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Consumer Spending in Ireland Takes a Brexit Hit - Consumer Market Monitor Q4 2016

Posted By The Marketing Institute & UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School, Monday 20 February 2017
Updated: Friday 17 February 2017

The latest Consumer Market Monitor (CMM) published today by the Marketing Institute of Ireland and the UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School showed that the continued recovery of the Irish consumer economy through 2015 and the first half of 2016 slowed significantly in the second half of the year, but still ended in positive territory.


“A reason for optimism is that the fundamental factors underpinning the consumer economy are still very strong, and should provide a counter-balance to any external shocks—in particular, the level of disposable income in the economy has grown back to almost €100 billion euro, close to the peak in 2008, driven principally by the large increase in employment, and this feeds through into consumer spending.” according to Professor Mary Lambkin, Professor of Marketing in the UCD School of Business and author of the report. 


Speaking at the launch of the latest Monitor, Marketing Institute of Ireland chief executive Tom Trainor said: “The recovery in disposable income is big news. Driven principally by the large increase in employment, it’s driving consumer spending, meaning more customers for our products and services in 2017.”


Download the full report here.


Listen to Mary Lambkin's interview on Morning Ireland




2016 was a year of two halves in the Irish consumer economy — the first half showed very strong growth but this slowed down across all sectors in the second half. This is reflective of the global uncertainty caused by the Brexit vote in the UK, as well as the drama surrounding the US Presidential election. 


Consumer spending growth rose by 4.2% in the first three quarters of 2016, year-on-year, but it is expected that the final figure for the year will be closer to 3.5%. This is one percent lower than the 4.5% growth achieved in 2015, but it is still a very solid performance, which is better than any of our EU peers. To put it into context, it is significantly higher than the growth in consumer spending in the UK which averaged 2.8% in 2016, and Germany which averaged 1.9%.


The signs are quite positive for 2017 although there are two competing forces affecting growth. On the one hand, consumer fundamentals remain very strong--the population is growing quickly, employment is still increasing, inflation is low and the majority of firms expect to give pay increases next year. On the other hand, the uncertainties surrounding the implementation of Brexit imply some downside risk.


On balance, however, the consumer economy is in a positive state and most forecasts suggest consumer spending growth ranging from 2.5 to 3.5% in 2017.


The improvement in the labour market has been a critically important factor driving the consumer economy and this remains very positive. There are now 2.04 million people at work, up 57,500 year-on-year, and up by 204,000 or 11% since the low point in 2012. Pay increases have also contributed, up 2% on average in 2015, and up by a similar percentage in 2016.


This increasingly healthy employment situation drives the amount of disposable income circulating in the economy, and spending closely matches income. The total amount of disposable income circulating in the economy peaked in 2008 at €102 billion. It dropped to a low of €85 billion in 2010, but was back up to about €98 billion in 2016, not far off the peak. In fact, there has been a remarkable increase in disposable income in recent times -- it increased by 5% in 2015, and by a similar amount in 2016.


Another important influence on consumer spending is household wealth, which comes mainly from the value of Ireland’s homes, as well as other savings and investments. After a long slump, Irish household wealth is increasing again as property values recover and progress is being made in paying down debt. Under normal circumstances, perceptions of increasing wealth raise consumer confidence, encouraging people to release funds for spending on various things.


Consumer confidence is still relatively strong in Ireland, even though it fell a little bit in the second half of 2016 due to worries about Brexit. However, the confidence barometer is still in positive territory and has got a boost in January of this year. This is driving a steady increase in consumer spending that is producing sales growth in most retail and service sectors. This is especially seen in sales of “big ticket” items – new cars, home furnishings, clothing and other consumer durables –all of which are continuing to grow well.


Sales of new cars are always a bell weather of economic recovery, and Ireland is no exception. Following several lean years, sales of new cars were up over 30% in 2015, to 121,110 units. New car registrations were up by a further 30% in the first half of 2016, but this slowed in the second half of the year, reaching a total of 142,688 cars for the year, an increase of 18%.  Sales of imported second hand cars were particularly strong, up 47% for the year 2016, for a total of 69,371.This possibly reflects the weakening of sterling making imports more affordable.


