A Message for Your Budget Deniers — Don’t Abandon Marketing in 2023

A Message for Your Budget Deniers — Don’t Abandon Marketing in 2023

Gianna Callioni
. 27 Jan 2023 . 7 min read

We’ve all faced a great deal of uncertainty over the past few years and it’s clear the upheaval won’t ease up any time soon. Businesses across the globe have had to manage unprecedented (couldn’t help it, sorry) pressures on their day-to-day operations, from extreme supply issues, unpredictable demand, inflation, huge increases in hard costs… the list goes on. As a marketer, there’s been a burden to accomplish more with less — ‘we need to cut your budget, but you need to keep making us money. Lots more money.’

As you kickoff 2023 in the heart of the cost-of-living crisis, it’s highly likely you’ll need to advocate even harder for your marketing budget. Klaviyo research suggests 6 in 10 small to medium sized businesses will freeze or cut their marketing spend this year.

But, what effect will that have on those businesses? And how can you convince your budget deniers there are better alternatives?

As Dr Simon Broadbent put it,

“The sales of a brand are like the height at which an airplane flies. Advertising spend is like its engines: while the engines are running, everything is fine, but, when the engines stop, the descent eventually starts.”

Message 1 — Don’t Abandon Marketing

The simple fact is the longer you go without exposing your target audience to your brand, the more likely it is they’ll forget about you. All of the familiarity and trust you’ve built up over time (and all the advertising dollars that have gone into doing so), could go to waste.

There’s been proof of that in the past three years alone.

A release by Nielsen in 2020 (right around when the spicy cough was really ramping up) stated, “brands that go totally dark for the rest of 2020 could be facing revenue declines of up to 11% in 2021.” And you know what? They were right.

In early 2020 (pre-WHO declaring a pandemic), I worked with a client who was three months into a six month contract with several influencers. When the news broke, they wanted to cancel those contracts and stop advertising. Their umbrella company’s annual revenue fell 11% in 2020 compared to 2019. And they sold booze. A household staple after toilet paper and hand sanitiser.

Conversely, brands ‘that increased advertising during a recession experienced higher sales, market share, or earnings during or after the recession.

You’d be right in thinking this isn’t true for every business. Of course, every business is different. If you’re a large business in a growth period, you’ll likely appear fine for a couple of years. But if you’re smaller or more stagnant in your growth already, please don’t abandon marketing.

Message 1.5 — Remember That Marketing is More Than Just Advertising

It seems like everyone has collectively forgotten that marketing isn’t just running ads. Including marketers themselves.

Mark Ritson calls it the ‘tactification’ of marketing. The selective memory loss regarding the rest of the marketing mix. The belief that marketing and advertising are ‘the same thing.’

At a time like this, it’s so very important to remember that marketing has (or at least, should have!) access to the other levers of product, price, and place… not just promotion.

Les Binet wrote an excellent (and very detailed) article specifically on the importance of price, and how we can respond to market pressure with price. But, of course, without sacrificing brand equity.

Message 2 — Leverage Available Share of Voice

That’s enough of the tough stuff… there’s hope for us yet!

Other brands pulling back on advertising can mean it’s cheaper and easier for you to reach your audience. Say you have 35% share of voice and your two competitors have 35% and 30%. They decrease their advertising by 10% and 15% respectively. Now there’s 25% of the market share that’s yours for the taking. That’s a very simplistic way of putting it and, unfortunately, it’s not quite as easy as that, but you get the gist.

If you skipped over it earlier (it’s ok, we all do it), 6 in 10 small to medium sized businesses will freeze or cut their marketing spend in 2023. Think about how much that will open up advertising channels for your brand to cut through. Particularly digitally, where a large chunk of your costs are directly related to how much competition you’re up against in that moment.

By continuing to advertise, you’re able to leverage the newly available share of voice and build yourself up compared to your competitors.

Message 3 — Build Your Brand Image

“Building brands is not an expense, it’s an investment and it needs to be prioritized. It’s not a choice, you have to build strong brands if you want to have a strong business.” — Brent Smart

This isn’t about boldly (and blindly) spending more than your competitors for the sake of it. It’s about carefully selecting and balancing where and what you spend. To do that effectively, you need to have a good read of the market, macro and micro factors, and competition.

