Covid has given CMOs the chance to prove their worth

marketerCovid-19 might have decimated marketing spend, but UK marketers feel the pandemic has also given them the opportunity to redefine their roles, and provided the opportunity to show their importance to the business.

New research from LinkedIn, which surveyed 300 UK marketers from B2B and B2C sectors, shows how marketers are reacting to reduced budgets, and are shifting their strategy to do more with less. While the study reveals that challenges lie ahead, optimism exists as we enter a recession.

The findings show that during the pandemic, B2B marketers have been faced with more budget cuts than their B2C counterparts (74% vs 61%). As a result, half (49%) of all marketers have been forced to shift priorities, with B2B marketers being most affected (53%).

Despite the pressures brought by cuts and exacerbated by furloughed teams, marketers across disciplines hold a more positive outlook as the downturn hits. Two-thirds (66%) feel optimistic about the future and two-fifths (40%) feel optimistic about the speed of recovery.

B2B marketers are markedly more optimistic, especially when it comes to the prospect of protecting their budgets over the next six months. As few as a quarter of B2B marketers (29%) are expecting further budget cuts, compared with over half (52%) of B2C.

A further reason for optimism is that hiring within the sector is beginning to improve. As of July 1, the year-on-year hiring rate for media and communications professionals is -16.6%. While still negative, this is above the national hiring rate, and a 22 percentage point increase, from mid June.

The research also shows that this period of economic uncertainty has given marketers the opportunity to take on more of a leadership role within their businesses. It found that marketers are being asked to take a more active role in decision making and half (49%) say they now have the opportunity to redefine their role.

Peter Field, co-author of “Advertising effectiveness: the long and short of it”, commented: “Despite the intense pressures to cut activity and focus short-term, there is ample evidence in this survey of marketing doing what it is best at: adding value to the business through creativity. Doing more with less requires imagination and determination – let’s hope that CEOs remember the vital role marketing plays in growth in the years to come.”

The research also sheds light on exactly how marketers are pivoting their strategies to do more with less, adapting their ways of working to keep costs down including taking control of more functions, flying in the face of predictions that Covid-19 would trigger a U-turn on inhousing.

Over half (52%) will take social media strategy inhouse, while shifting media strategy (50%), traditional ad buying (48%), production work (44%), advertising (43%) and programmatic ad buying (41%) is also on the cards.

Meanwhile, almost half (46%) of marketers have already adjusted their content marketing strategy, placing more focus on their vision and mission and two-fifths (42%) have adapted content or creative to be more emotional in nature (e.g. human-centric, emotional etc.). This is set to continue, as two-fifths (42%) of marketers agree that they will have to change the tone, content and messaging of their marketing assets over the next six months to a year.

As we look toward the future, marketers say that they plan to spend less on advertising channels traditionally associated with long-term brand building. This includes reduced spending on out of home (51%), events/experiential (61%) and account-based marketing (18%). Instead, marketers plan to increase their spending on channels that traditionally drive short term results, such as online video (60%), online display (59%) and paid social (58%).

LinkedIn UK, Ireland & Israel head of marketing solutions Tom Pepper said: “Despite the challenging economic environment , we’re seeing green shoots of optimism among the marketing community. In particular, many marketers are feeling optimistic about what’s to come after Covid-19, as it has given them more face time with the board than ever before, and they’ve been able to demonstrate their true value to business.

“Prior to the crisis there was much discussion about the death of the CMO, but the pandemic has highlighted their continued necessity and relevance in helping businesses adapt how they show up externally in the face of profound change.”

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