With the economy exhibiting conflicting indicators, it comes as no surprise that companies are adopting a cautious approach and implementing cost-cutting measures. Regrettably, marketing budgets are frequently the initial casualty. In December 2022, we conducted a survey among nearly three dozen Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs) from prominent consumer companies in North America. The findings revealed that, on average, these CMOs reported an 8 percent reduction in marketing expenditures over the preceding 12 months, as demanded by their company boards. In certain instances, marketing budgets were even subjected to more substantial cuts of 10 to 20 percent. Shockingly, one prominent public company went so far as to slash its marketing budget by over 20 percent. Finding a balance between cost management and maintaining a robust marketing presence is crucial to navigate the complexities of today’s business landscape.
Marketing should be at the table, but not be the meal
Over the past three years, marketers have faced an arduous journey due to the rapid shifts in consumer sentiment and the rising costs associated with their trade. In an era of economic uncertainty, shoppers have been compelled to prioritize value, leading to a trend of downgrading their purchases. In fact, our March 2023 survey revealed that a staggering 80 percent of consumers are modifying their shopping behavior by either adjusting the quantity or pack size of their purchases or opting to switch brands and retailers in search of more affordable options.
Simultaneously, marketing costs have experienced an upward trajectory. According to the insights gathered from our December survey of Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs), the average cost per click witnessed a substantial increase of 20 percentage points in 2022 compared to the previous year.
The investor approach to marketing
During challenging economic times, marketing leaders often respond to cost-cutting directives by implementing uniform reductions across various marketing channels, such as a 10 percent cut from each area. Many believe they can manage such measures by simply spending less. While they may be confident about their ability to achieve savings, they are less assured when it comes to driving growth. According to our December survey, two out of three respondents expressed apprehension about simultaneously reducing spending and outperforming competitors.
However, there is a viable path forward. Instead of solely focusing on substantial and indiscriminate budget cuts, companies can adopt an investor mindset and take a more nuanced approach to their marketing investments. This approach involves identifying areas of overspending and reducing expenses where necessary, while simultaneously allocating additional resources to initiatives that offer greater potential for long-term return on investment (ROI). By eliminating inefficient spending, successful companies can potentially achieve savings ranging from 10 to 20 percent. These savings can then be reinvested in more efficient efforts and targeted campaigns, aiming to drive growth in the range of 5 to 10 percent.
This strategic reallocation of resources can help companies create a significant competitive advantage.
How to get started: A call to action for CMOs
Despite the ongoing economic volatility, the current year presents a pivotal opportunity for marketers to unlock substantial value for their companies, leveraging efficiency gains to drive growth and establish a clear agenda for the future.
In times of uncertainty, it may be tempting for companies to retract and adopt a conservative approach. However, we firmly believe that organizations that choose to double down on growth initiatives will not only recover more swiftly but also emerge from these challenges in a position of strength. These turbulent times serve as a defining moment for Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs) and marketing leaders to direct their focus intensely.