Does marketing get tougher?

Yes – we believe it does!  In fact, marketing gets 11.2% tougher each year.
I started my Marketing studies back in the late 1970s. If you’re too young to remember back then, here are a few pointers of a bygone age.

  • It was when the $200 Sony Walkman launched (that’s a portable cassette player, cassettes were before DVDs which were before MP3’s!). Music of the day was My Sharona by The Knack and at the cinema, the latest release was Monty Pythons Life of Brian.
  • Thatcher had just become Prime Minister following a period when the bins weren’t emptied and the shops were short on supplies (so eerily topical after 2020) and apparently due to “Labour not working” although oddly enough the unemployment rate wasn’t so different to right now.
  • In America, the Happy Meal and Trivial Pursuit had just launched whilst closer to home the average house price was a whooping £13,600 and inflation was running as high as 17%!

They were exciting times to be embarking on a career in marketing for sure. But marketing itself was a lot less complex 40 or so years ago. Whilst there was obviously all manner of subtleties of technique to be deployed in essence the main channels used to win a customer in the early ’80s consisted of TV, Radio, Sales Reps, Press, Direct Mail, POS, Exhibitions, & Cinema, ably supported by things like market research and leaflets/ posters.

So a budding Marketer back then in 1979 had about ten techniques to master.

Over the next decades, as new inventions and technologies have come on stream, new skills have needed to be acquired meaning that Marketing staff have to way up more options and spread budgets over more channels and techniques.

In the ’80s circa two new things came along which needed considering as part of the Marketing Mix. They wouldn’t apply to every business but in some shape or form, they might need to be considered as if you didn’t your competitors might!

  • 1980 Loyalty Cards
  • 1988 Database Marketing

The nineties saw 16 new things added requiring possible attention:

  • 1990 Cruise Forums
  • 1992 Affinity Marketing
  • 1992 SMS (That’s Text Messaging)
  • 1993 Loose inserts
  • 1993 One 2 One Marketing (Peppers & Rogers)
  • 1994 GeoCities
  • 1994 Amazon
  • 1994 BarclaySquare (my first online project)
  • 1995 E-bay
  • 1996 Hotmail
  • 1996 Content is King
  • 1997 CRM
  • 1997 SEO (To impact directories)
  • 1998 Google
  • 1998 White Labelling
  • 1999 Online Reviews

The pace grew further in the noughties with a further 18 things for Marketers to think about:

  • 2000 Bangtail Envelopes
  • 2000 AdWords paid advertising
  • 2003 LinkedIn
  • 2004 Facebook
  • 2005 YouTube
  • 2005 OAC geodemographic targeting
  • 2005 Search Personalisation
  • 2005 Etsy
  • 2006 Twitter
  • 2006 Shopify
  • 2006 Amazon Webstore / FBA (More than a decade after BarclaySquare)
  • 2007 Facebook Ads
  • 2007 Amazon Vine Reviews
  • 2008 AppStore
  • 2009 Pinterest
  • 2009 WhatsApp
  • 2009 BangGood (China)
  • Email Remarketing 2009

A further 14 worries were added in the last decade, maybe less due to the impact of the global recession impacting many economies, but probably a lot more than I’ve remembered:

  • 2010 Instagram
  • 2010 Digital Re-targeting
  • 2010 AliExpress (China)
  • 2010 Microsoft AdCenter
  • 2010 Wish
  • 2010 Social Influencers
  • 2011 Virtual Assistance / AI
  • 2011 WeChat
  • 2011 Google+
  • 2011 Snapchat
  • 2012 Remarketing
  • 2012 Android Play
  • 2012 Outlook
  • 2016 Tiktok

That takes the grand total of channels and techniques for a modern-day Marketer to consider, if they are doing a good job, to around 60 types of Marketing, so fifty have been added to my starting point in the late 1970s.

That’s an extra complexity of over 11% each and every year of their career.

To further add to the dichotomies of where and how to spend is the additional challenge of how much budget to deploy across each technique?
Probably uniquely within our sector for some years now we have been using our own algorithms to create recommendations regarding how much our SEO and Social clients need to commit to campaigns if they want to get ahead of competitors – most agencies in our experience just guess!
Somewhat surprisingly, according to research by ResearchGate, the proportion of money spent on the top categories of marketing has barely changed in 60 years. The total, i.e. the size of the pie, is consistently around 1% of GDP and all that changes is how it is spent. Not surprisingly digital channels now account for around half of all expenditure. NB. The total amount spent does of course grow due to the economy growing and inflation.

And what about GDP growth?

Data from analysts CEIC suggests total UK GDP in the period has grown from an index of 45 in the late 1970s to around 110 now, so that’s circa 140% growth or around 3.5% per annum.
So if total marketing expenditure is growing at around 3.5% each year but the choice of channels are growing at 11.2% each year, that’s a shortfall of 7.7% which means in our simplified view that Marketers have roughly 7.7% less resources on which to achieve results against their existing or new competitors per channel. They simply don’t have enough resources to go around and hence have to make choices. Get it wrong and they might lose their job, the company may go bankrupt. Conversely, make the right choices, hopefully based on sound data, and they should thrive along with their company.

• We also track our recommendations to clients against data available at Companies House, so we can take account of company size and stature. For us this is an added safeguard to ensure we are spending clients hard-won and hard awarded budgets as carefully as possible so its some comfort to know that on average we grow their online prominence by at least 2% a month cumulatively. Weve also never had a campaign penalised or banned, which helps add confidence too!

So next time you consider the task of a Marketer or worry about them procrastinating about how, where or how much budget to allocate to a task, cut them some slack. It’s a fun career but one that gets harder and harder with each passing day. (Editors note: And we haven’t even touched on the ever-changing world of Google yet..!)