Marketing Budgets: It's Time To Plan For A More Fortunate 2011

Is your fiscal year also your calendar year? If the answer is yes, then you have my sympathies. Your budget season has probably begun, negotiations will be tough, and the outcome is uncertain.

The background for 2011 negotiations will be the experience of 2010, a year in which marketing budgets rose cautiously at best, as I show in my latest research. This was despite the fact that marketers who responded to Forrester's February 2010 Global Marketing Leadership Online Survey were more than twice as likely to see signs of economic recovery in their industry as to not see them. B2B marketing leaders fared worse than their B2C counterparts:

The areas of marketing that fared the worst were those that were viewed as being expensive, and with low or uncertain ROI. For B2B, that meant sponsorships, trade shows, and traditional media. For B2C, it meant print advertising, agency fees, and direct mail. Conversely, all of the growth areas were related to digital media in one way or another.

So what does that mean for CMOs entering budget season? My advice would be to focus on measurable program elements that are designed around business objectives. That sounds obvious, but the surprising truth is that many of the CMOs whom we surveyed said they were shifting budget to areas they considered "strategic," which falls far short of this standard.

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Sneak Peak: The Future Of Pop-Up Brand Experiences

Update From The New Brand Experience Lab

Vending machines are back en vogue! Marketers from Coca-Cola to Kraft Foods are transforming run-of-the-mill vending machines into brand experience machines. I just attended an event hosted by SapientNitro and got to meet the people behind the Unilever "Share Happy" machine, one of the most innovative brand ideas I've seen this year. These pop-up brand experiences are a trend that I expect to increase for the next few years as marketers start to realize the full potential of creative technology.

In my forthcoming report called "The Pop-Up Brand Experience," I provide advice about how marketers can transform product transactions into brand moments. My report draws inspiration from the recent trend in new-age vending machines that are combining technnologies such as networked computers, facial recognition, and multi-touch displays to innovate how marketers can deliver brand experiences at the moment of purchase.

I'll be back soon to share some more insights on the subject of "brand moments" and "pop-up brand experiences," but for now, I'll leave you with a few quick takeways. Marketers who are on the leading edge of delivering the new brand experience are:

  • Forcing collaboration across multi-disciplinary teams, including technology, creative, marketing, strategy, sales, and service. And it's not just org chart collaboration. It's actual side-by-side, co-located, roll-your-sleeves-up-to-a-whiteboard problem solving.
  • Investing in R&D to test the limits of what's possible when you combine human emotion and advanced technology at the moment of truth.
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When Will Your Consumers Be Ready To Spend?

When will customers be ready to spend on [insert product or service]? As CMOs and senior marketing leaders, you are often business leaders first and marketers second and have a strong interest in the state of consumer confidence as it relates to your industry. How can marketers predict when consumers will be ready to spend more, whether on travel, devices, or premium content? The short answer is . . . nobody really knows. This economy’s challenges are blazing a new and unfamiliar trail.

What marketers can do is look to tangential indicators to try to accurately gauge when, exactly, consumers might be willing to part with their hard-earned dollars and understand what will compel them to do so. The US private sector added 67,000 jobs in August, but while “added” has positive connotations, the fine print has anything but. Columnist Gerald F. Seib, writing in last week’s Wall Street Journal on the jobs prognosis, hardly painted a picture of optimism. Yet 90.4% of Americans are broadly defined as “employed,” and many within that huge cohort still have significant spending power.

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What chief marketers do you want to hear from?

I'm preparing a panel discussion for our fall European Marketing and Strategy Forum about how marketing leaders have or are beginning to connect the dots of the brand experience.  If you're unfamiliar with the concept of Connecting the Dots, in my research I've defined it as:

Orchestrating diverse opportunities and all resources — within marketing, elsewhere in the company, and externally — to create a compelling brand experience that delivers value to the consumer...

In short, you could say it's about marketers making harmony out of chaos. 

In the panel I'm running, I'd like to chat with marketing leaders about how they have stepped up to define and lead the brand experience at their company, across different channels and often among diverse departments.  I'll ask them about their challenges, their worst surprise and their closest allies in trying to connect the dots.  And more...

I have some ideas of who I'd like to talk with, but let me open it to you, the audience:  who would you like to hear from? 

It may be a company that you like doing business with as a customer because it feels like they are taking care of you.  It may be a marketer you've read about or a company that intrigues you as they take advantage of technology.  It could be a colleague, a friend, or even - gasp - yourself. 

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