Deep Dive: Marketing investments provide buffer for instability

Part one of a three-part Deloitte Deep Dive series

Global leaders share additional thoughts on how investing in key marketing areas is critical to their brands weathering unpredictable conditions.

For many marketers, their success over the past year has been dependent on how their brands planned for and reacted to uncertainty. In Deloitte’s 2023 Global Marketing Trends report, we explored specifically how they managed to create new levers for organizational growth amid such economic and market instability. But how are these initiatives paying dividends while laying the groundwork for the future? 

In conversations with 17 marketing leaders at global organizations, they offer additional insights into those successes—and struggles—as they endeavor to steer their organizations through a continually shifting landscape. This is part one of a three-part Deloitte Deep Dive series.

Insulating Investments

A large majority of CMOs, nearly 75% of those surveyed, say they are doubling down on marketing investments to help secure their organizations against both current and anticipated economic instability. So, where are they focusing their efforts?

If you’ve guessed that they’re rooted in capitalizing on the dynamic duo of technology and data, you’re on the right track. Respondents indicated prioritizing a variety of strategies, including AI and expanded digital platforms—often used in concert—that focus on how to reach new and existing customers better and more efficiently.

Francesco Lagutaine, Chief Marketing and Communications Officer, M&T Bank

“Strong companies are the ones that invest in the downturn, because competition becomes weaker. They have the strength to continue marketing and growing the business, so they are then in the best possible place when cycles change. From a marketing perspective, this is the time to think about rationalizing spend. It’s imperative for strong organizations to continue investing.”

Niamh O’Driscoll, Head of Brand and Marketing, Virgin Media Ireland

“There’s so much competition in the market around value and price, and I suppose I see our role as making sure we’re continuing to fill the leaky bucket. You have to get consumers in, and you’ve got to retain customers—maintain a net number—and so the focus on brands probably is becoming more important to driving a connection with consumers so that when they’re viewing that value equation, we are the most preferred brand in the category.”

Shweta Ponnappa, Chief Marketing and Digital Experience Officer, Providence

“With the continued economic headwinds health care faces, marketing teams really earn their organization’s trust to be able to drive growth, and one of the ways to do it is to show incremental and attributable revenue and being really smart about how we use our ad spend. We’ve developed this in-house, proprietary algorithm that turns ads on and off based on availability of our clinics—aligning access to demand—saving ourselves advertising dollars and better meeting consumer expectations.”

Indeed, part of increasing the customer connection is meeting them where they live in the digital space and offering new digital technologies or platforms to enhance their experiences with the brand.

Elad Ravid, Chief Marketing and Digital Transformation Officer, Strauss

“We developed a loyalty club called Strauss Plus, which is the most important initiative that we are managing to approach the loyalty challenge. We’re inviting customers to scan their shopping cart so we can automatically identify every product that belongs to Strauss, then we reward those products with points. We are using it not only for consumer insights and better understanding of the market, but also to create seeds for media, for online advertising.”

Lori Gustafson, Chief Brand and Digital Officer, Marriott Vacations Worldwide

“We’re looking across the organization and at all of the underlying applications and systems we have in place that power our most critical business functions. So, capabilities like how we manage our inventory, how we power our reservation systems, and what deep commerce capabilities we need to enable through our web and mobile app experiences. We are also looking to revisit how all our data is managed, stored, and utilized across the organization in a meaningful way. We’re asking what’s best for the customer—and how do they expect to interact with us—and how do we put that information at the center of our decision-making?”

Michael Schuld, Chief Commercial and Marketing Officer, MediaMarkt/Ceconomy

“We are looking very much to shopping experience, usage experience, and impact experience. We believe that there is no reason why a retailer with an omnichannel platform cannot be an ecosystem. We are living in a post-cookie area. We have to create customer lock-ins, and we have to create stickiness when it comes to the category of experiencing consumer electronics so that the customer’s journey starts with us again.”

Ponnappa, Providence

“Consumers know that most companies have their personal data. In health care, we treat that data with extreme care and discretion. Consumers still expect easy, seamless digital transactional experiences as well as anticipatory, personalized experiences across their entire journey with us. Predicting what the consumer wants to do next and helping them get there is going to be critical. I often hear about personalization being discussed as its own topic, but for its own sake, it’s useless. It must create value for the consumer by lowering their effort.”

And personalizing marketing efforts via algorithms and machine learning is a key focus as marketers move away from cookies and toward first-party data solutions.

Ravid, Strauss

“Investing and developing a central digital experience (DXP) platform over the next year will enable us to advertise and create more personalized advertising campaigns and taking consumer insight from one category to the other, from one brand to the other. If I see upscale premium customers in the dairy division, I know we can use the data to create offers in the coffee world, for example. This centralized way of managing data is something that we only started to do, but that’s one of the things that will enable us to offer personalized data and then to leverage the data that we all already have.”

Lagutaine, M&T Bank

“At a performance marketing level, it’s really important to get targeted, and there are personalization techniques that allow us to constantly and iteratively improve our ability to get returns on those messages. But we always need to be careful not to get creepy or go into that place where you push it too far. You might catch 60% of people completely right, but that also means a 40% failure rate of turning people off.”

Overall, marketers seem optimistic that continued investments will bear fruit on the other side of the economic downturn. And improvements in digital capabilities may help enable a new level of precision in marketing that could retain current customers but also open new growth opportunities for companies worldwide.

They do caution, however, that technology and data are not an instant solve. Rather, both need to be additive to other human-centered methodologies to be truly effective.

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This article is part of an ongoing series. The executives’ participation is solely for educational purposes based on their knowledge of the subject and the views expressed by them are solely their own. This article should not be deemed or construed to be for the purpose of soliciting business for any of the companies mentioned, nor does Deloitte advocate or endorse the services or products provided by these companies.

This publication contains general information only and Deloitte is not, by means of this publication, rendering accounting, business, financial, investment, legal, tax, or other professional advice or services. This publication is not a substitute for such professional advice or services, nor should it be used as a basis for any decision or action that may affect your business. Before making any decision or taking any action that may affect your business, you should consult a qualified professional adviser.

Deloitte shall not be responsible for any loss sustained by any person who relies on this publication.

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