FGI’s Brad Aigner gives insight into how marketers feel their service providers are measuring up and what they really want.
In a follow up to a study that was published in The Media Yearbook 2014/2015, Freshly Ground Insights conducted a survey amongst leading marketers in South Africa, to find out how well they felt they were being serviced by their suppliers.
The study, conducted in November 2015, elicited feedback from 60 experienced marketers of brands in the pharmaceutical, alcohol, industrial, insurance, banking, fast food, media, airlines, government, realty, and motor manufacturing sectors.
The research found that SA marketers are utilising the services of multiple suppliers more so than a year ago. The only supplier type that significantly bucked this trend was recruitment agencies, which is possibly indicative of a tough economic climate.
Interestingly, when asked for any other supplier types that are being utilised, a significant number of marketers mentioned digital specialist agencies and a few others mentioned graphic design and sponsorship agencies.
Quality of service
In the survey, respondents were asked to rate out of a maximum score of 10 their perception of the quality of service that they have been receiving from their respective suppliers. The scores, when compared against the 2014 survey scores, suggest that suppliers have improved their quality of service to marketers.
The supplier type that achieved the highest average performance score in 2015 was events companies, followed closely by brand consultants. On the other end, the lowest average performance score was achieved by recruitment agencies, which were also ranked towards the bottom of the list in 2014. The supplier types that had improved the most year on year were procurement agencies and events companies.
In the 2014 survey, FGI asked marketers for the service criteria that they believed were most important from their suppliers. The research found that marketers prioritised strategic creative thinking and insight as well as the adherence to deadlines from their suppliers.
Which service criteria are most important from suppliers? (Marketers’ Survey, 2014)
- Understands my business
- Gives me strategic, creative thinking and insight
- Manages my budgets (like they are its own)
- Meets my deadlines every time
- Builds a relationship with me
- Is clear and honest in its communication
- Gives me real measurable value
In this year’s survey, marketers were asked to rank these criteria in order of importance. The results revealed that the service criteria considered most important by marketers are, “Gives me strategic thinking and insights” and “Is clear and honest in its communication”.
Clearly, at a time when marketers have never been under more pressure to deliver measurable results and positive returns on their brand investments, the importance of building relationships with their suppliers has almost become dispensable!
The 2015 survey asked respondents to suggest any additional service criteria which have become more important and relevant in the modern day context. Criteria that were mentioned included:
Must see the holistic picture. Must work beyond budgets and fees and deliver value by looking into the business model and investigating all options
- New and innovative solutions to problems
- Needs to have insights into my consumer market
- Bring off-the-wall thinking to the table
- Innovative, fresh ideas based on current trends
- Being able to adapt and to be flexible with ideas
- Assigning the correct resources to the work required and avoiding wastage of both time and money
- The right resourcing for the account. Especially in the form of people
- The survey asked respondents to share the biggest challenges facing marketers these days. Judging by the responses, there are many challenges at hand.
In addition to the oft-cited challenges of consumer fragmentation, media proliferation, a stagnant economy and the falling value of the Rand, a common theme was the challenge of declining marketing budgets and increasing costs of advertising in the face of higher return on investment expectations.
To compound this, a number of marketers explained the difficulty of trying to apply their craft in the South African landscape, which has become increasingly volatile and unpredictable.
Some marketers even went as far to suggest that the South African economy and consumer landscape has become a “false economy and a false consumer landscape” due to factors like corruption, government intervention, socio-economic and socio-political inequalities.
Barriers to entry
Another common theme was the opinion that the barriers to entry for marketing professionals in South Africa have declined and this has compromised the value of the profession.
Many believed that too many brands have been placed in the hands of under-experienced and under-skilled individuals who have not only damaged these brands but also the reputation of marketing as a respected and valued function within organisations. One respondent stated, “Everybody believes that they are marketers and can do it themselves”.
Another common theme was the “clutter” within consumer markets with respect to “brand noise”. Simply, the sentiment was that many brands have contributed to and amplified the noise levels within their categories by disseminating irrelevant and/or insipid messages to target consumers. As a result, certain brand categories have become so littered with brand “rubbish”, which marketers have been finding increasingly challenging to break through.
One respondent said, “There is increasing clutter in the communications space. The challenge is to stand out from the crowd and to engage your consumer in a way that is convenient and relevant for them.”
The challenge of getting to grips with consumers in the “digital age” was also mentioned. It is evident that this challenge exists not only for some marketers but also for some of their colleagues. A marketer explained, “The digital age has brought about more media channels and ways to reach consumers and engage with them. Marketers need to challenge themselves to stay on top of the digital trends and to think creatively and strategically about how to use this media.
It can be difficult convincing colleagues in terms of the amount of budget that should be invested against digital media – some of them are not even Facebook users!”
This story was first published in The Media Yearbook, an annual title of Wag the Dog Publishers.
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