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Navigating the challenging landscape for brand managers in 2023

By Mike Wickham, Paid media director



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February 23, 2023 | 8 min read

We could all use some empathy. Paid media director at Impression, Mike Wickham, puts himself in the shoes of brand managers and reiterates the value of partnership in 2023.

Man sitting on bridge in the alps

Mike Wickham of Impression: ‘for agencies, clients are our lifeblood – if they fall, so do we.’ / Alex Azabache

Uncertainty was the overarching theme of the latter half of 2022. With a challenging economy and consumer confidence at its lowest since records began, businesses are rightly cautious when it comes to growth, or even maintaining targets. Costs will be more scrutinized than in times of prosperity, and generating as much value as possible has become front-of-mind. It begs the question: what pressures will fall on brand managers in 2023?

Working agency-side, we face a lot of the same challenges that running any business carries. But for us, our clients are our lifeblood – if they fail, then we fail. A key lesson that I instill into my team is to look at things from the perspective of your client. What pressures are they feeling? Why are they asking these questions? What would you want to see if you were in their role?

So, on that point, here are some of the possible challenges facing brand managers in 2023.

Sales & revenue

Unsurprisingly, performance will likely be top of the list of concerns. Most brands will have likely seen a shift in conversion rates over the past six months, and understanding the route causes of this can be frustratingly difficult to decipher. Consumer confidence and the cost of living crisis are almost certainly going to play a part, but the difficulty is knowing how much is down to the external factors you can’t control, and how much is due to not taking the wrong/right actions.

Keeping up to date with consumer trends and competitor behavior is going to be key. Hound your Google/Microsoft/Publisher reps for as much market data as possible, and if you have access to tools like Global Web Index (GWO) or Similar Web, look to create an automated report to help trend industry data against your first-party data to visualize the correlations.

Channel strategy

Now more than ever, understanding the value of your channels and what they are contributing is vital. Again, this is becoming increasingly difficult. Even when third-party cookies had free reign, successfully attributing performance across channels was never easy.

Now, with aggregated conversions and a lack of post-view clarity, determining which channels are generating that immediate and long-term value needs some extra investment. Econometrics or media-mix modeling is probably the way forward here. If it means you can trim budgets and make wiser channel investments, it would be worth the initial investment.

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Looking at where costs can be cut is being widely discussed within businesses. An obvious place to look first is the marketing budget and, unfortunately for paid social teams, budget cuts tend to happen here first due to a lack of last-click revenue in the reports. This is, of course, unfair and the true value of upper-funnel channels is often underestimated.

If cuts do need to be made, why not use this as an opportunity to conduct a test? A/B test budget cuts in a particular location or over a particular timeframe to understand the overall impact on sales/revenue. It’s possible to take learnings from not spending money, too.

Changing the status quo

I imagine that ‘making a change’ or ‘going a different way’ is also a consideration in 2023. When seeing revenue drop off, or growth rates start to slow, there will inevitably be more questions asked of those who have influence over your performance.

This leads to asking more questions of your partners and agencies. Are they able to solve your challenges? Are they able to pivot and find new areas of growth? Are they evidencing a plan for the next one to three years?

Partner value is another of those hard-to-quantify questions. In my experience, the difference between a strong and a weak brand-agency relationship is trust and collaboration.

Ask yourself the following questions: do they feel a part of your team? Are they proactively seeking growth opportunities? Are they providing the insight behind the data to enable you to make the decisions you need? Are they planning ahead, or only looking backward? If the answer to all of these is yes, I’d say you’re in a pretty lucky position.

In summary, I can hugely sympathize with anyone in a role that requires them to navigate the questions above. Hopefully, as I do, you see your agency partner as an extension of your team and are tackling these challenges collaboratively. Having a team of knowledgeable experts around you is perhaps the first key decision to make. 2023 is not a year to go it alone.

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