It’s an oft-ignored fact that advertising is about more than just short-term returns; when done well, it also builds long-term mental availability. Consider the customer awareness funnel — unaware, problem aware, solution aware, product aware, and most aware. Building your brand image gives you a better chance at being well-positioned during the solution, product, and most aware stages. Without filling up those earlier points of the funnel, you’re less likely to experience the conversions at the bottom of it.

Even if your ads don’t get paused completely, you may be asked to only spend on conversion campaigns (it’s not an uncommon request). If you do, it’s very likely that this reduction of coverage will be at the detriment of your brand’s reputation and goodwill. Consumers don’t want to be sold to constantly, so if your only messages are sales messages, well… good luck. Yes, you might see an uptick in response rate, but at what long-term cost?

Consider how you and your company would like people to see your brand in 3, 5, 10 years’ time. What does that look like? Are you the go-to choice for your audience? The most trusted option? Do they want others to know they use your product? This should inform your next steps.

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Meet ChatGPT: Your Questions About the World’s Latest Chatbot Answered

Gianna Callioni
. 12 Jan 2023 . 5 min read

Within 5 days, ChatGPT hit over 1 million users. It took Instagram 2.5 months to do that.

But, why all the hype around another chatbot? They’ve been used for years now haven’t they? Well, not quite like this.

What is ChatGPT?

It’s like the chatbots you’ve seen online, but on steroids.

It was built by OpenAI using data from thousands of online sources, including Reddit, to make its responses seem more human. It’s a language learning model which means it’s learned to continually predict what the next word in a sequence should be. Unlike previous chatbots, however, ChatGPT was also trained using human feedback. Meaning it knows what language people expect when asking questions. It can also remember what you asked or said earlier in the chat meaning you can follow up with things. Basically, you can have a seemingly human conversation with it.

But, it does have some key weaknesses. One is that it lacks information released online post-2021, so some of its responses may not include the most up-to-date data. And, as with every other AI program available, it still has issues with biased, surface-level, incomplete, or even potentially harmful responses.

Can it be used to create ads? Inform content topics? Even write a whole website page?

It can! We’ll get to the morality of this later on, but the simple answer is yes.

Through machine learning, the chatbot essentially is able to recreate content it has seen online and tweak it to your specifications.

Ask it to write any number of words on a certain topic and it will. Ask it to write attention-grabbing headlines for LinkedIn and it will. Ask it to create a well-balanced meal plan to hit your weekly macros and it will.

How can you make ChatGPT work at its best?

When you ask it to do a vague action, you’ll likely get a vague response.

“Give me ideas for blog posts” – it’ll give you ideas, but they won’t necessarily align with what you want to talk about. It has merely used its knowledge to regurgitate various blog article ideas its seen.

Instead, try to give the program specific examples or formulas to expand on. By adding qualifiers and descriptors, you can ask it to create very unique (and actually quite well-written) content.

The big one — how far can organisations/individuals go with it before there’s a moral dilemma?

Alongside potentially harmful biases existing within this and other AI tools, the moral and ethical use of these tools is a big hurdle for the industry to face. And the answer might not always be clear-cut.

Selling your copywriting services to businesses but then using ChatGPT to write for you? Definitely over the line.

Using ChatGPT to write your uni assignment? Over the line.

Using it to write your own blog posts? That might depend.

While we may easily agree on some tasks it shouldn’t be used for, others might be harder to see eye-to-eye on.

“I'm intrigued to see how Google hopes to accurately detect AI-written content. It could be very difficult even if OpenAI develops a 'digital watermark' because there'd be ways around that.”


I’m concerned by the lack of respect we’re seeing for intellectual property. What the visual AIs have done with regards to copying art styles from working artists... isn't great. Artists should have been contacted and given the option to opt in. Rather than having to opt out after the fact.


I think one of the biggest implications is that digital art and online writing/copy will lose massive value. What’s unique about a bot writing or designing something? There’s absolutely no value in thought, idea, inspiration, etc, and so the work itself will be worthless and a reiteration of what’s already been designed/said by actual humans.


We can agree that there’s certainly value in AI tools. They can help spark ideas and answer questions that everyday users have. As a chatbot for websites and apps, it can provide a much more user-friendly experience. However, beyond this there are implications for both our industry and society at large, which will necessitate changes in practice but also (in all likelihood) at a legislative level. And quickly. What a time to be alive!

