Can marketers do long-term? A Toolkit for 2021


We humans are hardwired to think short-term. That served us in good stead when we were hunter gatherers. But as we now confront the implications of years, perhaps centuries, of short-termism on our leadership, society and the planet, we realise that we need a new set of tools to help us.

As we’ve seen all too visibly recently, just hoping something into existence – or indeed hoping something bad will just go away all by itself – is not enough. We need to plan and execute in the short-term, but with the long-term in mind. And that all starts with a shared understanding of the facts. Of what is real, and what isn’t, and the choices we have before us. And as the media landscape fragments into ever smaller echo chambers (see Parler as the latest example), that is becoming harder to do.

Those challenges are as relevant to marketers as they are in every other walk of life. And as an industry, we are as guilty of making poor short-term choices as anyone else. Delivering the task rather than nailing the strategy. Chasing the quick sale, rather than building for long-term growth. And this short-term focus is even more tempting when all we see before us is uncertainty. Why plan for the long-term when I don’t know what it will look like? Why invest in brand sustainability for the future when my performance marketing can deliver quick revenue today?

To navigate this uncertainty and to filter the false choices from the real ones, we need facts. And at WARC, our purpose has long been to place evidence at the heart of every marketing decision. To provide that shared understanding of what works – and what doesn’t – to the marketing community at large. And to make next year one where we take the opportunity as an industry to rebuild better, for the long-term. Key to that is our annual WARC Marketer’s Toolkit which identifies the big themes that marketers need to know for 2021.

Based on a survey of over 1,000 global marketers, expert interviews with 22 CMOs and WARC’s proprietary knowledge-base, created by our global team of experts, this 10th edition of the Toolkit will enable marketers to navigate their path through the uncertain but hopeful terrain that is 2021, to make their marketing ever more effective. You can download it, for free, right here. This year, we have identified 6 key themes:

  • Responding to the recession
  • Staying effective in the age of e-commerce
  • Engaging at-home consumers
  • Succeeding in the closed web
  • Structuring for volatility
  • Finding the white space in wellness

For each of these, the Toolkit includes implications, takeaways, data-led insights, CMO and expert commentary, supporting case studies and potential pitfalls. It creates that shared baseline from which the marketing community can springboard to rebuild and renew, navigating through uncertainty as the world economy begins to recover, and enabling CMOs and other marketing leaders to plan for long-term, sustainable growth.

We welcome any and all feedback, input and partnership as we continue that fight for fact-based decisions in our industry and beyond. Our industry may be only part of the problem of human short-termism but, given our influence on every person on the planet, marketers can surely set the example for everyone else to follow.

This article first appeared in

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