Why marketers should be proud to ‘carry their brands on their shoulders’

As the world emerges from the pandemic, marketers should be relishing their unique dual role of communicating brand values ​​and driving growth through understanding consumer behaviour.

That was the opening proposition for a recent panel debate called ‘The Future of Marketing – Silver Bullets or Double Edged Swords?’, chaired by Marketing Week’s editor-in-chief, Russell Parsons. The panellists, Salesforce CMO Sarah Franklin and DMA managing director Rachel Aldighieri, were asked for their verdicts on marketing’s progress in grabbing the attention of the C-suite.

For Franklin, the way to finally ensure their colleagues agree, so that marketing’s contribution is fully recognised, is very clear. Marketers must help their businesses to stand for something, and communicate it.

At a very difficult time, as the world emerges from the Covid pandemic, marketing must carry on delivering growth but it should also be driving values ​​and culture within organisations.

“We carry the brand on our shoulders,” she said.

“We have to drive growth and first-party data strategies when the economy is completely changed and investments are being questioned. Our most critical role in our companies is not to just drive growth but to drive culture, as well as efficiency. When our people are sad and anxious, we have to calm them and say ‘it’s ok’. And that includes our CEOs. We have to say ‘we got this’. We have to be there for our companies and our people.”

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But the marketer’s role obviously goes beyond an internal need to reassure the C-suite and the wider organisation. Franklin suggested that marketing needs to position itself as both the champion of brand values ​​and also the communications channel through which they are presented to customers.

“[Every marketer] wants to stand for something, to leave a legacy for our children,” she said

“That’s why I believe, more so than ever, that our roles are the most important in today’s society, because we are the ones that will have a message, we will make an impact. We will be that vehicle to communicate how our companies are doing.”

Speak business, not vanity

To reach the point of being both the voice of the customer and the protector of brand values, marketing needs to get buy-in from the very top of organisations. However, a major stumbling block could be the alarming finding that, according to research from the DMA, there has been a 23% decline in marketing effectiveness.

Aldighieri told panel attendees the decline has been noted among the past decade of DMA Awards winners, who represent the ‘crème de la crème’ of entrants. While there may be several factors at play, she said it cannot be overlooked that the drop in effectiveness has been matched by a rise in campaign measuring attributes that count for very little in business terms.

“It could be the Covid effect – the short termism that’s come into play over the last couple of years – and that might change in the next few years,” Aldighieri said.

“But what’s really interesting is almost 50% of metrics [in award-winning entries] were vanity metrics. We’re relying too much on a short-term language that the CEO isn’t interested in. They’re not really that fussed about website visits and likes. They want to know about sales, they want to know about engagement, they want to know about loyalty. We’re just not seeing enough of those metrics, and that’s a worry for the industry.”

Our most critical role in our companies is not to just drive growth but to drive culture.

Sarah Franklin, Salesforce

If marketing is claiming success from metrics the rest of the business does not hold in high regard, the question then arises, what needs to be done for the role to be taken more seriously? For Aldighieri, the answer is adopting universal professional standards.

“We found there are more than 170 marketing measures, which are bonkers,” added Aldighieri. This is only getting more complex, too, as 90% of marketers in Salesforce’s ‘Marketing Intelligence Report’ agree recent data privacy changes have fundamentally changed how they measure marketing performance.

“We need to create a clear measurement framework that is credible, that everybody uses to bring some uniformity. So, we’re looking to do that now, to create a framework the industry can adopt that builds credibility by embedding those business metrics into everything we do.”

Understanding customers better

This was welcomed by Franklin, who believes the big problem with digital marketing is that it offers so many data and metrics options that the pointless and mundane often gets analysed. Just because something can be measured, it is easy to think it should be, but this takes marketers on a dangerous path, she warned.

So, instead of worrying about how the phasing out of cookies restrictions the data they can gather, brands should be relishing the opportunity to rely on first-party data and to be more thoughtful of their customers’ wants and needs. As data laws are tightened around the world, Franklin had a clear message for the discussion’s attendees.

“Bring it on, I am excited, because it’s not even just about privacy,” she said.

“Our behavior has changed, our expectations have changed, we are not tolerating crap. Our attention is short, so I say bring it on. As a marketer I want to create great marketing, I want to create relevant messages. Let’s get rid of a lot of vanity metrics, let’s get back to the basics of incredible marketing.”

Heeding this call to arms is only the start of the fight – next brands will be faced with the ‘talent war’, particularly the competition for data and analytics skills. The debate ended with the panel agreeing marketing departments must refrain from simply poaching staff from one another. Instead, they should be upskilling and equipping staff with new capabilities.

In doing so, marketers can also feel good about what they do, Parsons concluded. More than ever before, marketing is now the only department in a business that is central to both driving growth and serving customers better – as well as driving through positive societal change.

Download Salesforce’s ‘Marketing Intelligence Report’ to find out more.

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