From politics and regulations to general uncertainty, this year’s been difficult for brands. Alongside the impact of Brexit, budget cuts and AI taking a more prominent role, there also seem to be lower expectations of what branding, marketing and creative can achieve. While we can’t change those bigger issues, we can definitely change perceptions of the latter.


Working with The Centre for Brand Analysis, we asked 200 decision makers in marketing and finance whether they believed marketing had a role to play in protecting their brands and if so, how big that role was.

Our research surprisingly revealed that only a tiny percentage of marketers (3%) strongly believe marketing could protect their business from market changes and competitor innovations, while some 46% of marketers do not believe that their own work has helped to protect their brand.

A shocking, albeit slightly depressing statistic. However, that wasn’t the only interesting insights our research uncovered.

#CuboRhubarb @CuboGroup

The research initially revealed a complacency amongst CMOs and CFOs, both around the general stability of their market and their businesses’ ability to compete within it:

  • 74% of marketers and 79% of financiers feel their sectors are stable or in growth
  • 84% of marketers and 91% of financiers believe their brand is equal to or ahead of competitors in terms of product and service development capabilities
  • Only 20% of marketers and 30% of financiers are concerned about the threat of innovation
  • Only 26% of marketers and 23% of financiers believe that their market intelligence would not prepare them for predicting changes
  • Only 17% of marketers and 15% of financiers believe that their brand isn’t immune from new innovations

It also unveiled some thought-provoking findings around current confidence in marketing:

  • Marketers appear to have lost faith in their own ability to make an impact…
    • The majority of marketers (71%) stated they felt investment in marketing offers less than a 20% contribution to protecting the business against market changes, compared to other areas like new tech, product development, and internal culture
    • On average, ‘marketing’ was believed to contribute only 21% towards a business’ immunity, while ‘brand’ was only 16%
  • Likewise, marketers’ justifications of their decisions clearly aren’t landing with colleagues
    • CFOs rank ‘brand’ as the least important area of investment to protect their business from change in the market, and ‘marketing’ as the second least important
    • They have a far greater belief in new technology (perceiving a 25% contribution towards immunity) to keep them well protected
  • This underlined a clear need for marketers to communicate more clearly with the rest of the board to ensure that they understand and support the reasoning behind marketing decisions

#CuboRhubarb @CuboGroup

Nick Ward, Head of Planning at Cubo comments: “While CFOs did pay some lip service to longer-term brand-building in our survey, they also rated ‘brand’ and ‘marketing’ as being their lowest areas of investment to build immunity. That latter point probably demonstrates the truth of the matter, especially in light of the well-documented trend towards boardroom short-termism within our industry. The fact that CFOs have far greater belief in ‘technology’ as a source of immunity, over ‘marketing’ and ‘brand’, suggests that marketing teams are failing to communicate exactly what they are doing, why it is needed, and how valuable their work is in protecting a brand.”

Ward continues: “That’s bad enough, but the most worrying part of this research is that marketers themselves appear to doubt whether ‘marketing’ or ‘brand’ drives immunity. If marketers have lost faith in their own contribution, how can we expect them to articulate it clearly to their colleagues in finance? This is a wake-up call to revitalise belief in the protective strength of ‘marketing’ and ‘brand’, which seems to have slipped in recent years. Marketers should be ranking their contribution to immunity a great deal higher than 21% (marketing) and 16% (brand).”

Trevor Chambers, Group Creative Director at Cubo adds: “Building brand immunity is a two-sided coin – it’s a future-thinking marketing team that is fully prepared for all possibilities, and ready to respond to any change in the market, and it’s the consequences of their good work; a brand that stays deeply embedded in the minds of its audience, even if the market does start to change. John Lewis is just one example of a brand that has got this right; its approach is creative, builds fame and has emotional resonance. However, it’s important to remember that their blueprint won’t work for everyone else – that’s the joy of creativity.”

Chris Walmsley, Co-founder of Cubo concludes: “Within the increasingly tumultuous market we find ourselves in, marketing teams and their agencies simply can’t ignore the need to protect their brand 24/7. Immunity doesn’t just happen – it takes time. For marketers, it involves planning ahead and getting the whole company aligned, so everyone, irrespective of their business division, understands what you’re doing. Establishing this universal understanding and support makes it a lot easier to secure the investment needed to protect your brand against the impact of competitors’ innovations.

Chris Walmsley, Co-founder of Cubo – #CuboRhubarb @CuboGroup


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