The end of ‘pretty marketing’: what the challenges of 2020 have taught marketers

Posted on Friday, August 14, 2020

Craig Bowers
Craig Bowers

What do the events of 2020 mean for the future of B2B marketing? We discuss why ROI is more important than ever, and ways to cut through the noise in an unpredictable age.

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The current economic landscape seems to be dominated by uncertainty. But amidst the ups and downs of the last few months, a few B2B marketing trends have become clearer.

What has 2020 (so far) taught us about where B2B marketing is at today – and how agencies and internal marketing teams alike can pivot to meet the demands of tomorrow? Here are the 3 biggest trends we’ve identified.

ROI is more important than ever

The latest figures showed a record decline in UK marketing budgets during the second business quarter of 2020. It’s clear that, for the immediate future, budget will be harder fought over – both internally and by agencies.

This will likely mean the end of pretty marketing

This will likely mean the end of ‘pretty marketing’. By that, we mean marketing for marketing’s sake, those campaigns that are implemented without clear objectives in place or any metrics to measure their impact.

The end of pretty marketing doesn’t mean the end of creative marketing – assets still have to look fantastic and engage with audiences. But moving forward there has to be a strong rationale for each marketing activity that gets proposed.

To ensure that precious marketing budget is well spent, clients will need agencies to provide a solid ROI case for each asset and campaign: one that answers the question “how is this going to drive bottom line?”

You must justify spend

This renewed focus on ROI suggests another shift to how marketing must be approached in the months and years ahead. Having less budget to go around means there will be a greater need to justify any amount of marketing spend.

Putting more of a focus on ROI helps to provide justifications for every strategy and every campaign during this difficult time. But how can marketing agencies substantiate everything they’re proposing and working on for clients in terms of ROI?

Well, a greater reliance on analytics and reporting offers one way to provide these justifications. Having concrete data will allow agencies to take a more responsive approach, shaping and reviewing what they’re doing so they can make it even more effective next time round or as the campaign moves forward.

In line with this, agencies should continue to ensure the right tools and analytics are being used. This will give the insight needed to make better decisions and justify investments.

But how can marketing agencies substantiate everything they're proposing and working on for clients in terms of ROI

Cutting through the noise is crucial

The end of pretty marketing will be a by-product of the clarity that many businesses have achieved during the difficult circumstances of 2020. In the current economic landscape, organisations and marketers have little patience for vague notions of success or navel-gazing over marketing’s purpose. The things that matter most have been thrown into focus. For agencies, this has presented valuable opportunities to get to the heart of clients’ needs.

For example, here at Miramar we had a few clients who had live events lined up for the year as their main marketing focus when lockdown came into effect. We’ve worked with those clients as a strategic partner to develop new ways of reaching their audience while still reaping that same return on investment. This close collaboration has helped us understand the pressures our clients are facing internally and get under the skin of what they’re trying to achieve.

The last few months have taught us that people won't always be in the office and they won't always be at home; but they will always be online

Marketers have also learnt the importance of making an impact in the digital space as a way of cutting through the noise and reaching audiences directly. The last few months have taught us that people won’t always be in the office and they won’t always be at home; but they will always be online.

As always, agencies should stay completely vigilant of what is going on in the marketplace. They need to keep on top of trends in buyer journeys, engagement rates and how people are interacting, as well as exploring different martech tools. By staying on the cutting edge with digital, marketers can continue to cut through the noise and stay agile to match the demands of the marketplace.

This year has brought challenges for B2B marketers. But it has also provided an opportunity to identify what truly matters in marketing. To move forward, marketers of all stripes must ensure they focus on ROI, take measures to justify spend, and cut through the noise with closer collaboration and clearer insights.

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