7 lessons in marketing effectiveness from the CMO50

Some of the brightest brains in the marketing leadership business share how they've learned how to lift marketing effectiveness over the last year

Measuring the effectiveness of marketing spend against short as well as longer term revenue and growth is critical for CMOs if they want to truly connect their efforts to commercial returns.

While the tools and data sets available to support this quest have never been more plentiful, it’s clear marketing effectiveness remains a work in progress. Throw in a global pandemic and rapid consumer and market changes and effectiveness strategies were certainly also tested over the past 18 months.

So as part of this year’s CMO50 submissions process, we ask our marketing chiefs to tell us: What’s one learning or insight you’ve picked up on achieving marketing effectiveness over the past 1-2 years?  

1. Data is king

For Swinburne University of Technology CMO, Carolyn Bendall, the value of excellent customer data and marketing analytics to inform the marketing plan and prioritise the work cannot be underestimated.  

“Demand for marketing activity will always exceed capacity, so it’s important the marketing teams are equipped with the right data and analytics to be able to prioritise their work around what adds the highest value for both the customer and the organisation,” she says.

Data has also been king at Patties Foods, where general manager of marketing and innovation, Anand Surujpal, has been working to extend the FMCG’s data-driven unique Patties Innovation Ecosystem model.

“We have been able to identify growth opportunities and work in collaboration with our trade partners to deliver highly effective marketing programs,” he says. During the FY21 financial year, over 10 per cent of revenue was generated from new products launched in the past three years, double the FMCG global average.

Combining multiple dynamic data and research sources in a self-organising map has given Officeworks a much deeper understanding of customers, thereby elevating marketing effectiveness, says Australia Post CMO, Amber Collins.

“Our product development, media mix, messaging and thus efficacy have all benefited from this richer perspective,” she says. “But the paradox for me over the past year has been that, while data has never been more important, nor has trusting my instinct.”

In a similar vein, Marley Spoon chief marketing and growth officer, Kate Whitney, is a believer in balancing data with bold action.

“The number one thing I’ve learned in order to improve marketing effectiveness is actually within our core values at Marley Spoon,” she says. “Opinions don’t count. Data does. As experienced marketers, we can punt or create a hypothesis about what will or won’t work to deliver an outcome. But at the end of the day, the brutal practice of dropping what’s not working is the single most important thing a senior marketing leader can do.

"It takes guts, there are usually emotions and beliefs at stake, but once you liberate yourself from the torment of worrying what internal stakeholders might think and learn the zen-like art of only listening hard to what your customers say and do, that’s when a data-led marketing practice is at its most effective.”

2. Real-time insights are vital

It’s not just accessing data but using it that is key. And that requires timeliness. Which is why Google senior director marketing A/NZ, Aisling Finch’s tip for marketing effectiveness is to ensure insights need to be always on.

“Insights have always been a foundational tool for marketers, but now they need to be always on and responsive to the changing landscape through bushfires, economy, the pandemic and so on,” she comments.

“It’s never been more important to have real-time insights, whether focus groups, trackers, social sentiment or search trends. It doesn’t get much more real time than search insights, and I think this is a tool that is invaluable to marketing and indeed the broader business.”

Qantas CMO, Jo Boundy, is another who’s constantly listening to and re-evaluating insights to improve her marketing effectiveness.

“The world may have felt like it stopped spinning during the pandemic, but consumer behaviours didn’t… and they have changed considerably,” she says. “Most historic models are no longer relevant, so it is critical to use real-time insights to inform business decisions and respond to changing customer needs.”

3. Stick to your spending

Over the past year, Mars Wrigley Australia marketing director, Ben Hill, has found his own marketing effectiveness reinforced by a commitment to sticking to the longer game plan.

“Most marketers have been exposed to some research regarding the importance of maintaining investment in brands during times of economic uncertainty or crisis. Yet, we are still faced with the inevitable decision to cut spend to support the bottom line,” he comments.

“By refusing to cut spend on our core business, despite initial requests from above country to do so, we managed to outperform Mars Wrigley business’ around the world in our gum portfolio and buck the trend of category declines. This model has held us in good stead for yet another year of disruptive lockdowns in 2021.”

4. Hold onto your long-term vision

Effectiveness can be a challenge when it comes to working in an ecommerce, trade-focused retail business, working with more than a thousand brands across a variety of channels and subsequent daily campaigns, says The Iconic CMO, Alexander Meyer.

“While we ‘live and die’ by the numbers, it is challenging when you want to develop a longer-term brand marketing proposition and also customer loyalty,” he says.

With this in mind, a big learning around marketing effectiveness for Meyer is evolving the marketing narrative.

“By shaping the way we [re-]position ourselves in the business, we change the narrative. This means we should never get hung up on one set of metrics, just because they were used for a long time in digital marketing, for example; a business has to constantly re-evaluate how it measures and interprets its inputs and outputs,” Meyer says.

“By focusing on data and numbers and using trade as our strength rather than our Achilles heel, we have unlocked new growth potential by taking a more mature approach to how we dissect our marketing spend by customer group, such as new versus reactivated versus existing customers. This allowed us to develop new efficiency metrics from a ‘customer cost by customer group’ point of view.

“This also drove effectiveness, because we were able to steer our activities towards a higher customer lifetime sales figure by customer group more easily.”

Splitting budget by ‘intended spend’ allowed Meyer’s team to do two things. The first was utilising predictive customer lifetime algorithms or geo-incrementality testing more powerfully. This then steered activity plans much more precisely, due to the triangulation of cost per order, customer lifetime value, cost per customer and payback time for any kind of customer group.

“This framework therefore also allowed us to illustrate the value of the brand investment much more, and my team is now more than ever considered the growth engine at The Iconic to reach our ambitious 2025 growth targets,” Meyer says.

With a similar sentiment, Telstra CMO, Jeremy Nicholas, stresses the importance of staying the course.

“Marketing effectiveness for us came from focusing on the big meaningful messages and not getting distracted by the long tail of little things we could do,” he says.

After recognising Xero’s brand awareness was disproportionately low among small businesses compared to advisor channels, Xero marketing director Australia, Vladka Kazda, has been on a mission to evolve the accounting tech company’s brand strategy from B2B to B2U (business to user).

“This called for some ambitious brand building and KPIs to strengthen our direct relationships with users. By aligning my team to one clear definition of success and building a strategy to ladder up to that vision, we exceeded those targets in just under two years,” she says.  

“Truly effective marketing is all about marrying short-term goals with a long-term vision. Especially in an uncertain environment, the ladder between the macro [overarching goal] and micro [steps to get there] vision becomes paramount to success.”

While not entirely new, Officeworks GM marketing and insights, Jessica Richmond, says her team has learned to respond to changes more quickly in the external environment and adjust customer communications with balancing continued focus on furthering its long-term agenda. An example was around data and analytics foundations and capability.

“Sometimes it’s easy to drop the ball on longer-term objectives in favour of addressing short-term challenges,” she says. “But our ability to balance both has, in my opinion, been a major contributor to Officeworks’ success over recent years.”

Up next: 3 more vital lessons in achieving marketing effectiveness

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