In business, in-house marketing relates to any marketing initiative the business hasn’t outsourced to a third party, such as to an agency. Some companies even go as far as establishing their own internal marketing agency, modelled on marketing agencies. Basically, the business itself is the only client and doing its own marketing.
Businesses bring their marketing in-house for a wide variety of reasons, which can include lowering costs and increasing productivity. Doing so also gives them more control over their projects, their brand voice and can give them the attention they deserve, whereas agencies must split their time across various campaigns and clients.
How did in-house marketing originate?
The concept of in-house marketing may be relatively new, as far as marketing goes, but the practice dates back much further than you’d think.
Even in the 1930s, there was discussion of whether companies should take their advertising in-house and of the pros and cons of doing so. Before the days of advertising agencies, the media would hire people to produce ads for companies, seeking to persuade companies to advertise in the publications.
In-house marketing is somewhat cyclical, however. Some companies will alternate heavily between outsourcing their marketing and in-housing it. But the recession of 2007-2009 triggered the adoption of in-house marketing on a larger scale. By 2010, digitalisation and advances in technology had enabled the concept and practice of in-house marketing to establish themselves firmly into mainstream marketing culture.
The rise of in-house marketing
Having gained a firm foothold in marketing culture, in-house marketing has continued to grow in popularity. A requirement for greater speed, efficiency and overall control has urged brands to in-source creative, design, digital marketing, media buying and other elements of marketing. Walmart, Electrolux, Getty Images and the NHL are examples of companies that have taken some or all of their marketing in-house.
Of course, COVID-19 has created all sorts of chaos. You might have expected the requirements for speed and efficiency to lead to a reduction in in-house marketing, but the opposite has been true. The crisis made the marketing challenges companies faced even tougher and generated a variety of impacts on in-house marketing.
According to The Drum online, discussing findings from the report ‘Global Trends in Creative In-Housing’, by the World Federation of Advertisers (WFA) and The Observatory International, Coronavirus sped up the move towards bring creative work in house, with in-housing of creative at 57% among multinational companies. The report also finds that many in-house teams have higher workloads than before.
What does the future hold for in-house marketing?
The arrival of COVID-19 means brands have had to adapt their marketing strategies in a major way. If they weren’t already analysing return on investment, they’ll be looking at it much more closely now. Anything that doesn’t generate a significant ROI will be dropped.
As well as auditing their own outputs and inputs, brands may also do more digging on their competitors to see how the Coronavirus crisis has affected them. Have competitors had to cut anything from their marketing strategy? Have they had to place budgets on pause or slash them altogether? How can the company capitalize on that?
In the eyes of some, in-house marketing could spell a slow and painful death for advertising agencies. This doesn’t have to be the case, however. Companies with smaller marketing teams are likely to still work with agencies. But how they work with them will change. They may hire agencies not only to help them deliver on short-term tactical requirements, but also to adopt a more holistic, creative view of the brand.
Part of the reason companies hire agencies is because the brand lacks employees who have certain skillsets. Digital marketing knowledge or qualifications, creative thinking and organisational skills are all assets that in-house marketing teams could be missing, which may see companies invest more in training for employees.
When a company hires an agency, some of the agencies overheads are factored into the cost of the work, making the job more expensive. By investing in training, the company could help to lower its costs and empower its in-house marketing team to perform better. Training could also break down the barrier to creativity that a lack of skills can form.
Marketing technology is also highly desirable. Brands in 2020 have set their sights on artificial intelligence and augmented reality specialists and may push more for these. Content creators and design experts will attract the attention of brands looking to expand their in-house marketing teams, too.
In-house marketing has become much bigger than it used to be. Companies who in-house their marketing can enjoy greater efficiency, speed and control of their projects, all of which have become especially important to them in the age of COVID-19, which exacerbated many of the challenges teams were already facing. The challenge now is one of coordinating teams effectively.