Confidence is back

Mark Thomson, media director of Royal Mail, says all evidence suggests that confidence among marketers is re-emerging.

I am sure all of us in the marketing industry would happily never utter the word “recession” again, but I wonder if there are any positives to be taken from the journey we have just travelled.

For while the economic uncertainty has been difficult, it created an environment in which marketers were forced to scrutinise even more closely their activities to ensure they achieved maximum value from their spend.

Surely this can only be of benefit for both businesses and the audiences they are trying to reach, with campaigns being developed even more carefully around the most effective channels to reach potential customers in the right place, at the right time.

But will the increased focus on value continue as the financial ties are loosened?
Our latest study of the most senior marketers in the UK, in partnership with the Marketing Society, certainly indicates this is the case.

First of all, the study shows confidence and optimism. Encouragingly, a third of the directors polled predicted that they expect their marketing budgets to grow over the next six months, with less than 13% believing they would be cut.

Compared to last year’s figures, this is a significant increase. 2009 results showed that only about a quarter (26%) expected an increase in their budgets, while another quarter anticipated a drop in budgets during the latter half of the year.

This renewed optimism could be an indication of several developments. Firstly, after a belt-tightening few months, brands are finally starting to realise that to get out of the dip caused by the economic slump, now is the time to make their marketing work harder and increase company visibility.

What is also interesting is the channels through which these marketers plan to deliver their campaigns – and it’s clear that no one single channel is leading the way.

The research suggests that marketing directors plan to use a wide variety of channels to reach the illusive customer, suggesting that multichannel campaigns remain the strategy of choice. If the recession has made the customer more selective about their marketing preferences, it has also drummed into the marketing community the crucial importance of tailoring messaging, adapting not only content but also channel to the requirements of the individual.

In terms of the channels which marketing directors deemed would be important to their business over the next financial year, 45% chose SEO/natural search, closely followed by social media with 42%, which is increasing its reputation as a communications channel. Other digital channels saw email on 28% and paid search on 13%.

When it came to more traditional channels, 37% of marketing directors said advocacy/word of mouth was most important for their business, 33% chose press, 27 per cent selected direct mail and 23% felt that TV would be an important medium during the coming year.

What is clear is that integration is high on the agenda – and such an approach can increase return on investment. Our own figures have previously revealed that digital campaigns see a 62% increase in payback when combined with direct mail.

So with the marketing community finally beginning to loosen the purse strings, and increase investment across the board, combining digital with more traditional channels, it looks like a promising time ahead.

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