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The consumer economy is now recovering rapidly

Posted By The Marketing Institute & UCD Smurfit School, Wednesday 5 August 2015
Updated: Tuesday 9 February 2016


Economic recovery is building rapidly in Ireland, with consumer spending now making a significant contribution to economic growth, for the first time since the start of the recession in 2008; one of the key findings of the latest Consumer Market Monitor (CMM), published today by the Marketing Institute and UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School.

CMM Draft_Q2_15_v2 - Copy

Retail sales were up 3.7% for 2014 and by 5.7% for the first half of 2015, in real terms. Services were up 4.1% for 2014, and up 9.3% for the first quarter of 2015. 40,000 houses sold in 2014, up 38%, and 21,300 in the first half of 2015, up 47%.

A number of things are contributing to this positive trend – most notably regular increases in employment. There were 93,000 jobs added from the low point in 2012 to the first quarter of this year, a 5% increase in the total number of people employed.

Mary Lambkin, Professor of Marketing, UCD Smurfit School, and one of the authors of the Monitor, said “Consumer spending accounts for over 60% of GNP in Ireland and is a critical factor in driving recovery in the economy.”

Consumer confidence has boasted a positive trend from 2013, reaching a record level in Q4 2014, and this has been feeding through into consumer spending. Sales of new cars experienced a major turnaround in 2014, with 92,361 units sold, a 30% increase on 2013. This buoyancy is continuing this year, with 78,660 new private cars licensed in the first half of the year, an increase of 26% year-on-year.

Lambkin continues “Disposable incomes are at last beginning to show modest growth as a result of jobs growth and this, coupled with greater availability of credit, is leading to accelerated spending on many categories of goods and services.”

Retail sales are also improving; sales volume rose by 3.7% in 2014 while value increased by 1.6% indicating a significant upturn in activity. This upward trend has continued into 2015, with sales volume up by 6.6% in Q2, year-on-year, following 4.8% in Q1. Value was up 3.4%, also an improvement of the increase of 1% in Q1.

Commenting on the findings Tom Trainor, Chief Executive, of The Marketing Institute, explains “We have been waiting for economic recovery for a long time in Ireland and especially in the consumer economy which has been particularly badly damaged in the recession. It is very heartening to see definite evidence that this sector is now recovering and this positive momentum will help to strengthen many businesses and allow them to grow and expand employment.”

Sales of household goods were particularly strong, with electrical goods up 9.5% in volume in Q2, hardware, paints and glass up 6.2%, and furniture and lighting up 5.9%; reflecting the increasing number of property transactions. Sales of services have also been strengthening, up 4.1% for the year 2014, and up by a further 9.3% for the first quarter of 2015, year-on-year.

There is also to some regional variation in the rate of recovery, with the greater Dublin area recovering more quickly than the rest of the country. The other regions are catching up, however, with the recovery gradually spreading to all areas.

Consumer Incomes and Spending

Household disposable income rose by 3% in 2013 – the first increase since 2008. Disposable income rose by a further 3% in 2014 and is forecast to increase again this year and next, in response to continuing improvements in employment numbers, and other factors such as falling oil prices and possible tax reductions.

Household spending closely mirrors income, and recorded growth in 2014 for the first time since 2008. Personal consumption expenditure was up 2% for the year. Personal consumer spending is growing at an increasing rate this year, up 3.8% in the first quarter, and this is likely to be closely matched by household spending. Spending on services was also up by 4.1% for the year 2014, and by an even higher 9.1% for the first quarter of 2015.

Personal consumer spending last year was still € 10 billion less than at the peak year of 2007. However, consumer expenditure is expected to continue to grow due to improving labour market conditions and stronger consumer confidence. The Central Bank is predicting an increase of 2.3% in personal spending for 2015 as a whole, and a similar growth of 2.3% for 2016. Other forecasters are more optimistic, however, forecasting growth in consumer spending of closer to 3% for this year and onwards.

Consumer Borrowing

Borrowing by Irish consumers grew at a record level from 2000 onwards and peaked in March 2008 at €150 billion, but has declined steadily since then, down -37% from 2008 to €93 billion in Q2 2015.

