UK marketing industry - facing the Brexit challenge

08 May 2018

Even the most junior marketing professional, recognises the impact of technology on how organisations conduct business and engage with their customers.  And, while technology has impacted on marketing roles and remits, there is still an absence of real data on the size of the marketing profession, and its contribution to the UK economy as a whole. 

And with Brexit less than a year away, this unquantified and undefined marketing industry has a critical role in supporting UK businesses in identifying and capitalising on commercial opportunities abroad. So, to define the size and shape of the UK’s marketing might, the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) and PwC Research collaborated to produce a comprehensive industry review and this has just been published. Connecting insight from multiple sources, the results are revealing.

Export ready: Market size and exporting study

Cimv2 The size of the market. For the first time we are able to provide an holistic estimate of the shape and size of the marketing industry in the UK. Our analysis tells us is that the sector makes a substantial contribution to the economy, currently generating £36.5 billion of GVA, and employing 415,000 FTEs (full time equivalents).

A positive outlook. UK organisations, especially exporters, are very optimistic that their marketing budgets will grow in the coming three years, with marketing agencies mirroring this confidence. Exporters expect their volume of international sales to increase substantially in the same time period.

Exporting challenges. Despite their confidence and optimism, further probing revealed that current exporters are facing some key challenges. This includes lack of know-how in adapting their export strategy to different cultures and markets, confidence in approaching new markets and accessing the right export marketing skills and capabilities. We also found that these same challenges are acting as barriers to getting non-exporters up and running with international selling.

The value of marketing. Marketing is viewed as a major contributor to exporting success by most of the businesses Cimv1that we interviewed.

The most difficult markets. Certain markets are considered more challenging than others. China and the US were cited most often as the countries that UK businesses would like to export to but have found (or expect to find) most difficult. These are also the largest export markets for UK goods and services outside the EU, highlighting the size of the opportunity that might exist if the barriers and challenges can be addressed effectively

Discussing the research Chris Daly, CEO, Chartered Institute of Marketing said:

“Brexit is fast approaching and with it a real challenge for UK businesses. Our research points to a worrying level of complacency from British business. We found seven in ten UK exporters expect to increase exports over the course of the next three years - yet the majority of those we interviewed have failed to develop a specific export strategy. It appears too many firms are crossing their fingers and hoping for the best. 

We believe in the business advantage that professional marketing can provide. I would urge any business about to begin exporting, for its leadership to ask whether it has the strategy and the marketing skills to succeed or risk a shock when we leave the EU.”

Julie McClean, Principal Insight Consultant at PwC Research, just back from the report launch at a reception in the House of Commons, said:

“We’ve identified the challenges that face the UK’s exporters, but recognising the challenge is also the first step to overcoming it. And this challenge comes down to a lack of marketing knowledge to plan for export activity and a lack of confidence to actually take the first step. This may be worrying, but it’s not a crisis. Overcoming these challenges should not be beyond the capacity of the firms themselves, their advisors, marketing professionals and Government.”

PwC Research is no stranger to market sizing studies. We collaborated with the Market Research Society (MRS) to produce Business of Evidence 2016, an assessment of the size and impact of the UK research and evidence market.

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