Retail sales excluding the motor trade grew strongly in 2015, with volume up 6.1% and value up 2.7%. This rate of growth continued in the first half of 2016, with volume up by 5.5% and value by 2.7%. Growth slowed significantly in the second half of the year, to about half that rate, with volume up by 3.2% and value by 1.3%. For the year as a whole, retail sales were up by 4.3% in volume and 2.1% in value which is still reasonably strong.


Sales of services have also shown a bit of volatility in 2016, but ended the year up by 5.5% which is very close to the level of growth in 2015. The fourth quarter was particularly strong, up by 6.9% year-on-year. Information and communications were up by a whopping 17.5% for the year, following spectacular growth in several quarters. Accommodation and food services were also up by a strong 8.6% for the year.


Residential property is the sector under most pressure, and this has been the case ever before Brexit came into sight.  There were 45,342 homes sold in 2016 and 23,589 mortgages issued, accounting for about 50% of sales transactions. This was actually lower than the 47,313 homes sold in 2015.


There were just 21,700 properties on the market, 1% of the total housing stock, in December 2016, which compares to an EU average of 4%.


Here are a few key figures from the report:


  • Food sales up 1.6% in volume and up 0.5% in value;
  • Non-specialised stores (supermarkets) up 1.7% in volume and 02.5% in value;
  • Fuel up 3.7% in volume and 3.9% in value;
  • Clothing, footwear & textiles up 5.7% in volume and 2.4% in value;
  • Household equipment up 7.5% in volume and 1.9% in value;
  • Department stores up 2.7% in volume and 0 in value;
  • Pharmaceuticals and cosmetics up 2.8% in volume and 1% in value;
  • Bar sales up 2.6% in volume and up 3.5% in value.
  •  Books, newspapers, stationery down -3.1% in volume and -2.8% in value


consumer market monitor Q4 2016

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A Day In The Life Of... Mark Henry, Central Marketing Director at Tourism Ireland

Posted By The Marketing Institute, Wednesday 15 February 2017
Updated: Tuesday 14 February 2017

Mark henry Tourism Ireland

The Marketing Institute: What does a Central Marketing Director do?

Mark Henry: Tourism Ireland is the organisation that has the wonderful job of promoting the island of Ireland as a tourist destination around the world.  We have 150 staff of whom about 90 are based overseas and the remainder are located between our offices in Dublin and Coleraine. 

I look after the marketing teams based here on the island.  That involves consumer research, strategy development, brand management, content and advertising creation, digital marketing, customer service, and working with the tourism industry here to plug them into our marketing programmes overseas.


MII: What were your key career moves to get to your current role?

M.H: I graduated from UCD with a Research Masters in Psychology and worked in various research and consultancy roles for around 10 years.  I ended up in the e-business sector at an exciting time but the "dot com" bubble eventually burst and I found myself unemployed.

Tourism Ireland was being established at the time and it advertised for a whole host of positions.  One of the vacancies was the Head of Research and Planning - a job title that I had recently held – so I successfully applied for that.  My e-business background stood me in good stead as I was later promoted to Central Marketing Director to look after the division's new digital unit as well.


MII: What is the biggest challenge you face in your role?

M.H: Not having enough resources to talk to the world!  There is so much opportunity for Irish tourism but we can only afford to do so much.  Given the understandable cutbacks in government expenditure since the financial crash, our marketing budgets are significantly lower than what they were back in 2008.  A clear segment focus and maximising return on investment have therefore been vital. 

Given that the number of tourists visiting our island has never been greater, I feel that we are doing a good job in managing the challenge. 


MII: What key skills do you need to be effective in your role?

M.H: A consumer-centric perspective is vital.  For me, that means you must see Ireland from the perspective of the overseas visitor and not assume that they know about the place like those of us who live here do.  Research literacy is important in that respect. 

