James Thompson
Feb 25, 2016

What are you worried about?

In a data-soaked age, why is return on investment still the top worry for marketers?

James Thompson
James Thompson

It can be strange what keeps us humans up at night. Surveys that ask people what they are most frightened of often find that we are collectively more scared about public speaking than dying. 

According to most expensive surveys of marketers at the moment, the most worrying thing for stressed executives is being able to provide the return on investment of their marketing activities. Interestingly, ‘securing enough budget’ is often their second-biggest concern, which is hardly surprising when they can’t show what is working.

What is surprising is that in our omni-data world it seems so hard to learn about what is effective. We can find out, by terrifyingly tight geographic, attitudinal and other lifestyle targeting, what people are saying about our brands in any given minute. Audience response to content has never been so easy to measure, including in real time. So why do we find it so hard to understand return?

Some of the surveys help provide a clue. This headache seems to be much more painful in big companies, with smaller firms much less perplexed by it. I suspect that, over time, many large organisations have lost focus. 

Smaller companies are used to testing and learning in a much more agile way, only measuring the things that really matter to them and scaling up with more than one eye on their cash flow. 

Spending time with entrepreneurs and the people who are making money at the sharp end of the digital world could be a way for the big companies to reinvent their marketing functions and be more native with core business principles as well as modern marketing content.

James Thompson is global managing director of Diageo Reserve (Diageo’s luxury portfolio). Follow or Tweet him @JamesThompson1


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