According to a Forbes Insights survey, 69% of CEOs said they think their companies waste money on marketing initiatives.
Unfortunately that’s not a view limited to small companies that will often have to make the hard call between investing in their marketing or buying a new piece of equipment. Indeed – many large companies also struggle to understand the long-term strategic benefits of investing in their brand.
Having worked in the advertising, branding and marketing industries for more than 20 years, it’s still one of the most common issues that we encounter and the bugbear of countless marketing teams the world over, who struggle to justify the importance of what they do.
So here are some insights that might help you bring the CEO or board – on-board to give you better strategic support and the resources you need to get the job done:
Create a brand story that engages more audiences.
Start by asking yourself, who is the company’s brand story actually relevant to? A good brand story will be relevant to a wide array of audiences, not just your customers and staff.
Experience has taught us that by strategically expanding your marketing to reach key stakeholders, i.e. investors, analysts, commentators and lobbyists can have a significant impact on the company that no CEO or board can fail to recognise. A strong brand presence has the potential to drive up stock prices and other brand metrics and also ensure your company attracts the brightest employees.
Show how the brand build and drives company culture.
This is something we’ve talked about before, but your marketing and branding strategies need to be inward facing as well as outward. A strong brand and intelligent marketing play a crucial role in building and reinforcing a company’s internal culture.
Team up with your HR department, identify the role your brand plays in attracting the best candidates in the market and monitor staff motivation levels during campaigns to show increases in productivity.
Be the driving force.
We’ve all seen those TV shows where everyone sits around the boardroom table nodding and agreeing with everything the CEO says. But in today’s competitive market, companies need drivers – people that have the courage, vision and ambition to get things done.
It’s not enough just to know what your own company is doing, you need to understand what the market your brand is operating in, is doing – and you also need to understand what your competitors are doing.
Knowledge is power and the more knowledge you have, the better equipped you’ll be to drive your branding and marketing activities ahead of your competitors and achieve sector control.
Don’t be afraid to ask your agencies what they are seeing or doing in other markets. They won’t tell you what they are doing for other clients, but they can often give you an insight into a new or emerging trend that you can adopt and present as a solution to your CEO in a pre-emptive strategy that will catch the competition with their hands in their pockets.
Equally important – have the confidence to walk away from a strategy if you find it doesn’t work. One of the biggest problems many brands face is that no one wants to be seen to ‘make a bad call’, so instead of calling out something that doesn’t work, everyone will mumble about it in the background, but never move to fix it.
Prove your strategy works with hard facts.
Back when I first started in this industry, the ringing of tills indicated that a strategy was working. Today, you have access to many more analytical tools – so use them and understand how to interpret them.
Show the CEO or board that your strategy is backed up with hard data and not just fanciful guesswork. Use the analytical tools at your disposal to monitor and tweak your strategy for better effect.
But be realistic about the data you are getting and don’t follow it blindly – listen to customers and staff that are customer facing. They will give you an invaluable insight into the real-world effectiveness and relevancy of your strategy.
Choose battles you’ll win.
One of the most common mistakes people make when trying to persuade the CEO or board to change their view on branding and marketing investment is that they start by suggesting the need for a major cash injection. That’s not going to happen. So look at how to validate the effectiveness of your marketing spend and start with clever solutions that simply require project approval as opposed to funds.
You can also suggest reallocating funds from one part of your marketing strategy to test-bed a new approach. By showing the CEO or board that you are being innovative in your thinking and experimenting with new approaches without expecting fresh funding, you are much more likely to get sign-off on new strategies and engage their interest. By proving your thinking is right on small projects, you are much more likely to earn their trust and support when it comes to undertaking a major new strategy.
I knew you were going to say that.
Before you present your marketing strategy to the CEO or the board, prepare, prepare, and then prepare some more. Use your knowledge of the personalities you’re presenting to and anticipate the questions they’ll ask and be realistic about the difficulties they will raise and the problems they will identify. Have your answers and solutions ready to any of the barriers you know or anticipate will be raised.
Also – you might want to think about lobbying support for your proposal before going into the presentation. Share your ideas with key influencers that will have the ear of the CEO or board. Get their input as if they identify issues, you can be sure the CEO or board will as well.
Remember – the CEO or board will often not have the information you have and are making their decisions on a fraction of the knowledge and or market intelligence you have. This often manifests itself as the default mode of ‘’let’s not rock the boat”. You don’t have to rock the boat, but by understanding and validating your reasoning, you can navigate the boat around the rocks.
Reassure the CEO or board with real-life case studies or examples of other companies that have used their marketing to push ahead. This helps diminish the risk factor and gives the CEO or board the comfort of knowing that they are not the guinea pig.
Benchmark yourself against best-in-class companies and competitors.
There will always be a default company or brand’s marketing success that the CEO or board reference and admire. Use that knowledge to your advantage. Make it your job to understand the strategy and tactics that company is using and explain why your proposed strategy will work by referencing those successes.
You also need to come out of the ivory tower. One of the most common mistakes marketing teams make is to view their brand and marketing is isolation to the competition. You only have to look through some of your industry’s trade publications or view your literature and digital assets side by side with competitors and it quickly becomes apparent, a lot of B2B brands especially, all look and act the same.
