Confidence takes a knock

The latest Chartered Institute of Marketing Trends Survey reveals the battle for budget is one factor behind lower levels of optimism, but the technology and telecoms sectors remain in bullish mood

Last autumn, the Chartered Institute of Marketing’s Marketing Trends Survey recorded an upturn in marketers’ optimism about the economy. But the latest survey shows the mood has returned to the slightly gloomy sentiments of 2005. In the autumn 2007 survey, the number of marketers who believe the economic conditions of the country will improve fell from 26% to 14%, while the percentage of those who believe things will get worse rose substantially from 21% to 40%.

Marketers in Northern Ireland are the most positive and 20% of respondents say they think things are improving. In Wales, where 61% believe that the economy is heading for a downturn, sentiments are the most negative.

As we have seen in previous trends surveys, marketers remain more confident about their own prospects than those of the wider world. While 56% believe that business in their own organisation will improve, just 11% think a downturn is on the horizon.

UK marketers are expecting their sales to grow by 7.5% on average over this financial year. This is a fall of about 1% since the last survey. However, 11% are expecting sales to rise by 20% or more. Of those questioned, 16% say their sales plans are likely to be overachieved, while 41% say performance targets are challenging.

There also appears to be a battle for budget. The percentage of turnover spent on marketing has fallen slightly from 7.6% in autumn 2006 to 6.6% in the latest survey. However, this decrease takes us nowhere near the 2001 low of 2.5%, so perhaps it should not be ringing too many alarm bells.

Advertising remains the biggest line on the budget, accounting for 15.6% of marketing spend on average. This means it’s still in front of field marketing (12.7%) and lead generation (12.1%).

However, once again, the budget earmarked for advertising is falling, and marketers are expecting to reduce their budgets by 0.5% on average. Spending on direct mail, sponsorship, internal marketing and telephone marketing is also expected to fall.

The biggest expected spending increase is in online marketing with budgets rising by 4%. It is expected on average that 1.8% more will be spent on public relations and lead generation, while e-mail marketing budgets will increase by 1.7%. More is also expected to be spent on customer relationship management (CRM), branding, sales promotion and field marketing.

The battle for budgets is a worsening problem for marketers. The number of those who claim it’s difficult to secure their marketing budgets has increased to 56%, while the percentage of those who claim it’s easy has decreased to 42%.

When it comes to taking marketing seriously, those in technology and telecoms are frontrunners, and nearly two-thirds (64%) working in this sector say marketing is given a high priority within their organisation’s business strategy. About half (49%) of those in the public sector and charity sector feel the same. These views are also supported by opinions on how easy it is to obtain a budget for their activities. While 51% of marketers in technology and telecoms describe it as “very easy” or “easy” to secure marketing money, this figure falls to 38% for public sector and charity marketers.

Marketers are slightly less bullish about employment prospects in the industry. Nearly two-thirds (64%) say they do not expect the size of their organisation’s marketing department will change over the coming year. However, the ratio of those who believe that there will be an increase rather than a decrease in numbers has shifted from 4:1 to 3:1 since spring 2007.

A greater percentage of companies with a turnover of £100m or more expect to be cutting back on their marketing departments than organisations with a turnover of £1m or less.

When asked which factors influenced marketers’ decision to accept a job offer, 41% say salary is the most important criterion. This is followed by the organisation’s reputation (23%), corporate culture (10%), personal status in the organisation (7%) and having a workplace crèche (6%).

The role of technology in marketing is still a controversial issue, and 48% of those questioned believe there is an increasing problem with managing those new to the profession who are more technologically savvy, but lack practical experience. 

  • A total of 1,127 marketing professionals completed the online questionnaire, which was hosted by the independent market research organisations, Ipsos MORI between September 3 and 25, 2007. There was broad crossection of organisations by sector, turnover and geographic location. 

Our latest Marketing Trends Survey shows that our profession continues to evolve at a rapid pace. Issues that would not have featured on a marketer’s agenda a decade ago are now major concerns. An organisation’s attitude to sustainability, for example, is central to marketers’ plans in today’s ecoconscious society. And 61% of marketers believed sustainability practices affected customers’ buying decisions, while an even greater number (70%) feel that it would become more important to customers in the future.

Advertising to children is clearly an area of considerable controversy, and nearly three-quarters of those who responded to our survey said the recent voluntary code change outlawing TV advertising of junk food to children should be extended across all media. However, while 78% of those aged between 36 and 45 – those most likely to have children who are advertisers’ target market – were in favour of a change, only 68% of those aged under 26 agree.

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