Four experts on the ‘laws and loopholes’ of achieving marketing effectiveness

Marketing Week columnist Mark Ritson, former Eve Sleep CEO Cheryl Calverley, the LinkedIn B2B Institute’s Peter Weinberg and Jon Lombardo, and Digitas’s chief strategy officer Matt Holt debate the core principles behind marketing effectiveness.

There’s no doubt that effective marketing is key in both building businesses and increasing the influence of marketers within them, but what core principles marketers should abide by and whether there needs to be better standardisation in the metrics and language used is a subject of ongoing debate.

Speaking during the fourth Currency of Effectiveness session held by Marketing Week’s Festival of Marketing yesterday (27 March), sponsored by Digitas, Marketing Week columnist Mark Ritson said good CMOs often build their own approach to marketing effectiveness.

“They have the confidence to know that it may not be perfect, because such a thing does not exist, but they have built their idea of what marketing effectiveness is,” Ritson said.

“Marketing isn’t a science… I think every good marketer builds their own potpourri of effectiveness and each one is slightly different. And that’s cool.”

However, former Eve Sleep CEO Cheryl Calverley, now founder of consultancy Voodoo, argued that Ritson’s thinking was “the wrong way around”.

“I don’t think every good marketer builds their own effectiveness,” she said. “I think every good marketer builds the right opinion of effectiveness for their business and category, and that will change as you change categories.”

There is value in the laws and the loopholes, [but] there’s too little knowledge of the laws and too much knowledge of the loopholes.

Peter Weinberg, LinkedIn B2B Institute

Calverley said this was a lesson she learned during her marketing career, which included a stint as marketing director of the AA and four years as Eve Sleep’s CMO. When moving from a low-interest category to a high-engagement category, the way marketers achieve effectiveness is different, she explained.

Other differences between businesses which need to be considered include audiences, price points, and “more importantly”, whether the business is high or low growth, driving profitability, or perhaps preparing an exit strategy.

“[Understand] what the business is trying to do, because I’ve not yet met a business that’s got the same ambition. That is what then will advance your perspective of effectiveness in that context,” she said.

“That should change business to business, but it should not change within your business, unless your business fundamentally changes.”

Calverley added that some marketers have become “arrogant” and forgotten that marketing is meant to be in service of a business.

“What matters is what the business decides it needs to deliver against its business objectives,” she said. “That might be a bigger and stronger brand, if that’s part of the objective, but it might not.”

Undervalued laws

However, for the LinkedIn B2B Institute’s head of development Peter Weinberg, there is currently too much ambiguity in the marketing practice and a need for “universal principles” all marketers can abide by.

“I think there’s a problem in marketing where the answer is always ‘it depends’. There’s no right or wrong way to do anything. And I don’t know how helpful that’s been to the practice of marketing, because it means anyone with a microphone can opine upon the best way to do [it],” he said.

Having universal principles “makes sense” and gives marketers “something to react to”, Weinberg continued, adding that some of them are “common sense”.Standardising effectiveness: Marketers on the opportunity and challenges

He explained: “You need to think of a brand before you can buy a brand. That’s true whether you’re selling cloud computing or Coca-Cola. You need to acquire new customers. That’s true whether you’re selling cloud computing or Coca-Cola.

“We get in a lot of trouble with the nuance police who tell us [we’re] making a broad statement. ‘It depends, what about this situation?’… I think there is value in the laws and the loopholes, [but] there’s too little knowledge of the laws and too much knowledge of the loopholes.”

Although agreeing with Weinberg that relying on ‘it depends’ “isn’t healthy” for businesses or marketers, Digitas’s chief strategy officer Matt Holt argued that it can be the right response when it comes down to tactics within a strategy.

“Often we as strategists go, what should we do in X channel? Because it does always depend on the objectives and the outcomes you’re trying to deliver,” he said.

“But I completely agree with Peter that just saying it depends isn’t healthy…. You’ve got to talk about ‘it depends on’. That allows you to get into a better conversation… where you can get to the bigger outcomes.”

