Our Discontent With Marketing Efforts

Are you happy with your marketing efforts? According to a new Blackfriars Communications study, the answer is probably “no.”

According to the Blackfriars Marketing Index survey, U.S. companies expect to spend 46 percent more money on marketing in Q2 2006, yet they’re much more dissatisfied with the results. Almost 25 percent said they were “not very satisfied, or not at all satisfied, with their marketing efforts” to date, and the number who reported they were “extremely satisfied” or “very satisfied” with their marketing fell 15 points (from 53 to 38 percent) from Q1.

Unfortunately, the survey doesn’t ask why they’re dissatisfied, but it’s interesting to note in the survey, a lack of satisfaction correlates with a rise in online spending. According to Carl Howe of Blackfriars, “Online spending of all types grew to more than a quarter of all marketing budgets.”

Online spending is up, but satisfaction is down. Why? The cynical (or the die-hard traditional advertising mavens) among us might want to blame online advertising’s ineffectiveness, but that’s not the answer. There’s plenty of research from publishers, associations, and academics that show online advertising is highly effective.

So why the discontent? A recent study by the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) and Blueprint Communications may provide some clues. The study finds the majority of marketers (67 percent) rely on integrated, cross-media advertising campaigns, but over half end up feeling “their campaigns didn’t achieve expected results in every channel.” This has resulted confidence in advertising slipping; only 30 percent of survey respondents reported “advertising adds the most value to a company’s marketing communications programs” compared to 51 percent who said the same thing in 2003.

The problem with successfully launching integrated marketing campaigns seems to be companies and their communications departments aren’t set up to deal with marketing across all the available media choices. Today’s communications environment offers a dizzying array of media choices (Blackfriars calls this “The Tyranny of Too Much“), but most corporate communications departments and advertising agencies don’t seem to be geared toward getting the big creative idea correctly expressed across all media. The ANA survey finds most marketers (63 percent) surveyed identified the “siloed structure of most organizations” as their biggest barrier.

Even though many agencies and advertisers talk the talk about integrated marketing, ROI (define), accountability, and measurement, many really don’t walk the walk. Though big creative ideas abound, actually executing them across both on- and offline media seems the biggest barrier to satisfaction and effectiveness. As important as online media have become, we’re still trying to figure out how to integrate online creative and strategy across departments, and struggling to figure out how to measure and respond to the data that comes back.

A recent Business Performance Management Forum study finds even though many businesses are investing in CRM (define) and other tracking tools, most marketing executives still rely on Excel spreadsheets and gut instinct to make their most important decisions. It’s not that they haven’t been asking for better tracking and reporting tools, it’s that they aren’t getting access to them.

Overall, the problem seems to be at the top. Leadership isn’t setting priorities or dealing with the structural issues that keep cross-media campaigns from operating effectively. Many organizations still keep marketing efforts siloed, separating online marketing from what goes on offline. One major problem may be that top executives have been slow to understand the major changes going on in the fast-paced online world (as this recent study of executive attitudes about corporate blogging seems to imply) and haven’t taken the steps necessary to reorganize their operations to eliminate the silos that decrease effectiveness, deny access to vital information, and artificially limit or allocate budgets.

If you’re unhappy, you’re not alone. And, apparently, you’re not to blame. Organizational barriers, lack of information, an ever-growing universe of choices, and a lack of understanding from top management all add up to plenty of discontent.

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