Total lending to Irish households continued to fall in 2014, decreasing by -8.2% for the year to the end of Q4 2014, as households tried to get their borrowing down. Loans outstanding to Irish households decreased by -3.2%.

Loans for house purchase, which account for 82% of household loans, peaked in May 2008 at €127 billion. Since then, we have seen a continued decrease to €77 Billion in June 2015, a cumulative decline of -39%.

Lending for other consumption accounts for approximately 18% of total borrowing. This category peaked in Q1 2008 at €30 billion but declined to €19 billion by year-end 2014, a reduction of -38%. This category continued to decrease through the first half of 2015, standing at €16 billion in June 2015.

The rate at which Irish households have reduced their debt is quite remarkable, surpassing most other countries, except for the US. Household debt as a percentage of income has decreased 33 percentage points in Ireland and 26 points in the US from 2007 to 2014. However, household debt levels in Ireland remain relatively high by international standards, at 177% of disposable income, and remains a constraint on recovery in the consumer economy.

Retail Spending

Following four years of decline, retail sales stabilised in 2012 and increased very slightly in 2013, up by 0.8% in volume terms. This represented a turning point in the economic cycle, with sales growth continuing to accelerate in 2014. Retail sales volume (excluding motor vehicles) rose by 3.7% in 2014, while value increased by 1.6%.

This upward trend has continued into 2015, with sales volume up by 4.8% in Q1, year-on-year, and 6.6% in Q2, an average of 5.5% for the first half of the year. Value was up 3.4%, also an improvement of the increase of 1% in Q1.

Sales of household goods were particularly strong in Q2, with electrical goods up 9.5%in volume, hardware, paints and glass up 6.2%, and furniture and lighting up 5.9%. All other retail categories also got a boost in recent quarters, and the evidence suggests that 2015 is delivering sales growth for most retailers.

Recent Trends

Sales of new cars experienced a major turnaround in 2014, with 92,361 units sold in the full year, a 30% increase on the previous year. This buoyancy is continuing this year, with 78,660 new private cars licensed in the first half of 2015, a rise of 26% compared with the 62,280 sold in the first half of last year. Industry expectations are that new car sales could reach 120,000 by the end of 2015, a 25% increase for the year. Sales of second hand cars are also doing well, up 20% on 2014.

Retail sales excluding the motor trade are also improving; sales volume rose by 3.7% in 2014 while value increased by 1.6% indicating a significant upturn in activity. Retail sales have continued this upward trend in the first half of 2015, with volume up by 6.6% in Q2, year-on-year, and value up 3.4%.

All product categories experienced growth in Q2 2015, with clothing and footwear up the most at 10.3%, followed by household equipment at 8.3%, year-on-year. More remarkable, however, is the significant growth displayed by sectors that have been particularly weak throughout the recession, such as bars and newsagents. In summary:

  • Food sales up 5.3% in volume and up 3.6% in value;
  • Non-specialised stores (supermarkets) up 5.7% in volume and 4% in value;
  • Fuel up 2.1% in volume but down -4.1% in value;
  • Clothing, footwear & textiles up 10.3% in volume and 6.8% in value;
  • Household equipment up 8.3% in volume and 4.5% in value;
  • Department stores up 7.6% in volume and 4.4% in value;
  • Pharmaceuticals and cosmetics up 3.2% in volume and flat in value;
  • Bar sales up 5.1% in volume and up 5.3% in value.
  • Books, newspapers, stationery up 3.3% in volume and 5.3% in value;

Overall, we can conclude that retail sales are back on a strong growth path, accelerating from Q1 to Q2 of this year. This positive momentum augurs well for continuing growth through the rest of 2015 and into future years, reflecting the broad-based strengthening of the economic fundamentals in the Irish consumer market.

Download the full report CMM Q2 2015

View an online version of the report here

The Consumer Market Monitor is an expert report, released quarterly and designed to track key indicators of confidence and activity in the Irish consumer market. The monitor relies on a model of consumer behaviour which sees economic variables such as income levels, taxes, interest rates and exchange rates influencing consumer confidence which, in turn, influences consumer behaviour including spending, saving and borrowing. Data is collected from sources including the Central Statistics Office (CSO), the Central Bank, the European Commission, and various other secondary sources. It is a service provided by the Marketing Institute of Ireland in collaboration with the UCD Smurfit Graduate Business School.

