Executives adapt strategies in the downturn

20 April 2009

NEW YORK: Over 80% of executives have changed their strategic planning processes in light of the downturn, with more than half looking at a "shorter timeframe," says McKinsey & Co., which argues measurement and a focus on long-term trends could be key.

While many advertisers are expected to cut their budgets in the downturn, it has been argued that maintaining levels of adspend and an increased emphasis on ROI could mean brands will be better placed than their rivals when the recovery starts.

McKinsey surveyed almost 600 executives, 46% of which were at "C-level", and found that 34% argued their plans for this year were "extremely different", with 47% saying they were "somewhat different."

Over two-thirds of the poll's participants have put "more rigorous" processes in place to approve new projects and expenditure, with 63% adopting a "more fluid" and adaptable approach to planning.

In terms of measurement, 61% of participants were conducting "more or different analyses," while 47% stated they had started to increase their scrutiny of "environmental metrics."

"Scenario planning" was also regarded as being more important by over half of those surveyed.

A similar number of executives were concerned that they were not successfully balancing their short-term and long-term objectives.

McKinsey argues most firms now have to "consider more variables" than in the past, and "also need to place a greater emphasis on measurement", which is the "only way to recognize when changing conditions merit quick strategic adjustments."

However, it also stresses the importance of long-term trends such as the advance of Brazil, Russia, India and China, which "will continue to create strategic opportunities and threats."

One company that McKinsey said has performed highly successfully despite the current crisis is McDonald's, which posted an increase in sales as a result of its low-cost menu, while also continuing to introduce new products and renovate stores.

Data sourced from McKinsey; additional content by WARC staff