COVID-19 is bringing new challenges for the marketing industry in 2020, and the predicted economic recession will hit brands hard. Now more than ever, it's vital to get the proper foundations in place, not only to weather the coming storm but to think ahead toward future growth.

This month’s WARC Guide looks at some of the key structural considerations for brand marketers looking to drive more effective marketing. With the spectre of budget cuts looming, there is more need than ever for marketers to prove the impact of investment and build resilient brands over the long-term. With COVID-19 reshaping marketing plans in real time, now is the moment for brands to define what effectiveness looks like, align teams around same objectives, know what to measure and how to measure it,  and invest in talent that will see the business through the difficult times ahead.

Ensure marketing metrics are aligned with overall business objectives

Brand and marketing metrics must be properly aligned to overall business objectives, advises Christian Polman of Ebiquity, and consistently communicated across internal and external partners. Alongside a measurement framework that blend econometrics and attribution, Polman advises that brands should create a ‘test and learn’ culture to create a ‘gold standard’ of what works and what doesn’t, an approach which has been successful for brands such as Direct Line and adidas.

Seamless data and analytics

A major challenge for modern marketers is managing the fire-hose of data and analytics coming into the business, which – in many cases – has created ‘data silos’ between functions which hinder effectiveness. As technology transforms business processes and marketers are asked to take charge of the full consumer experience, resolving this issue is more pressing than ever.

COVID-19 has also hastened the need for brands to press forward with digital transformation generally. This defining moment is an opportunity for marketing leadership to strengthen operations for the long term.

Undergoing a digital transformation process can drive more effective and efficient decision making, according to marketing consultant Laura Chaibi.. Accenture Interactive’s Nikki Mendonça advises brands to develop a ‘full stack’ approach which delivers a single customer view, aligns across platforms and touchpoints, and shrinks the gap between brand experience and communications.

Structuring to deliver  growth and effectiveness

A growing number of brands have introduced centralized in-house marketing excellence or effectiveness teams to provide ownership of performance. To be a success, these specialist teams need to approach the mission with a clear ‘north star’ and develop marketing frameworks to build evidence-based bodies of work. In this issue, Nick Milne, of Go-Ignite Consulting, shares practical advice and best practice for brands seeking to take this path to marketing effectiveness.

In creating effective client-agency relationships, brands should consider efficient deployment of resource, smoother operating practices and rigorous measurement as conditions to drive success. Rob Foster of The Observatory International advises that both partners need to prioritise communications and transparency by adopting a “common language”, with shared data and clear workflows. In the fast-growing markets of Asia, there may need to have a different approach to agency relationships, contracts and service agreements, scheduled audits and talent. R3’s Greg Paull notes that partnerships between brands and agencies in Asia need to be more flexible to accommodate high growth and rapid consumer changes.

And while in-housing is a trend getting a lot of media attention, it’s not necessarily right for every brand. Most companies who take on in-housing (of creative or ad tech) are primarily interested in efficiency, or cost-cutting. Ryan Kangisser, of MediaSense, argues that without careful strategy, this approach can deepen silos within an organisation and undermine effectiveness. Setting up the in-housing strategy the right way from the beginning ensures it’s not just an efficiency play, but an effectiveness one too.

Getting the right skillsets

Marketing is facing a well-publicised talent crunch, but getting the right skillsets into a marketing team is crucial to driving effective communications. Today’s marketers need to balance the foundations of brand-building with tech savvy, as well as the secret sauce: creativity. Joanna Reesby, from talent consultancy Mission Bay, advises recruiting from new categories such as tech, gaming or e-commerce to keep data and technology skillsets relevant. Brands should also prioritise upskilling via continuous learning to bed in culture change and boost retention.

The role of the Chief Marketing Officer has also been changing rapidly over the last few years, and will only continue to evolve as the COVID-19 crunch asks more of brand leaders than ever before. Nick Primola, of the CMO Growth Council – a partnership between the Association of National Advertisers and Cannes Lions – advises that to stay relevant in the C-suite, CMOs need to position themselves a ‘growth partner’ rather than a cost centre, advising that CMOs can evolve their role for more C-suite relevancy by taking on business-wide strategy or innovation roles.

We hope you find the advice in this month’s WARC Guide useful.