Developing marketing communications strategies and plans presents a challenge every year, but 2015 seems especially problematic. While 2015 should be a good year for business in general, we believe that most B2B, B2C and nonprofit marketers should still be prepared for a bumpy ride.
Most financial advisors expect the stock market to keep gaining, and most projections assume modest GDP growth and low inflation. Even Madison Avenue predicts advertising spending to increase by 4.8 to 5.0 percent. So what’s the problem?
Well, the average American’s earnings haven’t risen in more than six years. Cheap money in the financial markets will limit corporate acquisitions. And political and economic unrest around the world continue to be major unknowns.
Marketing Communications Considerations For 2015
In discussions with clients, prospects and colleagues, my takeaway has led to the following ten forecasts for 2015:
- The tax deductibility of advertising investment is at great risk. As forecast last year, Congress is still considering putting a limit on the 100 percent deductibility of advertising in a single year. One potential in-coming Chair of the House Ways and Means Committee has already told advertisers that he’ll consider a proposal deducting advertising spending over a five to ten year period rather than just one. If or when this passes, it will have a huge impact on budget planning.
- There will be a much deeper and expanded look at the use of “Big Data” as a means of improving customer service, responsiveness, product development and measurement of social media. Fully understanding the “wants and needs” of customers and prospects will take center stage. Analytics will rule, and so will savvy analysts.
- There will be increased pressure on proving and improving marketing communications ROI. Evaluating each tactic employed (in traditional or new media) and how each contributes to the overall marketing program is a necessity for profitable growth. Professional and apolitical measurement will be a must.
- Outsourced consultants and staff will continue to grow in importance. Companies and nonprofits will continue to pursue a work-as-needed strategy, as opposed to full-time employment. By 2020, these “guns for hire” will comprise forty percent of the U.S. workforce. Now is the time to identify and evaluate these people who you will be so dependent on in the future.
- Companies and nonprofits will increasingly focus on internal communications. Employees are as much of a legitimate marketing asset as the product or service itself. Making every employee a marketer and true brand ambassador is becoming a priority. Be sure to make every meeting or internal function a brand building platform. And, above all, keep monitoring your employees’ opinion of the brand.
- Small and startup company entrepreneurs will realize that – to be successful – they will require a lot more than just their “big idea”. Building a profitable brand is team sport. And using marketing and marketing communications as part of your team will get you the leverage you need to turn an idea into a sustainable brand.
- More emphasis will be placed on marketing to older adults. A recent Nielsen study points out that by 2017 American boomers will control 70 percent of the country’s disposable income. And, according to Forrester Research, the 28 million people over 55 years of age buy twice as much online as do younger adults. In fact, the millennial generation has even less money to spend than did their counterparts of previous generations. However, new approaches will be needed. Marketing to boomers (and older) is a lot different than marketing to 18 – 34 year olds.
- The Yahoo-Bing Network (YBN) will grow in importance. Currently, 70 percent of the people who search business and financial service categories on YBN (17 million people) do not search these categories on Google. YBN now represents 29 percent of U.S. search volume (149 million unique searches/month), and the searchers themselves skew towards older, better educated and wealthier people.
- Being media neutral in your marketing decisions will become even more important. A recent Gallup study among 18,000 consumers reported that 62 percent said social media had “no influence at all on their buying decision”, while only 5 percent said “it had a great deal of influence”. And, reading between the lines on the importance of traditional media, Advertising Age projected an increase of 48 percent in event spending, 34 percent direct mail, 6 percent in radio and 4 percent in television. Make sure you understand the difference between efficiency and effectiveness for both new and traditional media.
- Considerably more time and effort will be spent on improving creative messaging. As competition increases, more effort will be placed on determining what customers and prospects want to know about a brand – fact, not opinion. More respect will then be given to the resulting creative product, regardless of media, to make sure it’s authentic, relevant and timely. As Tom Bradley, head of marketing at Nestle, said, “The best source of marketing communications leverage is the quality of message. It’s not the media vehicle, new or traditional, that does or does not deliver.”
Obviously, there are many other areas worthy of prognostication and discussion (e.g., Facebook’s decline, the rise of native advertising, fraudulent clicking on digital ads, the importance of marketing to women and Hispanics, etc.), but the forecasts discussed above seem to have greater impact on marketing communications in 2015. The question then becomes what to do about them.
Consider Fresh Eyes From Marketing Communication Consultants
Another recent study from Forrester Research reports that 34 percent of marketers currently feel overwhelmed by change. And, unfortunately, most companies and nonprofits don’t have the financial or intellectual resources to deal with the challenges in either the short or long term.
If this hits home, now many be the time to tap into established, experienced, consultants. Look for people with broad industry and brand experience, across organizations large and small. Candor should flourish. Most of all, make you future better than your past.