The marketing landscape evolves rapidly so keeping up to date is important and identifying which changes to invest behind.  Digital literacy and strategic thinking are therefore critical. 

Finally, Tourism Ireland promotes the destination on behalf of thousands of businesses the length and breadth of the island and it is those businesses that actually make the sale.  Working with all these stakeholders, and finding ways to maximise opportunities for them, is therefore central to our success.


MII: Describe a typical working day.

M.H: Truly there is no “typical day” for me.  Last week I presented to our board on my team’s work programme for the year.  The following day we had a Brexit seminar with key members of the tourism sector to share market intelligence.  I spent the following day with my team in our Coleraine office and we had a meeting with Tourism Northern Ireland to discuss new product initiatives under development. 

Yesterday we reviewed the initial ideas from our advertising agency for this years’ Game of Thrones campaign for Northern Ireland.  I also attended a business tourism working group meeting with Fáilte Ireland and sectoral representatives to discuss the 2017 promotional programme. 

This evening I will meet tourism industry members at the launch of the Saint Patrick’s Festival programme.  And tomorrow I fly to Brussels for a board meeting of the European Travel Commission (the body that comprises of Europe’s national tourism organisations) of which I am currently a Vice President.  There’s always a lot going on!


MII: What do you love most about your role?

M.H: Nothing is more satisfying than knowing that your work is meaningful.  Every day in this job I get an opportunity to make a contribution to shaping the image of Ireland abroad; to help to generate economic growth and jobs at home; and, as a north-south body, to help play a part in sustaining the peace process in Northern Ireland. 

In addition, we get to do some great work.  Our Game of Thrones campaign last year picked up over 20 awards for creativity (including the Grand Prix at the Kinsale Sharks), and we’ve been honoured with five All Ireland Marketing Awards over the past six years.


MII: Looking ahead, where might your career path lead to next?

M.H: That’s a tough one.  I stumbled into working in tourism and it has proved to be very personally rewarding.  I would be quite happy to continue to work in this fantastic sector or instead to go back into working in strategy development or digital services as I did before.  Whatever path I follow, it has to be one where I am confident that I can make a tangible contribution. 


MII: To whom do you look for professional inspiration in your role?

M.H: I love the valuable work that Les Binet and Peter Field are doing on advertising effectiveness with the IPA.  I find Scott Brinker (Chiefmartec) excellent on developments in marketing technology.  And I consider both Simon Anholt (The Good Country) and our very own John Fanning to be gurus on destination branding. 

There are lots and lots of great thinkers whose insight has never been more accessible to us all – read it, reflect on it, and apply it!

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Marketing Multiplied: 10 Key Facts to Remember

Posted By Core Media & The Association of Advertisers in Ireland, Tuesday 14 February 2017

The key truths listed below come from Marketing Multiplied, authored by economists Chris Johns and Jim Power and Alan Cox, CEO of Core Media. The report is the first ever large scale study which reviews the impact of marketing communications from both a macro-economic and micro-economic basis and demonstrates the significant contribution that marketing makes to national economies and individual businesses.


Marketing generates substantial growth for national economies and businesses

Advertising is extremely important for economic activity; it provides jobs, promotes competition, helps innovation, leads to lower prices and boosts growth in an unambiguously positive way. It is a matter of empirical fact that advertising and national economies are positively correlated to a large degree.

McKinsey found that advertising fuelled about 15% of growth for the major G20 economies between 2001 and 2010. Analysis conducted by Core Media in Ireland, found that €1 invested in advertising typically delivers a revenue return of €8.26 and a net return on investment of €5.44 for brands.


Creativity has a profound and quantifiable influence on marketing effectiveness

The value of creativity is proven and quantifiable. Of all the factors that are within the marketer’s sphere of influence, this is the most important by far. The choices made in relation to investment in creativity have a massive impact on the growth in profitability of brands.

