that covered for you.”

People aren’t talked about as much these days. We’re intrigued by AI, machine learning, VR, AR, and other newer technologies. After many years of marketing to marketers and cramming in 50 meetings with marketing leaders into 50 days, it is clear to me that we can start to solve the marketing performance problem with people, strategic alignment, and plain-old execution.

'This post originally appeared on the Cheetah Digital blog

About Billy Loizou

Billy Loizou is Director, Strategy & Innovation, APAC at Cheetah Digital. He has over 10 years experience in software-as-a-service, creative agencies, systems integrations, and digital marketing and worked with some of the world's most renowned and respected brands across financial services, retail, education, sports & recreation and not-for-profit.

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