Thought leadership

The Chartered Institute of Marketing, the world’s leading professional marketing body, champion of customer engagement and best practice has released a new report: “The Challenges and Opportunities facing Marketers in 2017.”

The report is based on two separate surveys; the first was conducted by YouGov, while the second was conducted by the CIM, via Survey Monkey. The surveys highlight the need for marketers to be agile and adaptable in an increasingly turbulent geopolitical landscape.

Key findings from YouGov survey of 255 marketers show that:

       87% of marketers surveyed feel there is more pressure on brands to behave ethically and provide a role model for society, while 89% think the Internet, and social media in particular, is giving consumers more power to effect change over brands

       Brexit (55%) and recession (47%) are the top concerns for marketers in the year ahead. As a result, 54% of marketers expect to see an increase in ‘Brand Britain’ messaging, and almost one in five (19%) are already looking at how to incorporate this into their own marketing

       However, only 13% said that the introduction of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will be a top concern for the year ahead. Digging deeper, only 11% already have systems in place to ensure compliance with GDPR, with almost a third (31%) admitting they do not know whether their business has taken any steps to ensure they are compliant

Further data from a survey of 112 CIM members, conducted via Survey Monkey, reveals that:

       70% of marketers are concerned about factors outside of their control (data breach, tax scandals, workers’ rights problems) impacting on the brand

       95% think marketers need more influence and involvement with the broader business in order to protect brand reputation

Despite the influence social media gives consumers, only 18% of marketers are confident they can handle anything social media throws at them

Responsible marketing in a digital age

Thanks to the Internet and social media, marketers are well aware of the increasing power and influence of consumers. From Talk Talk, through to Starbucks and Sports Direct, the past year has shown that if marketers want to protect their brand reputation, they need to understand what is happening in the wider business.

It is no surprise that the research found businesses are striving to present themselves as more principled to consumers, with 87% of marketers surveyed feeling that there is pressure to behave ‘ethically’. However, some may struggle to effect change: 70% of marketers are worried that factors outside of their control (data breaches, tax scandals and workers’ rights problems) are impacting their ability to protect the brand. As a result, 95% think marketers need more influence and involvement with the broader business in order to protect brand reputation.

One of the key drivers for this is the impact of social media, which gives consumers a platform to shine a light on bad brand behaviour – in fact, 89% of marketers believe the Internet, and social media in particular, gives consumers more power to effect change over brands.

However, 21% of marketers feel that while they can manage social media daily, they would struggle in the midst of a Twitter storm. Half of marketers (49%) also say they are not getting the most out of their social media, with 22% attributing this to a lack of investment. While marketers are trying to keep up with changing customer expectations, it would seem some are being held back by the business.

Brexit Brand Britain

2016 was a year of shocks on the political scene, from Brexit through to Trump, despite the fact these results went against pollster’s predictions. As a result, many businesses are seeing the direct impact of this fast changing socio-political backdrop. This is evidenced by the fact marketers have placed Brexit among their key concerns for 2017, and that they are reacting accordingly. 54% of marketers expect to see an increase in ‘Brand Britain’ messaging incorporated into marketing campaigns, with almost a fifth (19%) looking at how they can incorporate this messaging into their own marketing.

Are we under-estimating the impact of GDPR?

However, while these external factors are weighing heavy on marketers’ minds, are they losing focus elsewhere? The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) comes into effect in 2018 and aims to give individuals more control over their personal data, the transfer of this data and its use in profiling. This means it has huge ramifications for marketers, who handle personal data every day. GDPR also requires businesses to demonstrate informed consent to use personal data for marketing purposes.

Despite this, CIM’s research found that:

       Only 6% of marketers feel they fully understand what the GDPR means for their business, with half (50%) saying they don’t really understand it at all or don’t know.

       Only 11% of businesses already have systems in place to ensure compliance with GDPR, with almost a third (31%) of marketers clueless as to whether their business has taken any steps to ensure they are compliant.

       9% of marketers say there have been mentions of it, but nothing has been formally discussed, and 16% do not think GDPR is relevant to their business.

Chris Daly, Chief Executive of the Chartered Institute of Marketing, comments: “While marketers are conscious of many of the challenges that lie ahead and how to address them, they need to be careful that the spectre of Brexit and the plethora of digital trends do not obscure other issues that need addressing. It is concerning to see that GDPR has not been fully considered, given the wide-reaching impact this will have on business areas which deal with data – marketers’ natural habitat. Given the concerns that emerged from consumers last year over how businesses collect and use customer data, marketers must make sure they are prepared and ready for GDPR sooner rather than later. By staying on the right side of the incoming legislation, marketers are best placed to safeguard not only their business’ reputation, but also its finances.”

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