Irony and riddles seem to be beyond ChatGPT though, so we’re not completely replaceable yet…

Examples of ChatGPT's responses

How To: E-commerce Loyalty Programs that Keep Customers Coming Back

Sahlia Craig
. 03 Nov 2022 . 7 min read

Any marketer worth their salt knows it’s far more expensive to acquire a new customer than to keep and re-sell to an existing customer. Consider a typical ecommerce customer journey – there is so much energy and effort required through the early stages to attract and engage new customers, convince them that your product is absolutely the one they need, and build enough trust that your store is the one they choose. But, convincing a customer to buy from you again skips right past most of that. 

The probability of selling to an existing customer is 60-70%


Loyal customers = more sales at a lower cost-per-conversion. Big win! But truly loyal, happy customers also fuel word-of-mouth and create user-generated content, advocating for your brand and contributing to driving more new customers to your store.

Think of your business as a bucket. That is to say, while it’s normal to lose customers, if you’re losing customers at a faster rate than you’re acquiring new ones, you essentially have a ‘leaky bucket’. So you either need to be exceptionally good at acquiring new customers, or you need to slow the leak (i.e. increase customer lifetime value and retention).

But if you’ve found yourself here, you likely already know why building customer loyalty is so important and what you really want to understand is how you can better achieve that for your e-commerce business. That’s great! We’ve got you.

What makes customers loyal to a brand?

Customer loyalty is driven by a number of factors, both functional and (primarily) emotional. Ultimately, to successfully build loyalty among your customers, understanding how your customers think is essential.

The product itself certainly has a part to play, after all you wouldn’t repurchase a product that failed to meet your needs on a practical level. However, in the world of ecommerce where there are likely countless options for very similar products, the product alone isn’t enough to build a loyal following. In addition to having a great product, you need to give your customers a tangible reason to keep coming back and tap into their emotions to create connection.


Build kinship with your customers

Many of the globally loved, big name brands, have managed to build a strong community of customer advocates by creating a sense of kinship with their customers. When we think about brands like Apple, or Nike, many don’t just buy their products purely based on performance or quality. A lot of the time, customers buy, and continue to buy, their products because of the way it makes them feel, and the sense of community they buy into.

According to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, a sense of belonging is considered one of the most important needs of an individual, above safety and security. So, it’s no wonder why brands that make customers feel part of a community are so successful.

Loyalty and advocacy is built when customers feel like they are part of a community. A community grows and thrives when a brand is effective at uniting like-minded people together and making their customers feel personally valued.

56% of customers stay loyal to brands that “get them”


The Role of a Customer Loyalty Program

A loyalty program is a highly effective way to make your customers feel like they are part of a community. When executed well (and this is key), loyalty programs provide real and tangible reasons for customers to keep coming back, whether that’s for exclusive products, unique experiences, special offers, or simply for the sense of belonging to a community that makes them feel good.

Rewards and incentivisation are at the heart of any loyalty program. However, rewards alone are not what creates customer loyalty. A customer will only come back because they truly want to, not just because a brand pays them to do so. But with that said, when brands are smart with how they implement their loyalty programs, they can be a powerful tool to help build a sense of community and drive repeat business.

To get the most value out of a loyalty program, brands should focus on customer segmentation, analysis, and personalisation, to tailor the incentives and offerings based on customers’ key motivators and buying behaviors.

Types of Loyalty Programs

When it comes down to the inner workings of a loyalty program and how customers can earn and claim rewards, there are many different approaches that can be taken. 4 of the most common types of loyalty programs are point-based, tiered, paid, and value-based.


Point-Based Loyalty Programs

Points-based loyalty programs are one of the oldest and most common types, allowing customers to accumulate points that they can then redeem for rewards. 

Points are typically rewarded for actions such as making a purchase, creating an account, leaving a product review, or celebrating a birthday. By creating a points system that rewards engagement, referrals, and brand interaction, customers are further incentivised to participate in the brand community.

A benefit of a points-based loyalty program is that customers can then choose to redeem their points for the rewards that they are most interested in, giving them choice and increasing their sense of being personally valued. For example, they might be able to choose from options such as a free product or a discount on an order.

Shoppers engaged in points programs not only shop more frequently—they spend more, too.