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The 6 Reasons Video Works As A Marketing Tool For Events

Posted By, Thursday 23 July 2015
Updated: Wednesday 10 February 2016

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. I say a video, for event promotion, is worth 100 pictures so, by extrapolation, is worth 100,000 words. That’s a lot of words.

I’ve long-believed in the effectiveness of videos for event promotion and marketing beyond that. We, at Cuckoo Events, invest a lot of time, effort and money into producing videos at our events, which we then use to market ourselves and what we do.

Last year, we worked with Youth Nation to bring their ‘Run For Your Lives’ event to life. The event is a 5km zombie-infested obstacle course. Its first outing was a massive success and part of Youth Nation’s plan from the outset was to get a really good video one of the 2014 event, knowing it would be one of the main pillars of the marketing strategy for the 2015 events.


  • You need to show people what they’re getting

We’re visual creatures and we process information better when we see things. It can be harder to effectively portray an event if you’re just describing it or writing about it on a poster.

When we’re working with a client on a new event, we work hard to convince them that producing a good video of the event will pay off big-time when marketing the event in years to come. It can sometimes be a tough sell but we know it works so we generally get it past the post.

  • Video can be created on little or no budget

Nearly everyone has a Smartphone now and you can take super video footage on them. Upload it to YouTube and then use the free Youtube Video Editor to add music and text overlays etc. It’s simple, drag and drop functionality.

With apps like Periscope and Vine there are loads of avenues for creating video / live content, which can market your events for you.

  • Video is easily distributed and shared

Smartphones, iPads and computer savviness, especially among the younger audiences, is growing at a ridiculous rate. Videos, as well as lots of other things, can be shared at the touch of a button through Facebook and Twitter which means your video has the potential to spread like wildfire.

Furthermore, once word of the video spreads, thanks to sites like Vimeo and YouTube, people who haven’t had it shared directly with them can find videos really easily.

  • Videos can contain interactive elements

It’s relatively simple to put clickable email links to Twitter and Facebook in videos too so that you can capitalise on having people’s attention there and then. This is the perfect solution for driving interested people to buy their tickets now through a link that’s overlaid onto the video.

This simply allows you to convert a lead instantaneously. This type of opportunity is the holy grail of sales, right?

  • You’ve more control over how your audience consumes your information with video

When we were launching our PaintGlow show in Ireland we produced this video. With the video, we were able to put together a script of information we wanted our audience to receive. Then we were able to choose the order in which they received it.

So we describe the show, before letting people know how to book it or who to contact. If you put the same information on a poster you’ve little control over what order this information is received by the people viewing it.

I’d go so far as to say you’ve very little control over whether they even see the info, or some of the info, at all. When itc comes to video, as long as it’s not too long and not too boring and the audience has an interest, they’ll stick with the video until the end and, thus, see all you’ve wanted them to see.

  • You can tell a story in a video

When you run events, you tell stories. You’re bringing your audience on a journey and giving them an experience that you’ve designed and hope they’ll enjoy. This can be as simple as the order you’ve scheduled the acts in, to stuff like room dressing and interactive areas, depending on the event – but they all tell stories.

It makes sense to try to tell a story in your marketing and promotional efforts. For me, these efforts are a story.


Video is probably the strongest marketing channel for events at the minute. With the ease and speed of sharing and dissemination, it’s the modern-day equivalent of a movie trailer.

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Cart Abandonment Survey

Posted By 256Media, Wednesday 15 July 2015
Updated: Tuesday 9 February 2016

Cart Abandonment Survey

Cart Abandonment | Digital Marketing | eCommerce | 15 July 2015

Cart Abandonment is a term which sends an uneasy shiver down the spine of many an e-commerce leader. It conjures up lost profits and poor user experience. Some studies show cart abandonment rates averaging as high as 72%.

Given that the value of annual online spend by Irish consumers in 2013 was €4.1 billion, you’d imagine that e-commerce brands would be all over this figure and doing everything in their power to keep the abandonment rate as low as possible, wouldn’t you?