Creatively-awarded campaigns are six times more efficient than non-awarded campaigns in growing market share. A multiple of six is impressive, but it has declined from a staggering 12.4 in the decade leading up to the financial crisis that gripped the world in 2008. During the recession years that followed, there has been a significant move towards short-termism in marketing, coupled with a decline in marketing communications investment levels. These factors have been directly responsible for halving the effectiveness of creativity in advertising.


Penetration is more effective than brand loyalty in building growth and profitability

Recruiting new customers is more profitable than trying to increase frequency of purchase. Compelling evidence supports the contention that loyalty programmes have little effect and when they work, they do so by mainly recruiting new customers, not by reducing churn or by extracting more value from existing ones.

Marketers should advertise to everyone in the market for their product, rather than focusing on a small segmented audience. Potential gains from customer acquisition dwarf the potential gains from retention. Loyalty strategies can produce cost-effective short-term activation effects, but the true cost of this is long-term ineffectiveness.


Brand size has a significant influence on marketing effectiveness

The size of a brand has a major impact on the efficiency and effectiveness of marketing communications. Large brands have inherent advantages over smaller brands; they have higher penetration, better distribution, stronger range and pricing strategies that help to maintain and increase share.

Brands with market shares of over 10% achieve circa two and a half times the level of share growth, for each point of extra share of voice (ESOV), as compared with brands that have market shares of under 10%.Therefore, smaller brands need to over invest, relative to their market share, to compete effectively. They must also devise campaigns with above average effectiveness (from a creative standpoint) to drive growth.


Short-term marketing initiatives are less effective than long-term campaigns in building growth and profitability

Short-term marketing is on the rise and it is damaging the profitability of marketing. This shift has been caused by recession-driven urgency, in businesses, to build immediate sales and a belief among senior management that this will be achieved through short-term tactics (rather than long-term brand-building strategies). However, long-term campaigns (those that are evaluated over periods of longer than six months) are around three times more efficient than short-term campaigns. Short-term initiatives are, in fact, more effective at driving transient sales effects, but they deliver weak long-term growth. Businesses need to employ both techniques, but in the correct proportion.


Emotional campaigns produce considerably more powerful longterm business effects than rational campaigns

Emotionally-based campaigns outperform rationally-based campaigns on every business measure; they are significantly more profitable, they are better at generating awareness, they are stronger at creating differentiation and they form more durable memories of brands in consumers’ minds.212

Rational campaigns do enjoy an advantage in relation to short-term direct effects, but this advantage is temporary. Marketers should adopt a carefully balanced approach that drives both long-term brand preference (through emotion) and short-term sales (through rational messaging).


Marketers need to strike the optimum balance between brand building and activation spends

Emotional techniques tend to be employed in long-term brand marketing programmes and rational techniques are prevalent in short-term sales activation campaigns. They both have their place, but over/underinvesting in one or the other will damage the growth of a brand. On average, marketers should spend 60% of their budget on brand-building activity (long-term, broad reach, emotional) and 40% on sales activation (short-term, tightly targeted and information rich), to achieve maximum efficiency and maximum effectiveness.


Successful owned and earned media strategies are dependent on paid media

Brands using paid media typically grow three times faster than those that just rely on owned and earned media. However, paid media will only be at their most effective when combined with strong earned and owned strands. Owned media typically increase the effectiveness of a paid campaign by 13%, while adding earned media causes an increase of 26%. However, very few campaigns generate strong effects without having paid media in place.


To understand how much to invest, scientific budget-setting techniques must be used

Many methods are used to set budgets for marketing communications, but very few are scientific. In addition, they are usually not geared to identify the optimum level of investment for the specific business challenge being faced. 

Econometrics is the gold standard in most cases, because it is bespoke to the brand in question and it uses systematic modelling to understand how all key variables impact sales. It generates response curves, which enable practitioners to forecast revenue and profit for different levels of investment in marketing communications. This, in turn, drives an optimisation tool, which calculates the impact of different budget levels and media combinations to arrive at the ideal level of investment for the campaign in question.


