Confused.com’s CMO on how to get CEO buy-in for long-term brand building


Many marketers are prevented from implementing a long-term brand building strategy, or are forced to pull it too soon, as they can’t get buy-in from internal stakeholders.

In order to get the CEO and CFO on board marketers have got to educate them in the principles of marketing and explain how the process works in rational terms, according to Confused.com CMO Samuel Day. Although he admits “it’s not easy”.

When Day joined the price comparison business in 2018, the brand had been using James Corden in its advertising and although the ads had high recall consumers were not connecting the campaign with Confused.com. In order to bridge that disconnect Day wanted to implement a new strategy that didn’t rely on brand characters and turned being confused into a positive solution. But he knew that to do that effectively it would be a long-term play.

“I took the [CEO and CFO] through the entire process in terms of brand development and tried to explain it in as rational terms as possible, because too many people allow marketing to be seen as a subjective exercise,” he said, talking at the Festival of Marketing: The Bottom Line this morning (23 March).

“I tried to talk to them in their language as much as possible about the level of return we could expect over what time period, sunk costs, long-term investment and then also took them through our process of development. Essentially, it’s about inspiring confidence that we’re in control of the process.”

Too many people allow marketing to be seen as a subjective exercise.

Samuel Day, Confused.com

He said it is important to educate internal stakeholders on the principles of marketing, because all too often people presume a brand campaign will fix things immediately. If nothing happens after two months they assume it’s not working and pull it.

As part of the process, Day explained the theory behind Les Binet and Peter Field’s The Long and the Short of It, but in terms the CEO and CFO would understand.

“I was essentially saying I need to draw down some investment – and this is long-term investment – almost like a capital expenditure project, where you’re going to get benefits from this multiyear,” he said.

Day spelled out the fact they would be unlikely to see an immediate return on investment from the brand activity, and explained how he would tackle activation sales and performance sales to get “to a certain point” within the first year that the business “could then build on to let the brand campaign work”.

He also talked about research and insight, the need to spend time with customers to understand and interpret what they were saying about the brand, as well as the associations it had and where it wanted to be.

Be evidence-based

He said it was important to show as many data points as possible to substantiate what he was saying, so there was evidence to show theories were true or false.

“Often people bring their own personal viewpoints to what’s wrong and what needs to be done, particularly if they’re not trained in marketing,” he said. “You have to explain, I don’t want one person’s opinion, I want 2,000 people’s opinion if we’re going to make a change that’s got some investment behind it.”

Day even shared the creative brief with the CEO and CFO so there was no confusion about the problem they were trying to solve. “The creative brief is our problem statement that we’re trying to address and by getting them to sign off on it I’m getting them to also agree that the problem statement is as we’re defining it, and we now know what we’re trying to solve,” he said.

Often people bring their own personal viewpoints to what’s wrong and what needs to be done, particularly if they’re not trained in marketing.

Samuel Day, Confused.com

However, he was quick to add that it is just as important not include the CEO and CFO in the creative response assessment. “You have to make it clear that that’s a marketer’s speciality. You do need some training and experience in that area, and I also wanted customers to help us test those responses to see if we’d get the desired effect.”

Confused.com launched its ‘confusion to clarity’ positioning in August 2018, and since then profit and revenue have both grown by double-digits.

“Essentially for me this has worked. I have a board who has had sight of a creative brief, they’ve agreed what the problem statement is because of all the data points that supplement it and so they know what we were trying to address. I just left the last bit for myself as I don’t want everyone doing my job for me,” he joked.

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