 Every good marketer builds the right opinion of effectiveness for their business and category, and that will change as you change categories.

Cheryl Calverley, Voodoo

Meanwhile, the LinkedIn B2B Institute’s head of research Jon Lombardo believes that more common language around marketing would not only help to improve its effectiveness, but its influence on other parts of the business.

“We do need some common language, some common framework around how marketing ought to work. It’s more of a mindset. Obviously product is a part of it, pricing is a part of that, placement, promotion… But we don’t have a common framework and a common language where everybody is talking about marketing the same way,” he said.

“I do fundamentally [believe] you’ve got to get way upstream of all this stuff… If we can educate everybody in marketing on how to do marketing properly, especially in B2B, we will be able to start to influencing things other than purely promotion.”

Core principles

Asked to outline their core marketing effectiveness principles, Ritson advised brands to “know that the ultimate marketing metrics depend on your strategic objectives”.

He said: “You measure whatever you’re trying to achieve…. You set objectives with a benchmark, otherwise they’re not objectives. And then by having a benchmark, it answers [the] question, which is what are the measures of effectiveness? We measure whether or not we achieved the goal.”

Big companies have “oodles of data”, he added, “but none of it’s any good” as “they literally aren’t measuring the right things”.

“Brand tracking nine times out of 10 is a disgrace because it’s measuring generic horseshit. It’s not even measuring what’s in [a brand’s] positioning for the year…. No exaggeration, they have 10 times too much data in every big company.”

If you haven’t done the diagnosis, you don’t know what effective is.

Matt Holt, Digitas

For Calverley, marketing effectiveness starts with understanding the category, not the brand. Not taking the time to do this was a mistake she initially made on joining Eve Sleep as CMO, she said.

“Understanding how your shopper shops that category and understanding the decision making and the order of decision making in that category is absolutely number one. What are your category drivers? Then look at how that segments across your audience,” she explained.

“People will be buying on price, on how soft the leather is – as that segments across the audience, how can you get to the universality of a segment to make it big, meaningful, and targeted? Then how can you find growth from that segment? [There’s] no point if that segment ain’t going to spend any more money or buy any more stuff.”

From there, it’s about designing a product to meet that segment’s need, wrapping a brand positioning around that product and working out how to communicate it. From beginning to end, it’s a nine to 12 month journey, she said.

Digitas’s Holt similarly advised brands to start by diagnosing a brand’s strategy. He referred to Richard Rumelt’s book Good Strategy Bad Strategy, in which he outlines a process of diagnosis, creating a guiding policy, and then an action plan.

“I think too often we go straight to action plan without really diagnosing or having a guiding policy,” Holt said. Taking time to do the research is “critical”, he added, claiming Digitas often struggles with its clients to get the right emphasis on research and understanding customer needs.

“From there you get into the Ps and the channels and the specifics, but if you haven’t done the diagnosis, you don’t know what effective is,” he said.

Weinberg returned to core marketing principles he believes are “universal to all businesses”. The first is the 95:5 rule, which tells marketers their customers are only in the market 5% of the time.The 95:5 rule is the new 60:40 rule

“Most people are not in the market for whatever you’re selling. So you’re primarily actually driving demand for future buyers,” he said. “You have to be market oriented. But you have to understand the market is mostly future buyers.”

The second principle he pointed to is that of mental and physical availability – ensuring a brand easily comes to mind in a buying situation, and is easy to buy from when that buying situation occurs.

“You have to understand when somebody is going in market for CRM, for example, how do they make that choice? Of course there’s no one answer, but a lot of it boils down to mental and physical availability,” he said.

“The idea of orienting around future customers and orienting around mental and physical availability are to me good bedrock principles of marketing effectiveness.”

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The Currency of Effectiveness is brought to you in partnership with System 1, Ebiquity, Salesforce, Digitas, Ozone, and Little Dot Studios.