Three-quarters of marketers prioritising short-term tactics over long-term strategy

New research from the IPA and ISBA shows marketers are focusing on short-term tactics over long-term strategy, which is impacting efforts to improve marketing effectiveness.


The majority of marketers are prioritising short-term tactics over long-term strategy, while finance bosses believe marketing is still based on short-term impact.

According to a survey of the marketing industry by the IPA and ISBA, 75% of marketers and 73% of agencies agree that short-term tactical needs often take priority over longer-term objectives. Some 58% of marketers and 43% of agencies agree marketing direction regularly changes to meet the demands of the marketplace, with just 22% and 26% respectively disagreeing.

Just 14% of marketers and 4% of agency execs “strongly agree” that marketing objectives focus on the long-term (the next one-to-three years), while 22% and 60% respectively disagree strongly.

Yet 59% of marketers “strongly agree” they have a short-term (one-to-six months) plan in place, with 34% of agencies agreeing.

This is mirrored in finance professionals’ experience of marketing. None of those questioned “strongly agree” that the marketing objectives they sign off are long-term, while 50% say they sign off short-term plans. Some 20% “strongly disagree” that marketing plans are long-term in view.

Meanwhile, while 76% of marketers place “great importance” on being able to demonstrate ROI, 70% of marketers say that focus is on reviewing and reporting individual campaign/activity/channel effectiveness and 68% believe their measurement approach is fragmented. A further 67% describe their approach to data analysis as “ad-hoc”.

A focus on short-term tactics rather than long-term strategy has been shown to have an impact on marketing effectiveness. According to the report ‘The long and the short of it’ by Les Binet and Peter Field, on average marketers should invest 60% of their budgets in long-term brand building and 40% in short-term sales activation to achieve the best return on marketing investment (ROMI).

Short-termism in the marketing industry is one of the areas that needs improving if marketing effectiveness is to increase. Currently, marketers rate their effectiveness at six out of 10 (where one is poor and 10 is excellent), but the majority of those questioned are looking to improve this over the next two years.

Some 61% want to increase this score by two points, with 75% expecting to score themselves eight or above and a third wanting to score themselves nine or 10.

To achieve this, marketing is increasingly looking to work across the business rather than seeing effectiveness as the remit of marketing alone. A quarter of marketers say insights and analytics professionals should be responsible, while 22% believe it is a “shared responsibility” to improve ROI.

Yet just 40% of marketers agree their company is prioritising having the right mix of resources to support marketing effectiveness, citing challenges such as senior management commitment, the need to eradicate silos, and the establishment of a test and learn mentality.

Libby Child, founding partner of Greengrass Consulting, which carried out the study, says “The depth, detail and variety of responses highlight the complexity of the challenges facing marketers and their agencies as they strive to develop effective solutions, together, for the short and long term. There is certainly a will, but the way is not so easy.”

Marketing Week is exploring the culture of marketing effectiveness through a video series in partnership with Thinkbox.

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  • Steve Gray 10 Oct 2018 at 12:57 pm

    Very interesting discussion and highly relevant to the auto sector – this is driven by the accountability of digital vs big budget brand comms which can’t create that level of obvious ROI. Is that forgetting the basics in exchange for quick gratification – feels very 21st century!

  • Drayton Bird 14 Oct 2018 at 8:52 am

    The opinions of marketers in a survey don’t impress me very much. Most are like lemmings seeking the nearest cliff – currently digital.

    Other than David Ogilvy the wisest person I ever worked with was Victor Ross, Chairman of the Reader’s Digest when it was at its best.

    Early in his career he went ona trip to the firm’s HQ. On his return his boss asked asked him what he had learned. He said “We should concentrate on long term results.” “Quite so” was the reply. “But please remember that long term results are made up of a series of short term results.”

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