Want your investment to deliver? Make mend and repair your mantra

In a world where less is more, checking insights, aligning KPIs and adopting a mend and repair mindset can make your marketing investment work harder.

Investigate strategy
Source: Shutterstock

In my last article, I considered how businesses ramping up their investment in brands might think in a more polarised way about spend across their portfolio. The evidence on investing ahead on share of voice versus share of market is well established, but hard to use when so much spend is in walled gardens and businesses must make choices across a portfolio.

However, once you are clear on how much you can spend, it becomes a question of how to spend it well.  Typically, a good bottom-up brand planning process will create a ‘zero-based’ budget combining the amounts you need for any research, innovation, creative development, agency fees etc, alongside core media, shopper and other brand activation.

In most organisations spend becomes a question not of how much you need to deliver growth, as how much is available. Hopefully you have or can influence the top line brand investment and spend allocation effectively.

Just as brand investment tends to be stretched too thinly across brands, the same is true across growth drivers and activities within a single brand. It’s human nature to want to hedge our bets, but in doing so most brand plans appear tactical. Too many activities with insufficient reach, the number of creative assets further putting pressure on your deployment spend.

In a world where less must be more, here are the things you should pay attention to when planning investment against delivering your growth, penetration and market share objectives:

The business cycle

Consider the commercial road map which outlines and prioritises future sources of growth, the annual operating plan which clarifies the choices for the year ahead and relevant customer timelines.

Be ahead of these. So often brands wait to get numbers for growth and investment versus proactively making the case, especially in the context of the other things a managing director or finance director might be grappling with.

Ensure you present your plans in a way which is focused on what they care about – spending responsibly, delivering predicable outcomes, removing risk, balancing long and short-term outcomes – as well as respecting financial quarters and the year-end, which are of course irrelevant to consumer behaviour.

Measurement and evaluation

What’s really working? Measure sensibly against what the different growth drivers were designed to deliver- e.g. change or build perceptions, recruit, re-recruit? Is your spend effective, efficient and sufficient? Use existing data and if you don’t know the answer to what’s working, start defining some KPIs and simple measurement so this time next year you will.

If you’ve got a good grasp, work out what activities you can stop, what you need to evolve and how you can use money you free up to drive the effective ones harder. I like to have 70-80% spend on proven activities as my baseline, leaving space to scale some others, and 5-10% spend to experiment.

Kick the tyres on your strategy

Has anything changed which you need to address? Your strategy is simply the choices you make about who or what occasions, or what motivation against which to grow penetration, and what you need to do to deliver this. It should change only every few years or as the situation changes.

Are your growth drivers, activities and spend 100% aligned to the choices you’ve made rigorously and in order of priority?

As you deliver the plan, what can you reuse?

Evidence is building that creative wear out is largely in the mind of the marketer, with good examples of creative increasing effectiveness overtime. Reusing assets saves you money and you may be able to have a year off doing ‘create’ work. Perhaps only one brand in your portfolio need do it at any one time. Make ‘mend and repair’ the default, not new stuff.

Check your insights

Are they firing creative and effective solutions to the attitudinal and behavioural challenges you face? There’s so much work out there with nothing but product images or influencers for hire that it doesn’t even register. Sharpen media connections thinking and focus on building a creative platform you can consistently deploy to improve those returns.

Remember the multiplicative impact of creativity – we need to see it as a commercial driver, not be tempted to dismiss it as ‘colouring in’. ‘Pretty pictures’ make money.

Set KPIs aligned to the long-term behavioural change you seek

Work out the frequency of these KPIs. You probably don’t need marketing mix modelling until spend is in the millions, but simple KPIs alongside the other things you do will help you pilot, learn and course correct.

Learning mindset

Publish and review what’s working and not. It builds credibility, demonstrates commercial focus and accountability. Being transparent positions you as business leader first and foremost, and ensures weaponry like consumer insight, creativity and smart connection planning are seen as commercial drivers, supported by simple and compelling evidence.