Tiered (VIP) Loyalty Programs

Tiered loyalty programs offer different benefits or rewards to specific groups of customers, based on their spending levels. These programs can also be positioned as ‘VIP’ programs, providing a sense of status achievement for customers in addition to the tangible rewards. 

Tiered/VIP programs incentivise customers to spend more, by enticing them with new rewards or perks that can be unlocked when they reach a certain level of spending. When implemented well, it can help to increase customer engagement and establish an emotional connection between customers and the brand. This leads to better customer retention and higher lifetime value.

Tiered loyalty programs should be easy to understand and easy to earn. When customers can clearly understand what they will get at each tier and feel that these rewards are easy enough to achieve. Achievable, valuable benefits lead to a greater impact on customer behaviour.

With an emphasis on luxury and exclusivity, VIP programs create an experience that leaves customers wanting to spend more with your brand.


Paid Loyalty Programs

Paid loyalty programs are essentially a loyalty program that has a participation fee. This may be a one-time membership fee, or a recurring subscription fee.

Paid loyalty programs can require greater effort to acquire customers into the program. However, once customers are on board, these programs typically generate a higher customer value. A 2020 McKinsey survey on loyalty programs found that consumers who joined a paid loyalty program are 60% more likely to spend more on the brand after joining.

For a paid program to be successful, brands must focus on providing instant benefits with tangible value to the customer. From the customer’s perspective, the value must significantly outweigh the cost to join the program.

Brands must use the membership fees to invest in exclusive offerings with more emotional resonance, such as access to personalized experiences or members-only content.


Value-Based Loyalty Programs

Value-based loyalty programs differ from the other types of programs in that instead of offering tangible rewards to the customer, they emphasise the values of the company (and align those with the customers’ values).

In many cases, this looks like donating a portion of profits to one or more charities that closely align with the business’ values. For example, instead of giving a discount or reward to a customer, a business may donate 10% of their profits to a selected charity, incentivising customers to spend with them from a shared interest in a charitable cause.

Value-based loyalty programs require a clearly defined understanding of your business’ core values. This allows you to select a cause that makes sense and fits well with your brand.

When done well, value-based loyalty programs allow businesses to connect with customers on a deeper level and build a strong, lasting connection with them.

Choosing the right loyalty program for your customers and brand

Determining which type of loyalty program is the best fit for your customers and your brand, there are two key questions to ask:

  1. What is the primary goal of having a loyalty program for your business? For example, is it to get customers to shop with you more frequently? If so, a points-based program might be best. Or, is it to increase the average order value when they do shop? Perhaps a tiered VIP program is better suited? Or is it to build a sense of community and comradeship? In which case you may be best to implement a value-based program.
  2. Who are your customers and what motivates them? For example, are they more motivated by financial reward, or by values alignment? You need to balance customers’ motivations with your own business goals to find the best fit. 


Our favourite Shopify loyalty app

If you are running your business on Shopify, then hands down our favourite Shopify loyalty program tool is smile.io. Smile makes it super easy to implement points-based, VIP and/or referral programs.


If you have any follow up questions or would like to chat more about customer loyalty and retention strategies, get in touch with our team.

We can help improve your customer retention

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Something Digital 2021: Consumers and Their Privacy

Gianna Callioni
. 03 Nov 2021 . 3 min read

It would be impossible to go to a digital event and not talk about data. Data is what makes the world go round. It’s long come to be known as one of the most valuable things a business can have access to. But as tech giants take data and privacy concerns into their own hands (whether for the good of the people or their own wallets, that’s another discussion), we should be continuing to think about the consumer. After all, they’re who we do our jobs for.

As part of Something Digital the other week, I saw a conversation with Eloise Gillespie, Katherine Grace, Jarrod Price, and Chris Rozic. They spoke a lot about data and the big guys in the industry, and one of the key points they brought up was this:

How many consumers actually understand what cookies are and how the data is used, and thus what impact removing them will have on the personalisation they’ve come to expect?

“61% of millennials are happy to share data if it leads to a more personalised in-store or online shopping experience” (Deloitte Digital). Not only that, but it’s highly likely that in the near future personalisation will become the bare minimum of what we need to provide for consumers. But with the disappearance of cookies and tracking permissions, comes difficulties in providing that same level of personalisation.

The way we track online movements will change whether we like it or not. What we can do though, is help educate consumers about why their data is used and the benefits it can have for them. It’s important to take them along for the ride as part of the change, instead of making them feel like the change is happening to them.

