The Year Ahead For...Marketing

Roisin Donnelly says a focus on insight, innovation and integrity can help the marketing industry enjoy another great year amid adversity.

Roisin Donnelly: ‘Trust in once-admired institutions has been eroded and scepticism towards big business and media has never been as high.’ Credit: Graham Jepson
Roisin Donnelly: ‘Trust in once-admired institutions has been eroded and scepticism towards big business and media has never been as high.’ Credit: Graham Jepson

As we start 2013, we should take great pride from looking back at what we’ve achieved as an industry in 2012. We certainly played our part in putting the "Great" back into Britain.

We had a great year with some truly memorable campaigns. The very best were rooted firmly in consumer insight and brought alive with real emotion. Most of the plaudits go to Olympic activity and rightly so. This was a historic moment for our country and our industry, but many of the great ideas will live long beyond London 2012. Important credit is also owed to campaigns that have changed Great Britain for good. Take the Paralympics: the combination of outstanding coverage by Channel 4 and brilliant sponsor campaigns has permanently shifted the nation’s perception from "disabled" to "superheroes". This is a profound legacy for our industry to leave from 2012.

I hope this spirit of possibility stays with us in 2013. With great marketing, anything is possible, and this makes our industry an exciting place to be.

When reading the Campaign A List’s best ads of the year, I was struck by the range of brands and media included, but there was a common theme throughout. These were ads that stirred emotion and moved us to action. Whether they made us laugh or cry, they delivered a clear message, reinforced a brand position and built the business.


We start a new year in which, more than ever before, we need to retain and build trust in our Great British brands and our Great British media. Trust in once-admired institutions has been eroded and scepticism towards big business and media has never been as high. Today’s champions are everyday heroes and they can transform public opinion on just about anything, including the direction of our brands and companies. We have an important role to play in rebuilding trust and making sure that our brands and all our communications are always legal, honest, decent and truthful. Brands that represent everyday heroes will be rewarded while those that shy away from transparency and openness will fall foul of today’s people power.


We start a new year with continued business challenges as people face up to real economic adversity and are having to make tough calls on every spending choice. People are looking for great performance at great value and, if we are to succeed in building brands today, we need to spend more time than ever before deeply understanding both their rational and emotional needs and what we can do to make a difference for them.

In a value-driven economy, it is in­evitable that marketing will continue to demand great value from media owners and agency partners, but we need to do this without compromising on great teamwork and great creativity. Our consumers want us to keep it simple. They are time- and money-constrained and we need to tailor our marketing communications to be more targeted and more relevant than ever before. Not every product and service needs 24/7 "always on" social marketing. People simply don’t have enough hours in the week to have relationships with every brand.

In the coming year, we need to listen and understand what people want from our brands and deliver this in better products and services and better marketing. We have more choices than ever before in where and when to communicate, but that does not mean that all marketers need to use them all, all of the time.


Peter Drucker, a great business guru, believed that there are two business activities that make money: marketing and innovation – everything else is a cost. As marketers, we need to consistently demonstrate how innovation and marketing communications drive the bottom line. It is our job to combine insight and creativity to deliver the right communications to grow our brands. One without the other is useless. It’s our job to bring the best of both together to create something that connects consumers to the very soul of our brands and, in turn, drives our business forward. We will have a seat and a voice in the boardroom as long as we demonstrate that innovative marketing delivers a great return on investment and builds the business.


The year ahead will also see more talented women and minorities than ever before successfully leading great brands, great agencies and great media owners. Not because of quotas or an obligation to do the right thing, but because they are the best. We need the best leaders, the best thinkers, the best collaborators and the best innovators to succeed. We need more diversity in gender, nationality and style. We need to ignore all the visible and invisible differences and leverage diversity as a positive business advantage. From my experience at Procter & Gamble and working around the world, I know diverse teams are more successful at delivering results. They better represent the people we seek to serve; they challenge the established status quo, think in new creative ways and conceive the best strategies to win an ever-changing market. In the year ahead, we as an industry need to understand and remove all the barriers that are preventing the best talent getting the best jobs.


2012 showed us what we can achieve even in the face of great adversity. Many of the challenges will remain in the year ahead. Budgets will still be tight and every spending choice scrutinised. But if we keep faith in our ability to combine insight and creativity to build brands; if we focus on harnessing the best innovations rather than trying to do everything all of the time; and if we empower the best leaders to drive our industry forward, we can have another great year in marketing.

Roisin Donnelly is the corporate marketing director at Procter & Gamble UK and Ireland