LinkedIn row breaks out over Binet and Field’s 60:40 rule

Alex Sword


The Financial Services Forum

Peter Field has accused a marketing professor of “tacky self-publicising” after the latter criticised the 60:40 formula.

Along with Les Binet, Field popularised the idea that 60% of marketing budget should be spent on brand and 40% on activation. The Long and Short Of It research looked at 30 years of winning entries to the IPA’s effectiveness awards to determine the best practices.

The concept is designed not as an iron rule, but as a guideline, with the specific amounts varying depending on the company and circumstances.

However, at the Mi3-LinkedIn B2B Next Summit last week, a professor and researcher derided the rule as “terrible” and based on incomplete data.

Byron Sharp, Director of the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute, argued the rule was “very misleading”. He said award submissions were a “very weird data set”, claiming that the rule had been coined primarily because people “wanted a number”.

Defenders of the 60:40 rule came out in force on LinkedIn, including the director of brand health tracking agency Tracksuit, James Hurman, In a lengthy LinkedIn post that received endorsement from Peter Field himself, he accepted that the data was incomplete, but argued that there was no fundamental difference between Sharp’s view and Binet and Field’s.

“60:40 may be less scientific than Sharp would like, but no one can argue with the fact that marketers tend to spend too much of their budgets on performance and too little on brand,” Hurman said. “And what 60:40 did was get marketers thinking back in the right direction.”

Hurman also argued that Sharp was effectively marketing his own brand, which he said was based around him being right and others being wrong.

Peter Field himself, concurring with Hurman’s post on LinkedIn, said he was ignoring Sharp’s comments as an example of “tacky self-publicising.”

It is not the first time that Field and Sharp have found themselves on differing sides of an argument, with both expressing opposing views on the importance of brand purpose back in October.

Sharp’s critique of the Binet and Field’s methodology aside, he did not criticise the ratio or advocate an alternative as such.

His perspective is informed by the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute’s own rule, that suggests only 5% of potential B2B buyers are looking for a new product at any given time. Formulated by John Dawes, this rule argues that marketers should focus their attention on the 95% of future customers while salespeople target the 5% of active buyers.

Given this, Sharp advocates a broad and always-on approach, in a riposte to the growing popularity of targeting in the industry. He argues against focusing on efficiency and says that brands should be trying to “reach everyone, cost effectively.”

Sharp also argues that spending should be spread out over time rather than concentrated in campaigns – brands should divide their annual budget into equal parts for each month to ensure year-long presence.

While using multiple media channels is desirable, Sharp emphasised the importance of reach.

Regardless of who is right or whether there is really any fundamental difference in the approaches, the comments have stimulated discussion in the industry, which can only be a positive thing.


Do you have thoughts, positive or negative, on the 60:40 formula? Send them in to [email protected].

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