A Stark Warning to CMOs Focused on Short-termism

It’s not the ad campaign; it’s what the ad campaign is doing for your brand.

It’s not the marketing campaign; it’s what that marketing is doing to engage and build relationships.

This distinction is critical when it comes to understanding the success of your marketing strategy. So why aren’t more brands taking an outcome-based approached?

“There seems to be a growing reliance in advertising plans on short-term thinking,” notes this article in Print Power. “And in this quick turnaround, data-driven culture, brands are turning to short-term results at the expense of long term creative campaigns that take time to quantify. But with that comes a depressing slump in media effectiveness.”

The article cites a recent survey that debuted at the Cannes Lion Festival of Creativity this year that bears this out. According to The Board-Brand Rift, business leaders lack confidence in brand building strategies. Instead, they rely on performance marketing because it’s easier to measure.  “In fact, 33 percent of those surveyed globally revealed that marketing reporting cycles are getting shorter,” the article notes.

These shorter reporting cycles favor short-termism, with brands focusing on easily measurable metrics that can be compiled almost instantaneously. This emphasis on immediate results can have a downward effect on long-term strategic goals.

“Short-termism is a threat to marketing effectiveness and shareholder value,” explains Magnetic Media’s report Bridging the Long/Short-Term Divide. “It explains that CEOs are often reluctant to embrace long-term strategies because of pressure to show immediate results. And with more corporations linking performance to executive pay, the pressure mounts.”

Meanwhile, brand-building efforts take a nosedive, the Print Power article continues: “This is all occurring despite the existing, and growing, body of evidence that shows optimal growth and profitability come from implementing a different balance between short- and long-term marketing.”

What’s needed is for the print industry to figure out how to present credible brand health metrics in a way that makes sense to the C-suite.

“We need to show these CMO innovators how print media effectiveness can make a considerable commercial contribution,” the article continues. “And that an effective marketing campaign is at its most dynamic when print is integrated alongside digital solutions. And of course, that the best results take time.”

Our obsession with data-driven culture is even having a chilling effect on creativity, the Brand-Rift report notes.

“This is the report I hoped I would never have to write,” mourns Peter Field, a consultant for the Institute of Practitioners of Advertising (IPA) report. “The misuse of creativity has continued to grow and the effectiveness advantage has continued to decline. Creatively awarded campaigns are now less effective than they have ever been in the entire 24-year run of data and are now no more effective than non-awarded campaigns. We have arrived in an era where award-winning creativity typically brings little or no effectiveness advantage. Creative best practice is currently being overwhelmed by poor practice, and yet there are still campaigns showing how it should be done and delivering impressive effectiveness as a result.”

It’s not the designers’ fault, but the under-allocation of budget to longer-term brand-building efforts. The adoption of “disposable” creativity means campaigns aren’t produced for long-term results.

The take-away for CMOs who want to raise the bar for their brands is stark:

“Your job is to steer brands and communication clear of the sea of sameness in order to move both culture and commerce,” the report notes. “That is what great creativity has and will continue to do. You should hold experiences to that same high standard, as experience is inextricably intertwined with brand. This is what’s required of CMOs to move the needle.”

No CMO I know will tell you this is an easy job. But they aren’t where they are because they took the easy route.

“I urge everyone who values creativity, as I do, to study this report and act on it, especially those with the power to change how creativity is commissioned, deployed and judged,” notes Field.

We’ve been warned.