Vodafone marketing head: Shiny new things don’t help us hit targets

The marketing boss of Vodafone’s B2B enterprise urges marketers to move away from “shiny” trends in favour of long-term brand building.

Vodafone

In the face of growing pressure to deliver financial results, marketers should shy away from “shiny new things” and focus on adding long-term value to the business, Vodafone says.

Speaking at Newsworks’ Shift 2017 conference this morning (1 March), Vodafone Global Enterprise’s head of marketing Katrina Lowes said she faces a challenge building a long-term brand when her “measurement window is only 12 weeks”.

The business has to report its results to the city every quarter; and if the results are not what investors were expecting, there are immediate negative consequences.

“The share price drops. When the share price drops, the first thing that happens is that everyone looks at me and goes: ‘We need your marketing budgets back next quarter. We need to keep it against the bottom line just in as we don’t bring in enough sales’,” she said.

“At the same time, they say they’re really sorry as they know we make a big difference. So on the one hand, there’s the desire to invest and the understanding that the Vodafone brand is very precious and valuable. On the other hand, I’m a sitting target because I’m a source of disposable income that can go against the short-term goals.”

As a result, Lowes is eager to move away “from the shiny new thing”, as she believes it does not drive long-term business results. Instead, she asks her marketing team and agency partners to answer three questions whenever they pitch a new campaign idea.

On the one hand, there’s the desire to invest. On the other hand, I’m a sitting target because I’m a source of disposable income that can go against the short-term goals.

Katrina Lowes, Vodafone

If they can’t answer who it is targeting, what action it will lead them to take and how results can be measured, the campaign is likely to be a no-go. Lowes believes this mitigates the risk, and as far as Vodafone is concerned, her team is seen as “pretty risky”.

When there was a blanket ban on social media within the organisation, Lowes decided to quietly launch a social selling programme “under their own names”. If it worked, they could consequently present it to the rest of the organisation.

“And it does work. Our social selling programme is probably bringing in 3x well qualified leads compared to any of the digital advertising campaigns I’ve [recently] run. It’s a different use of digital media, and through it we can track when a message gets sent out, who responds and what happens when a meeting happens,” she explains.

“Shiny things don’t hit targets. Don’t get me wrong – innovation in media and marketing is important, but I have yet to find a single nirvana that makes up for a good and well-executed media plan.”

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