256 Media has conducted a study of what tactics online brands are using to mitigate cart abandonment, and just how many are using them.  We have also looked at how Irish brands perform against international best practice when it comes to dealing with cart abandonment. Read on to discover top industry insights from our survey – be prepared for some surprising stats and conclusions!


We became cart abandoners. We visited 27 e-commerce sites operating in Ireland and shopped them, taking note of every little thing along the way and recording it. We looked at 36 separate metrics for each site to establish what was the rate of adoption for each individual tactic being used to guide the visitor along the purchase path. We then looked at how the half that were Irish sites as a group compared to the half that were international brands operating here.


The most important thing to know about the cart abandoner is that just because they have left your site, doesn’t mean they don’t like what they saw. Remember that little boy or girl in the playground that laughed at your bowl cut or pulled your pigtails – then years later, you realised they had liked you all along? Well the majority of your cart abandoners are just the same. According to a study by SeeWhy75% of customers abandon their carts with the intent of making a purchase at a later stage, and 51% of all cart abandoners will make their purchase in store.


Online shoppers will need pretty good substitutes for the physical absence of the product when they are making an online purchase. The customer should have the ability to turn the product around and inspect it at all angles with clever use of images. Video is also a tool that brings your product to life and relieves online buyer anxiety.


  • 76% of all brands surveyed can improve the product visuals on their site with elements such as a 360 skew tool
  • 48% of brands use video demonstration to help sell their product, with international brands being almost 1.5 times as likely to employ this feature

Some brands are one step ahead: John Lewis uses infographics to help demonstrate the lifestyle benefits of its products in a really engaging way.


A Forrester Research found that 40% of shoppers will abandon if it takes more than 3 seconds for a product page to load. (Yikes!) Not many sites have a chance it seems …


  • Only 37% of brands in our survey achieved page speeds of fewer than 3 seconds
  • International brands scored an average of over 3 seconds for their page speeds. Irish brands scored an average of 2.5>3 seconds.

We’re not Speedy Gonzales, but we’re giving international brands a run for their page speeds.

Other factors are becoming just as important, like tailored product suggestions in real time. Half of the sites we studied engaged in personalisation.

Littlewoods UK were the smooth criminals of our survey, with a free personal online shopper service. Brown Thomas was also an innovator, offering a seamless mobile experience with virtual receipts to their shoppers.


  • 50% of brands surveyed offer tailored user suggestions 
  • Responsive is the new normal – 78% of brands offer a mobile-friendly site. However, the other 22% are losing out on 15% of all online sales
  • Irish sites were marginally more likely to offer a mobile optimised site

Overall, Irish brands offered a smoother user experience in comparison to the bigger international players. Woohoo – we’re doing good!


Buyer anxiety is bigger online than it is offline, due to the absence of the product and concerns about payment security and refund policies. For reassurance, Customers like to seek  external opinion or 3rd party reviews for their purchase, as according the a study by Kantar, they believe the opinion of their peers to be more authentic than branded recommendations. Real customer service is another essential way to to create buyer reassurance; a good example is Vodafone’s personalised ‘Ask Holly’ chat feature.


  • 22% of brands surveyed have 3rd party reviews: international brands marginally more likely to employ
  • 37% exploit the benefits of Google Plus reviews: international brands almost twice as likely to employ
  • 15% of brands surveyed have a ‘Live chat option’: international brands much more likely to employ



  • 44% of the sites surveyed offered loyalty schemes, with international brands being almost twice as likely to offer this

Yes, we accept poor Irish performance here can be partly attributed to smaller budgets, but loyalty schemes are a standard plug-in so the technology to manage them is readily available.


As the majority of online shoppers are not ready to make their purchase then and there, you can give your users the space and tools they need to consider such as a Registration option, Wishlists, and cart maintenance. You can then use tactics to bring them back at a later stage, like display retargeting and tailored emails. Doing this at the right time may be just the nudge your customers need to make their purchase. Adding a timer and an incentive to your targeted emails is just as important as sending them!


  • 40% of Irish brands are using email to follow up with cart abandoners, in comparison to 17% of international brands
  • Only 11% used dynamic retargeting
  • 11% offered a timed incentive in the email to complete the sale

Compared to international norms Irish brands are leading the way for email but lagging on retargeting (remarketing).


