As marketers struggle with a faltering economy, their marketing efforts come loaded with added pressure. The Marketing Executives Networking Group (MENG) recently released its second Marketing Trends Report in an effort to gauge where marketers are focusing their resources for 2009. Rather than a format with strict parameters, responses were delivered in open-ended free text and mined by Anderson Analytics, a provider of predictive analytics solutions.
Contacted between November 15 and December 2, the 643 MENG respondents had already seen the effects of a recession that was not yet official at the time of the survey, and many had embarked on discussions around budgeting for the upcoming year. Many of these marketers found their plans and budgets intensely scrutinized this year, precisely because of the current economic situation, explains Tom Anderson, founding and managing partner of Anderson Analytics. Just over half of respondents (51 percent) cited the state of the economy as the cause of a decrease in their marketing budgets. By comparison, only 38 percent and 11 percent said that budgets will be unchanged or increased, respectively.
But the immediate future may be the only thing at risk. More than half of respondents (51 percent) anticipated no change in their innovation and research-and-development (R&D) spending, with an impressive 21 percent claiming that that those expenditures will actually increase.
What Anderson says he found reassuring was the confirmation that marketing research will continue to play a strong role: Among respondents, 39 percent reported a "much greater" (10 percent) or "somewhat greater" (29 percent) use of market research, while 39 percent predicted no change. "We say marketing research is recession-proof, but we don't know if that's true or not, [so] it's nice to see other marketing executives are positive about it, too," Anderson says, adding that only 6 percent of respondents are identified as market researchers.
Out of a list of 62 concerns, survey respondents identified the following as their top five:
- customer satisfaction, 79 percent, up from 75 percent in 2007;
- customer retention, 76 percent, up from 65 percent.
- marketing return on investment, 65 percent, up from 53 percent;
- brand loyalty, 61 percent, up from 55 percent; and
- segmentation, 61 percent, up from 58 percent.
In order to ensure a quality sample of top marketing executives, MENG requires members to "have held a position of vice president or higher before joining [and] pass a screening process including a minimum base salary (excluding bonuses, options, etc.) of $160,000," the study reports. Therefore, responses are inclined to reflect best practices by marketing-savvy professionals.
It's interesting to note that the top three buzzwords marketers are most tired of hearing are undoubtedly critical to today's rapidly evolving marketing tactics:
- Web 2.0 (19.4 percent);
- Social Networking (12.2 percent); and
- Social Media (11.3 percent).
"It's partly [to do with] a bit of frustration as well," Anderson says. "You hear so much about it…[but] marketers are still trying to figure out how to leverage it." Presentations at industry conferences, he admits, are "often not as insightful as I'd like to see."
Contrary to the first survey, which allowed only predefined choices, this year's participants were asked for an open-ended response to identify the most-promising geographical region. Despite the change in format, China held steady as the region with the "greatest opportunity" (48 percent) -- a surprising finding, according to Anderson, who says he expected fervency to mellow out in the wake of product-quality concerns and the Olympics. India came in a distant second (17 percent). At the same time, marketers are pulling back on outsourcing, with 81 percent reporting that they do not engage in offshoring, up from 77 percent in 2007.
From a demographic perspective, the main focus remained on Baby Boomers -- denoted by marketers who found them "very important," a figure that increased six percentage points from 72 percent to 78 percent. (Last year's rankings included both "somewhat important" and "very important" -- this year's did away with the "somewhat" option.) The second- and third-place finishers -- females and Hispanics/Latinos -- lagged at 64 percent and 60 percent, respectively.
While Boomers outpaced Generation X (which 53 percent ranked as "very important") and Generation Y (52 percent), Anderson notes that Generation Y's spending is largely discretionary and its members heavily influence the purchasing habits of parents and grandparents. "As things tighten up, you're going to look to get your dollars wherever you can," he says. "Boomers may be tightening their purse strings more than Gen Y [will]."
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