Inside Google Marketing: How we’re reprioritizing marketing investments

Fab Dolan / May 2020

I’ve been getting a lot of questions from fellow marketers about how our team at Google Canada is approaching marketing investments for the back half of 2020. Like many of you, I worked with my team to shift our budget at the outset of this crisis, since so many aspects of normal life took a pause. More importantly, it’s just not the time to be selling — it’s a time to be helpful.

While it’s hard to know what the future holds, my team is trying to answer the thorny question of how and where to invest in the back half of the year. Here are three principles that are driving our investments in Canada.

The exercise of shifting investments as you go is not only normal, it’s the definition of responsible management.

Establish a positive attitude towards pivots

It’s easy to forget that many of our team members might be going through this exercise for the first time. To some, rapidly changing plans might seem daunting. When I look back at my days in consumer packaged goods, reevaluating the back half based on how the business was doing in the first half was a regular activity. Yes, the driver of the pivots we’re making now is a once-in-a-century occurrence. However, the exercise of shifting investments as you go is not only normal, it’s the definition of responsible management.

Protect core marketing investments

If you’re cutting investments, have a strategy and don’t cut evenly. Your finance team may want you to hit a certain spend threshold and that’s perfectly alright, but that should become the opening to a strategic conversation, not a prescription.You need to ask yourself: What products and categories are vital to the company’s long-term health? And what could category behaviours look like in the back half?

I’m maintaining pre-COVID-19 investments on the things that will help us meet our long-range business goals, but I’m also rethinking investments in areas where our products can stand on their own merits, or where user demand has changed.

Prioritize media investments based on user demand

It wouldn’t surprise anyone to hear that e-commerce and media consumption are both increasing dramatically. Those numbers may come back down to earth as the physical world reopens, but many of these behaviours are just accelerations of trends we were already experiencing, and many will stick.

The key is to take a thoughtful approach, focused on long-term health, media tactics that match user behaviour, and measurable results.

Without the benefit of a crystal ball, here’s how I would think about media mix in the back half:

  • Bet on e-commerce and digital watch time: Both behaviours are exploding and many could become permanent. Yes, demand in any given category may go up or down during these volatile times but pay-for-results ad formats like search and skippable video ads will ensure that your marketing investments mirror changes in demand by category.
  • Focus on flexibility: Given uncertain timelines on our return to normalcy, I’d avoid locking in investments that you can’t easily shift. Practically speaking, this means choosing digital formats over traditional media.
  • Don’t forget attribution: More than ever, marketing budgets need to drive results. We should favour spending in channels with superior measurement tactics and, if we must deprioritize, cut channels that lack sophisticated measurement or require high spend levels to deliver results.

Remember that every product, business, and brand is unique, but combined, these principles are allowing us to recalibrate our media spend while maximizing marketing ROI. These are challenging times for everyone. However, shifting our investments to reflect what we’re seeing in the marketplace is nothing new. The key is to take a thoughtful approach, focused on long-term health, media tactics that match user behaviour, and measurable results.

Inside Google Marketing: How the pandemic is making us reckon with the ways we plan media