Overall, we were surprised at the lack of attention being paid to some fairly basic online strategies. Relatively few companies are nailing this area. An enormous amount of money is being spent getting the horse to water (online advertising spend alone amounted to €197 million in Ireland in 2014) – nothing like it is being spent getting the horse to drink.

To reduce cart abandonment, there are some immediate tools you can use, but you need to take a holistic look at your whole site and ensure that you are offering a smooth, personalised user experience; reassure them that you are trustworthy; let them know that their cart will be there for them for a while, perhaps with an incentive; and reach out post abandonment with a reminder via email and/or remarketing.

Irish brands are excelling in some areas of e-commerce. They are outperforming international brands in areas such as user experience and leveraging email. And when Irish brands get it right, they are as good as any. However, international brands are more likely to offer guest purchase, loyalty schemes, maintain carts for longer and use remarketing.


This article just skims over some of the issues we covered in the survey. For the full story, and for solutions and tactics to tackle cart abandonment on your site, you can download our FREE ebook by clicking here.

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Content Marketing – The Big Question. Answered.

Posted By, Monday 13 July 2015
Updated: Wednesday 10 February 2016
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Content marketing is one of the great buzz phrases around at the minute. It’s all ‘video’ this, ‘cooperative content’ that and ‘Vine it, Periscope it or Meerkat it’ the other. There’s a lot to it, loads of ways to do it and a WHOLE lot of companies completely lost with it.

Here in Ireland, content marketing started to gain traction in early 2014. This year, content marketing is everywhere you turn and you’re going to have to pay attention to it, whether you want to or not. Your client will bring it up in a meeting – ‘Shouldn’t we be doing content?’ – or your boss will simply tell you to just go ‘create some content.’

There are now Irish agencies that just do content marketing. These are not digital agencies who have added content to what they have to offer. They are agencies such as 256Media, who bill themselves as ‘Ireland’s First Content Marketing Agency’ – that are already producing award-winning work, such as this work for EBS.

As we all come to understand that content marketing is a real marketing channel that can return real results for clients and ourselves, we’ll come under more and more pressure to produce content that does just that.

The big question is, where do we start?


When you’re looking at producing content you need to produce something that your customers and potential customers will see value in.

The easiest way to ensure they’ll see value in it is to answer their questions.

A great example is digital marketing agency,, who practice what they preach. They offer content marketing as a service to clients and are producing really good content themselves. They produced this great infographic entitled The Content Marketing Revolution, which answers questions their clients and marketers like us have.  They’ve also won awards for their own content marketing efforts too.

My business, Cuckoo Events, recently won a Social Media Award for ‘Best Use of Social Media by an SME (Micro)’ at this year’s Social Media Awards (Sockies) largely off the back of our own content marketing efforts. We blog regularly, we produce infographics, we produce regular email newsletters for a range of targeted subscriber lists and it’s all part of a content marketing strategy we put time and effort into.

We are a small business and we spend very little money on our content marketing but it’s still highly effective. Content marketing isn’t about money. It’s about answering questions.


As marketers, we need to go find out what your customers or client’s customers want to know.

If you have frontline staff, get them to engage with customers and track the most commonly asked questions. Once you know what your customers are asking, then produce content to answer their questions.

If you have an engaged online community then start asking them questions. Find out what they find confusing or troublesome and then produce content to make things easier for them.

If you know your business really well, then go ahead and produce some content you know will be well-received. This one can be risky, but, for me, you should know your business well enough to do it.

Answering questions is the answer to crafting your content marketing.

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The MII and Alternatives 2015 Salary Survey

Posted By The Marketing Institute, Friday 10 July 2015
Updated: Tuesday 9 February 2016
Our 2015 Salary Survey is now open (1)

We are delighted to be able to announce that the 2015 Market Watch Salary & Employee Sentiment Survey is being staged by the Marketing Institute of Ireland in partnership with Alternatives Group.

The survey shouldn’t take you more than a few minutes to complete, and we will be happy to share our findings with you when we publish the results in September.

The survey is open to anyone working in a marketing related role.

Simply click on the link HERE to take the survey and please remember to leave an email address so that we may enter your name into our draw to win an iPad Mini!

We appreciate your participation as a marketing professional in this important survey.

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