Marketers fail to prove worth

16 June 2011

LONDON: Marketers are still failing to demonstrate the impact of their strategies and campaigns on core business metrics, an international study has revealed.

The Fournaise Marketing Group surveyed 600 senior executives from major corporations and small-and-medium size enterprises.

Some 73% agreed marketers "lack business credibility" and are unable to prove if their activity boosts prospect levels, customer demand, conversion rates, sales and category share.

Negative attitudes reached 78% among European decision-makers, and also hit 73% in Australia, 72% when discussing the US panel, and 69% across Asia.

By sector, 84% of corporate leaders representing firms from the consumer products segment held this view, measured against 62% of their peers in the business-to-business space.

Overall, 77% of the sample thought it was difficult to link issues emphasised by communications teams, like brand value and equity, with hard metrics such as revenue, sales, profits and market capitalisation.

Another 74% argued too much attention was directed towards the latest industry trends and "frontiers", for example social media, without first making the case as to how these tools might enhance business results.

Looking at improving return on investment, 73% of executives suggested marketers typically look to economies of scale and stricter terms with third-party partners like agencies.

Often, these initiatives come at the expense of ideas which can increase revenues and other figures benefitting the top-line.

Budgeting also posed a problem, given 72% of interviewees asserted that marketers frequently ask for greater funding but are "rarely" able to quantify the incremental sales this will generate.

For 70% of those polled, the units responsible for promoting their brands generally "bombard" stakeholders with data that does not relate to profit and loss statements.

Similarly, marketers were compared unfavourably with sales forces and financial departments by 63% of respondents.

This was because they regularly adopt more creative, "arty" and "fluffy" elements of their craft, rely too heavily on agencies to deliver the next "big idea" and neglect "scientific" procedures.

More broadly, The Fournaise Group warned a discernable "disconnect" seems to be emerging between chief executives and marketers.

Such a process is evidenced by the fact 69% of communications experts believed their efforts did exert a positive influence on company performance, even if this was not immediately demonstrable.

However, Jerome Fontaine, chief executive of Fournaise, cautioned that unless substantive evidence can track and show this in a tangible way, it was unlikely the discipline's position would strengthen.

"Until marketers start speaking the P&L language of their ceos and stakeholders ... they will continue to lack credibility in the eyes of their ceos and will continue to be seen more as a cost centre than an asset," Fontaine said.

Data sourced from The Fournaise Marketing Group; additional content by Warc staff