Know you competition and also who is nipping at your heels. A simple SWOT analysis can help you identify where you have an opportunity to separate your brand and marketing from the herd and also, where you need to correct your strategy to compensate for weaknesses.
But above all – keep your strategy and thinking agile. Your brand and your marketing exists in a state of continuous flux and needs to be ready to take advantage of opportunities and respond to threats.
“Article adapted from 7 strategies for selling marketing to your CEO” on CMO.com.
The story behind The Mission Control Communications.
By any definition of the word, 2015 has been a ‘spectacular’ year for The Mission Control Communications. But what motivates the agency that has blazed a trail for itself in recent months, picking up multiple international awards and clients on an almost monthly basis?
“I don’t think it was ever just one thing,” says Director, Patricia Killoran. “When we launched the agency, we knew we were going to have our share of critics, but in many ways that negativity drove us all the harder and it’s a testament to the character and resilience of the people that I work with that we were able to rise above all that and focus on creating the type of agency we always wanted to be part of.”
That agency you wanted to be part of, describe it? “Effective, Strategic, Collaborative, International and Brave,” says Patricia. Ten months on, have you succeeded in creating that agency? “I’d say we’re work in progress. I don’t think we’ll ever fully see ourselves has being done. There’s always something new to try and the agency that stands still gets left behind.”
You don’t refer to the brands you work with as clients’; you describe them as partners, why? “Client is a such a horrible word. It just suggests a cold financial transaction and that’s never going to be the catalyst for producing great work. When we partner with a brand and its in-house marketing team, we work together. We get to know them as people and that leads to a more open and honest relationship and honesty is key to creating effective work. The partner brand needs to be honest about not only what it’s looking to achieve, but why and we need to be honest about the work and if an idea isn’t working – kill it and move on.”
The Mission Control Communications has established a reputation for itself as being down to earth; do you see that as a problem when it comes to working with the more conservative types of companies? “Some people can find it strange at first. They have a perception of an agency and we don’t really fit into that cliché. But that’s not a bad thing. It causes people to open their minds more and that’s part of the process – challenge the norm and look at new ways of doing things.
The majority of your work originates outside the UK. Geographically how do you cope? “We’ve created a structure that allows us to work seamlessly with partners all over the world. Geographically, I don’t think it really matters where you’re based, what is important is being able to do work that get results and is relevant to the market you’re operating in,” says Patricia.
The Mission Control Communications has had a very successful time on the awards circuit. How important are awards to you as an agency? “Awards are always nice, but they need to be seen for what they are; a by-product of what we do – not the driving motivator. I read an article in one of the trade press titles recently that said: ‘We’ve all been witness to weeks and months of ‘strategising’ without a corresponding award winner in sight.’ I can’t believe that we still live and work in an age where for some agencies, awards are more important than campaign effectiveness. You can’t serve two masters. If your eye is on a night at the awards and not the outcome the brand you’re working with needs, you’re not doing your job. That’s why when it came to selecting the awards we would be entering; we chose those that were based on campaign effectiveness and not just pretty pictures solutions.”
What do you mean about pretty pictures solutions? “It’s a term we use to describe work that looks pretty but has no substance. It’s pointless. If we want to make pretty pictures, we’ll go to an art class. Our work is about making a difference.”
So how do you plan to top your achievements this year, next year? “Like I said earlier, we’re work in progress. Next year will bring a host of new challenges and we’re looking forward to coming to grips with those. We come back in the New Year to a lot of planning meetings and some rollouts, so that is going to keep us busy. But we’re fortunate in that we have work to be coming back to, so we’ll be focussing on looking after our existing partners, but if a new opportunity presents itself and it’s right for us, naturally we’ll look at it.”
That sounds like you don’t plan to be pitching in 2016? “It’s not a priority for us. We have some pretty great partners on the books already and they keep us busy. It’s easy to get caught up in pitch fever, but that’s when your existing work starts to suffer. So for us, we’d rather keep our existing partners happy than go off on a fools chase after something that might or might not happen.”
Despite the genuine down to earth and jargon free manner of the agency, The Mission Control Communications houses a wealth of industry intelligence that allows it to deliver effective and informed campaign strategies to brands working in some of the most complex markets world wide. You can’t help but feel an underlying confidence within the team in that they know their stuff. Looking forward to seeing what comes next from the team.
Creating a brand name is a very personal and emotive process that can take months of research and introspection, not to mention a considerable investment.
But with an increasingly noisy digital marketplace and a shortage of words for brands to draw upon, many companies are going old school and opting for simpler naming conventions that connect with people in a more meaningful and straightforward way.
When Apple first introduced its “i” naming convention back in 2001, the world quickly followed suit and the cult of “i” everything swept the planet. In 2014 however – Apple quietly dropped the “i” convention for a much simpler product descriptor giving us Apple Watch, Apple TV and Apple Pay.
Another notable convert to a simpler naming convention has been Google – with its straightforward approach encompassing Google Glass, Google Play and Google Wallet.
What is perhaps most interesting about this new trend in naming is that the companies taking the lead in this brand revolution are market leaders who have historically always been ahead of the curve on the marketing circuit.
So as we move forward into 2015, the challenge for companies and brands will be to embrace this elementary approach to naming and navigate its integration across all audience touch points in a way that ensures brand stand out without falling into the trap of being generically bland.