Rumours of online’s power have been greatly exaggerated

I recently attended the Market Research Society Annual Conference in London. This is an important event in the marketing calendar and the organisers had assembled some fantastic practitioners and case studies, both agency and client-side.

Secret Marketer

My interest was piqued in the opening seminar. Patrick Barwise, emeritus professor of management and marketing at London Business School, made a startling statement: that 90 per cent of brand conversations are still offline, and only 2-3 per cent of the remainder are in the social space.

The point was built upon by Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the Royal Society of Arts, who said that online conversations are more polarised than those shared by the mass market populace.

Now this is a point that I have inferred in this column in recent weeks. Social media is important in our society today, and marketers are foolish to ignore it. However, it is not the only media that exists and, in fact – if you are to believe the above – it is probably over-hyped, perhaps to a very great degree. At a time when everyone seems to be jumping on the social media bandwagon, this is a helpful dose of realism for us all to keep our feet on the ground.

The following day I presented my 2013/14 marketing plan to my board – always a trepidatious time, and this year was no exception. After hours of pre-selling the plan to the individual board members, and then a carefully staged presentation taking the board through the plan from market insight to alignment with business objectives, lessons learned from last year and clear (and impressive) return on investment statistics. But as usual, I got to my final slide – the budget – and there was the usual sharp intake of breath, shaking of heads, deep inspection of one another’s shoes as everyone avoided making eye contact, ending with the “we’ll have to see if we can afford all that”.

Oh well, perhaps if I anonymously tweet the importance of solid marketing investment in my brand being essential to our success, the chief financial officer will come rushing to my desk with a big bag of cash for me.

Latest from Marketing Week


Access Marketing Week’s wealth of insight, analysis and opinion that will help you do your job better.

Register and receive the best content from the only UK title 100% dedicated to serving marketers' needs.

We’ll ask you just a few questions about what you do and where you work. The more we know about our visitors, the better and more relevant content we can provide for them. And, yes, knowing our audience better helps us find commercial partners too. Don't worry, we won't share your information with other parties, unless you give us permission to do so.

Register now


Our award winning editorial team (PPA Digital Brand of the Year) ask the big questions about the biggest issues on everything from strategy through to execution to help you navigate the fast moving modern marketing landscape.


From the opportunities and challenges of emerging technology to the need for greater effectiveness, from the challenge of measurement to building a marketing team fit for the future, we are your guide.


Information, inspiration and advice from the marketing world and beyond that will help you develop as a marketer and as a leader.

Having problems?

Contact us on +44 (0)20 7292 3703 or email

If you are looking for our Jobs site, please click here