A commitment to marketing analytics significantly improves return on investment

Marketing analytics is the measurement and optimisation of marketing activities. It is important to continually analyse all marketing activity in order to grow the effectiveness of campaigns on a compound basis. Marketers must create a measurement culture within their organisations and every brand should budget for it.   Investment in marketing analytics gives practitioners on-going evidence-based guidance on how to ‘course correct’ their plans to build market share growth. Failing to invest in scientific analysis and modelling reduces brand profitability. The benefits can be enormous; an integrated analytics approach can free up between 15% and 20% of marketing spending.


At the launch of Marketing Multiplied, as well as presentations from co-authors Jim Power, Alan Cox and marketing effectiveness expert Peter Field, a number of the above issues were discussed with a panel, which included economist and co-author Chris Johns, Professor Mary Lambkin from University College Dublin, Catherine Bent from CB Consultancy and the AAI, Chairman of Core Media, Patrick Coveney.


You can listen to the Panel Discussion here.

Copies of ‘Marketing Multiplied’ are available for download from the Core Media website






Core Media is Ireland’s largest marketing communications group. The business consists of nine individual agencies – Mediavest, Mediaworks, Starcom, ZenithOptimedia, Core Knowledge, Engage Communications, Livewire, Ignite and Radical.

Core Media has been voted Agency Network of the Year for the last four years at the Media Awards and the company was also voted one of the top three workplaces in Ireland by the Great Place to Work Institute for the last four years.


The Association of Advertisers in Ireland (AAI) is the voice of Irish advertisers. It is the only association focused single-mindedly on the interests of Irish advertisers and promotes the reasonable freedom to advertise.

The organisation provides advice, assistance and support services to members in respect of advertising trends and issues and liaises with a variety of stakeholders – Government, business, media and consumer groups - to highlight the role, benefits and importance of commercial communications in modern societies.


For further information, please contact:

Breda Brown / Catherine Quinn

Unique Media

Tel: (00 353 1) 522 5200 or 087 2487120 (BB)

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The 2017 Social Media Survey

Posted By The Marketing Institute & Edelman, Tuesday 7 February 2017

2017 social media survey

The Marketing Institute of Ireland and Edelman Ireland have partnered to produce the 2017 Social Media Survey. 

This survey aims to identify Irish marketing professionals attitudes and behaviours towards incorporating Social Media into their marketing strategies.

The survey is open to all marketing professionals in Ireland and only takes a minute to complete.


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Marketing Multiplied Report Reviews The Impact of Marketing Communications

Posted By The Marketing Institute, Tuesday 31 January 2017

Core Media and the Association of Advertisers in Ireland have released a new report entitled Marketing Multiplied, which reviews the macroeconomic and microeconomic impact of marketing communications.

advertising roi

Authored by economists Chris John and Jim Power, and Alan Cox, CEO of Core Media, the report highlights the importance of marketing for corporate performance but also economic activity on a wider scale. Advertising in particular is shown to drive considerable growth. Every €1 invested in advertising in Ireland typically delivers a gross sales return of €8.26 and a net return on investment of €5.44.

However, corporate boardrooms tend to underestimate marketing’s contribution to an organisation’s success. Marketers are often absent from the boardroom, causing marketing to remain misunderstood and seen as an expense rather than an investment. The report recommends that marketers up their game by providing more accountability and demonstrating the strategic value of marketing, to help changing this mindset and gain recognition for their efforts.

short term marketing

Marketing Multiplied also warns against the rise of short-term marketing, which delivers weak long-term growth. Barry Dooley, CEO of the Association of Advertisers in Ireland, says this shift is damaging the effectiveness of creativity and the return on investment it generates. “Marketing really matters […].  It enriches the brands that people enjoy and trust. It contributes to society, not least by funding an independent, varied media and, fundamentally, it facilitates choice.”

Get the report on

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