Debbie Klein, CEO, Engine Europe and Asia Pacific argues that 2017 is going to be a tough year for the industry but challenges often present huge opportunities for those willing to look for them.
As the Brexit vote and, more generally, the inevitable hangover from 2016 continues to influence consumer spending and investor confidence, it is clear marketers have their work cut out for them.
With ad spend predicted to drop by 0.7% in 2017, the industry needs to band together to make sure marketing budgets don’t continue to take a hit.
It’s a fact that during times of uncertainty, people revert to their safe space and gravitate towards what they know and have trusted in the past. Now more than ever it is important that brands don’t forget the value of communication with their customer base. Brands with an established strong reputation stand to benefit, but there are also huge opportunities for those brands willing to invest in innovative and engaging communications campaigns directed at building consumer confidence.
The industry also needs to engage in a bit of self-reflection. ‘Good old’ approaches to campaigns are no longer good enough. Data from Bellwether’s survey shows an increase in events marketing of 12.3% compared to 9.9% in the previous quarter. Coupled with an increase in internet marketing, this rise in demand for interactive marketing confirms what the industry has seen coming over the past few years. The days of “traditional” campaigning are over – today’s consumers expect advertising, and marketing more broadly, to be dynamic and immersive. Simply put, to be successful campaigns need to become increasingly experiential.
As such, what we can infer from this latest Bellwether is that consumer habits are changing – and we need to change with it or face being among those whose budgets are cut. For instance, in the era of the millennial, brands need to be agile and adaptable to this younger audience. The customer/brand relationship now sits at the heart of the modern consumer experience. Recent research from Engine business, The Cassandra Report, revealed that 23% of millennials say visiting their favourite store is like visiting a friend.
With over 70% of millennials describing our culture as “too consumerist”, products can no longer be the sole attraction. Understanding the mindset of this demographic is key – but nearly 13% of the Bellwether survey panel registered a cut in market research budgets in the last quarter. That’s a cause for concern.
Overall, the Bellwether report suggests that 2017 might not be as tough as we might have thought on the morning of the Brexit result of 24th June 2016 or that of Trump’s victory on 9th November – but we still don’t have an easy year ahead.
Uncertainty is last year’s legacy. Brands that are able to combat the ‘Brexit blues’ and the ‘Trump bump’ by exciting and engaging customers could well have a great year ahead.
In short, brands that are willing to look for opportunities will find them – even in 2017.
 Q4 2016 Bellwether Report
Debbie Klein is CEO of Engine Europe and Asia Pacific.