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Does Your Marketing Budget Spark Joy (With Your CFO)?

By Ewan McIntyre | February 28, 2019 | 2 Comments

MarketingMarketing Organization and Talent

As a marketer, I think it’s important to be an avid consumer. How can you understand the buyer journey without experiencing it? That’s how I justify my love of stuff. You see, I’m something of a hoarder. I like to buy (and hoard) records, guitars, books, clothes, shoes – stuff.

So it was something of a shock to see my wife watching that Marie Kondo show a few weeks back. You know, the show where messy people like me are transformed into tidy people, largely by getting rid of their stuff. Now, I’m totally fine with folding things up in a different way, and even putting boxes inside of drawers. But don’t ask me to get rid of my stuff based on whether it brings me joy. It all brings me joy. Every last bit of it. Even the stuff I forgot I had.

Piles of records, tapes and electronic equipment
Photo by Tracy Thomas on Unsplash

Dealing with your messy marketing budgets

I’m going to pitch to Netflix that, in the next series, Marie should work her magic on marketing – addressing marketing’s messy budget hoarding issue. What do I mean by this? Well marketing leaders have an irrational need to hold onto budget, just as I have to hang on to ancient cassette tapes. Even when it has ceased to offer practical purpose. Even when it harms the relationships we have with CFOs and other key stakeholders. Why? Because you should never be seen to actually give budget back. For fear this will harm next year’s budget. Or for fear that you’ll have to admit that the awesome investment you fought so hard for just isn’t paying off. Or just because it’s nice to have growing budgets year-over-year.

But the years of budget growth can’t last forever (see my previous post on the budgetary impact of Brexit). So, as we face more austere times, Marie gives us permission to be less fiscally messy. Part of this is about simply being neater in our budget setting, management and optimization. Another vital element is being able of say goodbye investments or budget lines. Start by asking if your investments bring you (and your CFO) joy.

The does-this-budget-line-spark-joy checklist

  1. Can the business benefits be clearly articulated? Consider the degree to which the potential benefits of specific programs or investments have been captured, verified and socialized to the business. If you can’t link the investment to a business benefit, why should you continue to support it?
  2. Does the investment offer flexibility of scope? Some investments are scalable — cutting budget reduces their scope, but the project still continues. Other investments are binary, and budget cuts will effectively end the project. Can you optimize your spend and still deliver your objectives?
  3. Does the investment have ongoing relevance to the business? A project or investment that commanded strong buy-in at the point of inception may have lost relevance over time. Things change, and your budget and spending commitments should also be capable of changing. Be pragmatic – by divesting of long-cherished, but ultimately irrelevant investments, you can allocate budget to programs that are more valuable.

Happy tidying!

Leave a Comment


  • Paul says:

    Nice post Ewan. I wonder what % of marketers ever give budget back.

    • Ewan Mcintyre says:

      Thanks Paul, and great point. Not something we asked in the last CMO Spend Survey, but definitely worth considering for the next one. I’m guessing the answer will be pretty low, unless of course when presented with no other option by your friendly CFO.