Definition of Zero-Based Budgeting

Zero-based budgeting (ZBB) is a digital marketing approach that involves creating a new marketing budget from scratch for each new campaign or period instead of simply basing it on the previous budget. This method requires justifying each expense and allocating resources based on measurable goals and objectives. It helps in effective cost management, optimizing resource allocation, and eliminating inefficient spending in marketing strategies.


Zero-Based Budgeting: /ˈziroʊ ˈbeɪst ˈbʌdʒɪtɪŋ/

Key Takeaways

  1. Zero-Based Budgeting requires a thorough evaluation of every expense and a justification for each cost, starting from zero, ensuring only necessary expenses are included in the budget.
  2. It promotes efficiency and cost reduction, as it encourages organizations to eliminate wasteful spending and align resources with their strategic goals more effectively.
  3. Zero-Based Budgeting can be time-consuming and resource-intensive, but it leads to improved financial control and a clearer understanding of the true costs associated with each department and activity.

Importance of Zero-Based Budgeting

Zero-Based Budgeting (ZBB) is a crucial concept in digital marketing due to its role in optimizing the allocation of resources, driving efficiency, and boosting overall business performance.

ZBB requires organizations to justify and prioritize every expense, starting from a zero-base, ensuring that each cost is aligned with the company’s strategic goals and delivers maximum return on investment.

This approach allows marketers to eliminate wasteful spending, invest in high-performance campaigns, and adapt to the ever-changing digital landscape, all while providing transparency and accountability.

Consequently, Zero-Based Budgeting contributes to a more agile and results-driven digital marketing strategy that enables businesses to stay competitive and grow.


Zero-based budgeting (ZBB) serves as a strategic approach to budget allocation, enabling businesses, including those within the dynamic sphere of digital marketing, to optimize their marketing spend by justifying each expense from scratch. As a methodical process, ZBB ensures that every marketing dollar is being invested efficiently and effectively towards crucial objectives.

By scrupulously examining each expenditure, digital marketers are empowered to make data-driven decisions, reduce waste, prioritize high impact initiatives, and ultimately, amplify the return on investment (ROI). In the rapidly evolving landscape of digital marketing, ZBB enables companies to stay agile, remaining responsive to the changing market conditions and swiftly adopt new or emerging channels, while cautiously keeping a pulse on historical performance to inform future decisions. Notably, ZBB helps digital marketers identify areas of inefficiencies in their marketing strategies and reallocate resources to maximize the ROI.

By continuously evaluating and reallocating funds for each marketing campaign, there is a strong potential for increased profitability in a data-driven, targeted marketing strategy. Built on a strong foundation of transparency and accountability, ZBB compels digital marketers to scrutinize and defend expenditures based on measurable outcomes and proven value.

In a sense, utilizing zero-based budgeting in digital marketing provides an opportunity to reevaluate all the marketing channels that exist to determine the effectiveness of each investment – ultimately, ensuring the honing of the organization’s marketing efforts and the alignment of the overall budget with strategic goals.

Examples of Zero-Based Budgeting

Unilever: In 2016, Unilever, a global consumer goods company, implemented zero-based budgeting (ZBB) across their entire organization to increase efficiency and profitability. The company was facing increasing pressure from investors to cut costs, and ZBB provided them with a structured approach to analyze their budget, eliminate wasteful spending, and optimize their marketing efforts. As a result, Unilever reported savings of about €1 billion between 2016 and 2018 and improved operating margins.

Procter & Gamble (P&G): P&G, a multinational consumer goods corporation, started implementing zero-based budgeting in

Their aim was to reduce marketing expenses by cutting unnecessary costs while still driving growth objectives. By applying ZBB to their media and advertising budgets, P&G managed to save $200 million in marketing expenses in 2017 alone. The company also reported an overall saving of $10 billion over a five-year period (2012-2017), with ZBB playing a crucial role in achieving these results.

Kraft Heinz: Kraft Heinz, a global food and beverage company, has also been an advocate of zero-based budgeting. After the merger of Kraft Foods Group and H.J. Heinz Company in 2015, the newly formed organization applied ZBB principles to scrutinize their marketing budgets, aiming to reduce redundancies and redirect funds towards higher-impact programs. Their approach included setting specific growth targets for each brand, identifying cost-cutting opportunities, and reallocating resources towards the most valuable marketing initiatives. As a result, Kraft Heinz reported a 22% increase in their operating income margin within the first year, and continued growth and increased efficiency in subsequent years.

Frequently Asked Questions about Zero-Based Budgeting

What is zero-based budgeting?

Zero-based budgeting (ZBB) is a financial planning technique that requires each department or program to start its budget from scratch each period. It involves justifying all expenses, regardless of previous budgets, encouraging a more cost-efficient expenditure plan.

What are the key benefits of zero-based budgeting?

The main benefits of zero-based budgeting include cost reduction by eliminating unnecessary expenses, improving overall financial management, increasing business transparency, promoting goal-oriented spending, and encouraging company-wide collaboration to achieve strategic objectives.

What are the disadvantages of zero-based budgeting?

Some potential disadvantages of zero-based budgeting include the time-consuming nature of the process, the potential for bias in decision making, the risk of underfunding essential functions, lack of predictability in budget allocations, and possible discouragement of long-term investments.

How does zero-based budgeting differ from traditional budgeting methods?

Unlike traditional budgeting, which adjusts the previous period’s budget to account for inflation or revenue forecasts, zero-based budgeting requires departments to justify all expenses, starting from a zero base. This process helps identify and eliminate unnecessary expenditures and promotes more efficient resource allocation.

Is zero-based budgeting suitable for every organization?

Zero-based budgeting may not be suitable for all organizations, as the process can be time-consuming, resources-intensive, and may not align with the company’s strategic objectives. Organizations should assess their needs, capacity, and long-term goals to determine if ZBB is an appropriate budgeting method for their business.

Related Digital Marketing Terms

  • Cost Allocation
  • Return on Investment (ROI)
  • Marketing Performance Metrics
  • Activity-Based Budgeting
  • Incremental Cost Analysis

Sources for More Information

  • Harvard Business Review –
  • McKinsey & Company –
  • Gartner –
  • Adweek –
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