Openly build a relationship with your audience

One of the best ways you can do this is by openly building a relationship with your audience and being upfront about the information you’d like to collect. Instead of trying to track each person’s movements and the exact pages they’ve looked at to see what they like (or don’t like), just ask them.

Include a well-worded privacy policy, without the jargon

Be part of the education process by providing clear explanations of what information is actually tracked, how it’s tracked, and how it’s stored. The biggest privacy concerns come from misinformation about what data is actually recorded when doing simple things like reading a webpage.

It’s also important to include how you’re going to use the data you collect from your audience and why it’ll benefit them to let you do it.

The only thing we’ll never be able to explain though is how Facebook (or Meta now I guess?) listens to our conversations. That’s a question for the Zuck that will likely never be answered.

Provide a way for audiences to change tracking permissions

It’s not enough to ask for tracking permissions once and then keep them the same forever. “88% of consumers do not believe that their consent for non-essential uses should be enduring” (Deloitte Digital). It helps you build trust with your audience by giving them continuous control over tracking permissions.

A little side note but a helpful pointer – if you’re using Google Analytics in any way, you must have a privacy policy on your website. If you don’t, you’re going against Google’s conditions and may face consequences.

We’d love to hear your thoughts about data, how you’re getting around the recent and upcoming tracking changes, and how your audience responds to any privacy notices you have on your site. Feel free to reach out on our socials or send us an email!

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The Difference Between Working With an Agency and Hiring In-House

Gianna Callioni
. 19 Aug 2021 . 3 mins read

We appreciate that it’s not always easy to choose between the two and no, we’re not just going to tell you that agencies are always the better choice! Depending on your business size, the scope of work you need or want to do, your budget, and various other factors, often one choice is better than the other, but which one?

Working with an agency

One of the biggest advantages to working with an agency is the number of employees who will be on your ‘team’. Depending on what you want done, you’ll likely end up with several specialists working on your account and each of them is going to bring a vast range of past experiences with various brands and industries. This means a few things:

  • It’s likely that someone on the team has experience with your industry which can be incredibly helpful if you’re particularly niche;
  • They’ve likely got a wider range of industry contacts and partnerships which could bring value to the work you’re doing with them; and
  • Each person will have their own speciality which means you get access to more in-depth knowledge of each service.

Depending on the type of contract you can get with an agency, you’re often able to scale up or down the work they do for you based on your high and low periods throughout the year. This means that instead of always paying an in-house person the same amount,- whether they’re busy or not – you can reduce the amount you spend in slow seasons.

On the other hand, working with an agency naturally has its own cons. They’re often more expensive per hour than what you’d pay for a single in-house employee. So, depending on how much work you want done, how many employees you’d need to hire, or how long you need the work to continue, going with an agency might not be the most cost-effective choice. It can also be more difficult to communicate with an agency since they’re not in the office with you. So, you may have less control or oversight over what they are doing. That being said, with the improvements we’re seeing in digital communication technologies and more people working remotely anyway, this is likely less of an issue than it was in the past.

Hiring in-house

Hiring someone in-house is often seen as the ideal choice. You’ve got someone in the office who you can see every day and only spends their time on your brand, not a portfolio of brands. Through the hiring process, you’re able to personally vet them, their experience with your particular industry, and, most importantly, their interest in your industry. They can learn the ins and outs of your brand and it’s easy to keep them up to date with changes.

Depending on the office (there are shockers everywhere), it’s typically also a lot easier to communicate with the people who work directly with you. In saying that though, there are always cases of multiple offices per company or people working remotely as we mentioned above, in which case this easy communication loses some hold.

One of the biggest downfalls of hiring in-house is that you can often only afford one or two people’s salary (including super, annual leave, etc.), which can mean you’re asking those couple of people to ‘specialise’ in a huge range of tasks. Just like the saying, “jack of all trades, master of none,” which is, unfortunately, not the best. Either their skills won’t be up to standard in the areas you need or their time will be stretched too thin.

When you’re deciding whether you want to work with an agency or hire an in-house team, there are (clearly) a lot of things to consider. While we’d love to tell you to choose an agency, and choose Agora, we know it’s not always the right decision for your brand. If you’re ever unsure, we’re happy to talk through your questions and thoughts and help you decide.

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