Magazine article Marketing

March of the Megabytes

Magazine article Marketing

March of the Megabytes

Article excerpt

It's official -- brand managers are crack PC users, fluent with many types of software. Research reveals just how far computers have penetrated marketing, says Ken Gofton

Research specially commissioned for this Marketing supplement has given some fascinating insights into the pace of computerisation in marketing departments. It has also demonstrated the penetration achieved by the Microsoft Windows operating system, with more than three out of four of the marketing directors and brand managers interviewed claiming to have at least some Windows packages in their departments.

The supplement is published as a curtain raiser to the Windows Show at Olympia, London, February 22-25. It is not a preview in the sense of a stand-by-stand directory. Rather, it is a review of where computerisation is today in marketing. It includes a number of striking case studies from firms which use Windows -- plus articles on software and portables.

Almost 200 exhibitors will be participating in the show, including top hardware manufacturers such as IBM and Compaq, and leading software suppliers from Borland to Lotus. Last year the show attracted 42,500 visitors, but this year's total is expected to exceed 50,000. Tickets are free if you pre-register via the Windows Show Hotline (0839 101909 -- 36p cheap rate, 48p at other times), or cost |pounds~10 at the door.

A major survey conducted especially for this supplement reveals just how far the computerisation of marketing departments has gone. It confirms that the desktop PC has become an essential tool of today's brand manager, who has to be fluent with several software packages.

Yet the investment plans of marketing directors suggest the electronic revolution has not reached an end. Not only is there a lot of case-study evidence that marketing departments have been moving over to PC networks in the past couple of years, but the research confirms that budgets were substantially higher for information technology in 1993, and will continue to rise this year. The study was commissioned by Marketing. It was sponsored by Microsoft and Compaq and carried out by the Decisions Group, which in December conducted 100 telephone interviews with marketing directors and 251 with people in brand management. (Job titles of the latter group varied, but for the sake of brevity we'll call them "brand managers" throughout this report.)

First, the sample. Respondents came from a broad cross-section of companies, including food and drink, consumer durables, the car industry, pharmaceuticals, leisure and financial services, and business-to-business sectors. Among the brand managers, 52% were in marketing departments of 10 or less, while 5% worked in departments of 50-plus. Equivalent figures for the marketing directors were 61% and 3%. Some questions were common to both groups and there was a strong correlation in their replies. Others on day-to-day usage were put only to the brand managers, while more strategic issues were reserved for the directors.

Marketing department secretaries, it seems, almost all have computers. In more than 60% of marketing departments covered by the survey, all the marketers have individual PCs or terminals, but there are still 18% where no individuals have their own machines. However, the 1.7% reporting no access to computers at all are, with one exception, in departments of less than five people. All of this computerisation is clearly having an impact on the way in which brand managers work. It is a major step to move from having access to a computer when needed to having a machine on every desk. It is another step again when electronic mail links everyone in marketing with production departments on the one hand and the company's agencies on the other.

The number of hours brand managers claim to work on screen each week varies quite a lot, but the 25.5% of the sample who put the figure at 20 hours or more are the biggest single segment. …

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