The more observant among you may have noticed that the economy has been a little tough of late. Large parts of the construction sector have apparently gone to hell in a handbasket, and some don’t look like coming back any time soon.
Traditionally, slow periods or challenging economic times are when the accountants really get excited, as they’re able to indulge in their favourite task - the sharpening of their pencils.
Clearly they would most like to hone them to a fine point and shoot them with some sort of improvised catapult at the eyes of the marketing team, but they are (sadly for them) restricted to just recommending massive budget cuts.
We know that many marketing budgets have been slashed over the past couple of years. CIMCIG does a survey with Leading Edge which tracks this. Most marketing teams are operating on less than 70 per cent of the money they were two years ago.
It was with some surprise then that we received a giant sack of entries for the Construction Marketing Awards. We’d thought that we see a dip, to be honest. With spend down, you’d think the volume of campaigns and activities would have decreased. But no, not a bit of it.
This is testament to marketing people’s resilience, innovation and sheer indomitable spirit, obviously, and is a triumph of creativity over circumstance. Once again, marketing people are saving the industry. Hurrah.
For me though, the real interest was a sudden step-change shift in what was being entered. For years the ‘digital’ categories have been growing steadily.
Obviously since the arrival of the internet on the UK construction scene in the 90s, the number of construction companies with websites and so on has been growing to the point where everyone has some sort of electronic presence, even if only an email address.
But the growth we’ve seen in entries to the ‘Best Website’ and the ‘Best use of Digital Communications’ categories has been steady, rather than meteoric. Suddenly though, this year, they’ve both doubled.
This, coupled with a surge in quality, will probably mean there will be three or four categories in the area next year rather than two.
At the same time, the more traditional comms campaigns - particularly those focused on printing and mailing large technical catalogues - have fallen. Oh but there’s an obvious reason, I hear you all cry, digital is cheaper.
Well, you know what, that’s not necessarily true. While obviously less money is being spent on marketing - with all the budget cuts - the individual entries still show reasonable levels of spend.
Indeed, anyone who has built a website will tell you that it’s really quite easy to rack up substantial bills on such a project.
No, the reason digital is growing is because, in these straitened times, you can only get campaigns past the FD that you can prove a return on.
Digital campaigns are innately more measurable than their traditional media counterparts. In the battle to ward off the accountant’s sharpened pencils, nothing shields a budget better than demonstrable positive results.
Ross Sturley is principal of Chart Lane and a chartered marketer, a fellow of the Chartered Institute of Marketing, a committee member for the Chartered Institute of Marketing’s Construction Industry Group (CIMCIG), and a judge on the Construction Marketing Awards (CMA).