New study reveals that only 3 per cent of UK marketers strongly believe that marketing can protect their business from market changes and competitor innovations.

A new study, released by creative agency Cubo, exploring how marketing can protect their businesses from competitors’ innovations, revealed that only a tiny percentage of marketers think it can.

The research compared the opinions of 200 decision-makers in marketing and finance.

A tale of both complacency and under-confidence…

The research, which was run by The Centre for Brand Analysis (TCBA), initially revealed a complacency amongst CMOs and CFOs around the general stability of their market and their businesses’ ability to compete within it:

  • 74 per cent of marketers and 79 per cent of financiers feel their sectors are stable or in growth
  • 84 per cent of marketers and 91 per cent of financiers believe their brand is equal to or ahead of competitors in terms of product and service development capabilities
  • Only 20 per cent of marketers and 30 per cent of financiers are concerned about the threat of innovation
  • Only 26 per cent of marketers and 23 per cent of financiers believe that their market intelligence would not prepare them for predicting changes
  • Only 17 per cent of marketers and 15 per cent of financiers believe that their brand isn’t immune from new innovations
However, the research also revealed surprising key findings around current confidence in marketing:
  • Marketers appear to have lost faith in their own ability to make an impact…
    • The majority of marketers (71 per cent) stated they felt investment in marketing offers less than a 20 per cent contribution to protecting the business against market changes, compared to other areas like new tech, product development, and internal culture
    • On average, ‘marketing’ was believed to contribute only 21 per cent towards a business’ immunity, while ‘brand’ was only 16 per cent.
    • Only 3 per cent of marketers strongly believe marketing could protect their business from market changes and competitor innovations
  • Likewise, marketers’ justifications of their decisions clearly aren’t landing with colleagues
    • CFOs rank ‘brand’ as the least important area of investment to protect their business from change in the market, and ‘marketing’ as the second least important
    • They have far great belief in new technology (perceiving a 25 per cent contribution towards immunity) to keep them well protected
Nick Ward, Head of Planning at Cubo said: “While CFOs did pay some lip service to longer-term brand-building in our survey, they also rated ‘brand’ and ‘marketing’ as being their lowest areas of investment to build immunity. That latter point probably demonstrates the truth of the matter, especially in light of the well-documented trend towards boardroom short-termism within our industry. The fact that CFOs have far greater belief in ‘technology’ as a source of immunity, over ‘marketing’ and ‘brand’, suggests that marketing teams are failing to communicate exactly what they are doing, why it is needed, and how valuable their work is in protecting a brand.

“That’s bad enough, but the most worrying part of this research is that marketers themselves appear to doubt whether ‘marketing’ or ‘brand’ drives immunity. If marketers have lost faith in their own contribution, how can we expect them to articulate it clearly to their colleagues in finance? This is a wake-up call to revitalise belief in the protective strength of ‘marketing’ and ‘brand’, which seems to have slipped in recent years. Marketers should be ranking their contribution to immunity a great deal higher than 21 per cent (marketing) and 16 per cent (brand).”

Trevor Chambers, Group Creative Director at Cubo added: “Building brand immunity is a two-sided coin – it’s a future-thinking marketing team that is fully prepared for all possibilities, and ready to respond to any change in the market, and it’s the consequences of their good work; a brand that stays deeply embedded in the minds of its audience, even if the market does start to change. John Lewis is just one example of a brand that has got this right; its approach is creative, builds fame and has emotional resonance. However, it’s important to remember that their blueprint won’t work for everyone else – that’s the joy of creativity.”

Chris Walmsley, Co-founder of Cubo concludes: “Within the increasingly tumultuous market we find ourselves in, marketing teams and their agencies simply can’t ignore the need to protect their brand 24/7. Immunity doesn’t just happen – it takes time. For marketers, it involves planning ahead and getting the whole company aligned, so everyone, irrespective of their business division, understands what you’re doing. Establishing this universal understanding and support makes it a lot easier to secure the investment needed to protect your brand against the impact of competitors’ innovations. "