Economy Weighs Heavily on Marketing Execs for 2009

Study: Top-Level Marketers Focused on Back-to-Basics Strategy, Struggling With Digital Concepts

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NEW YORK ( -- Marketing executives are tired of buzzwords such as Web 2.0, blogs and social networking. They're more concerned about credit availability, housing markets, alternative energy and the trade deficit, according to a new study of top-level marketers.

Of course, it's no surprise that the economy is weighing heavily on marketers looking toward 2009. In a study by Anderson Analytics for the Marketing Executives Networking Group, more than half of the marketers surveyed said their budgets will be cut in the coming year, and another 44% said they'll cut or freeze hiring.

Pockets of optimism
The surprise is that there are still pockets of optimism. For instance, almost three-fourths said they think spending on research and development, along with innovation initiatives, will stay the same or even increase (21% in the latter category). Spending on market research is also expected to stay the same or increase, according to two-thirds of the marketers surveyed.

"On one hand, they believe that in this economy they have to know their current customer well and keep them happy. But they also acknowledge the use of things like competitive intelligence and data mining as important concepts," said Tom Anderson, managing partner of Anderson Analytics.

The study was conducted online among 634 members of MENG between Nov. 15 and Dec. 2. This is the second annual marketing trends survey by Anderson Analytics of the 1,800-member group, which only admits marketing executives who make more than $160,000 annually and pass a screening test, among other criteria.

"We're living in a period of rapid change, even compared to last year," said Richard Guha, MENG chairman of the board and a partner at the Max Brand Equity consulting firm. "It has an incredible ability to concentrate the mind."

Back to basics
The overall trend result is a back-to-basics strategy by marketers. When asked what marketing concepts are "most important," they ranked as the top four customer satisfaction (79%), customer retention (76%), marketing ROI (65%) and brand loyalty (61%). And while those ideas were also deemed as "very important" in last year's study, each was boosted by anywhere from four to 12 percentage points this time.

Conversely, some of last year's least-important concepts jumped in importance, led by credit availability, which went from 9% to 35% of respondents ranking it as very important; housing markets, up from 15% to 30%; and alternative energy, which jumped from 31% to 41%.

Buzzword fatigue has also set in more firmly on an aging set of digital terminology, including "Web 2.0" (19% said they were tired of hearing it); "social networking" (12%); "social media" (11%); "blog" (8%) and "viral marketing" (6%).

However, that doesn't mean those digital ideas aren't important anymore, Mr. Anderson said. "In fact, each of those ranked as a bit more important this year," he said. Mr. Guha added: "I think there may be a little bit of trepidation, in a sense of people feeling pushed into doing the Web 2.0 thing and maybe thinking, 'I wish it would go away, but I know it won't.'"

Talking 'bout my generations
Baby boomers remained the most important demographic group, according to 78% of these senior-level marketers. However, the Gen Y and Gen X each jumped by more than 10 percentage points in importance, as both crossed the important 50% majority mark by several points.

"Overall [marketers] seem to be casting a wider net, reflecting that in a down economy you can't only target who you did last year," Mr. Anderson said.

Author Seth Godin remained the No. 1-ranked marketing/business guru and "Good to Great" was the top book. Apple CEO Steve Jobs, the No. 2 most-named guru last year, dropped to No. 4. Perhaps reflecting the economy, financier Warren Buffett took his spot (up from No. 4 last year). Author Malcolm Gladwell jumped to No. 3 (up from No. 8 last year).

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