I’ve never done one of the semi-mandatory annual trends prediction posts that greet every new year, and had no plans to start now. Which is probably a good thing, considering it’s now February already. But I thought it might still be useful to highlight the conceptual areas that I think hold the most promise for continuing exploration, innovation and creativity in 2011. I thought it would help me frame up the year, and if nothing else serve as a useful snapshot in time about what I’m excited about. And there is a lot to be excited about.
Marketing as value creation
Holistic product marketing and brand experience
In the past, the cycle for many products was R&D > Product Development > Advertising > Consumption. This is changing in important ways:
- There’s now a two-way link from consumers back to marketing, R&D and product development.
- Greater transparency in product and service quality through social reviews and buzz is increasing the importance of product and service quality and differentiation, and authentic brand positioning and building.
- We’re all focusing less on “advertising” and more on finding relevant ways to express product value.
- The big communications idea for a product or service, and what a brand stands for, needs to be baked in up front into the product or service creation, and every touchpoint of the brand needs to reflect this.
- The line between “feature” and “marketing” is blurring in the digital world. Is ecoDrive a feature or a marketing campaign? Both.
- Even customer service can function as a powerful marketing tool — see Zappos, as well as the multitude of brands experimenting with Twitter-powered support.
Marketers are recognising that in order to win, they need to look at the whole customer experience in totality. Agencies’ roles then need to shift with that, to be able to come up with a shared vision for that that whole journey, and to be able to join up the dots.
CRM 2.0 / The evolution of loyalty and service
- Via social spaces such as Facebook and Twitter, brands now have active communities and the ability to easily reach and interact with them.
- Facebook has profiling data the average CRM manager could only have dreamed about.
- Customers are generating more and more data points about their behaviours with companies and products via connected products and digital services.
- With mobile apps and mobile websites, brands can be with their customers wherever they go, and even know where they are.
What does this allow?
- Zero or low-cost interaction with millions of active consumers and brand fans.
- The permission and means for low-touch, frequent contact.
- Real-time responsiveness. No more “write an email, design it, build it, QA it”. Now it’s “type something into the status bar, press send”.
- Contextual, location-based, and personalized messaging. The more you know about your customers, the better you can tailor your communications to them.
What are the implications?
- More long-term programmes. If you have long-term relationships, you can build things to get people involved over the long-term, encouraging deeper engagement. You also need these programmes to serve as the engine of your social channel content streams.
- Better customer insights. We’re not there yet, but we should be able to start connecting more of the dots in behaviour and chatter to understand our consumers, what they like, what they are doing, and what’s on the horizon.
- Greater focus on customer participation. It’s a missed opportunity if you gather all these people together and then just hit them with broadcast messaging. The question is what do you actually do with all these people.
- A return to high-touch customer service. This is going to be a big issue the next few years. Companies have spent years optimizing their customer service to be as efficient and automated as possible, massively reducing costs in the process. Now customers are expecting that they be able to get responses to their issues via the same social channels they already have “relationships” with brands. And some brands like Delta are starting to oblige. Is this scalable, and sustainable? Do brands have a choice?
Standing for something
In 2010 brands like Pepsi and Levi’s made big splashes with campaigns centred around brand statements that both reflected a constructive view of the world, but also supported and actively participated in furthering that point of view.
For Pepsi, the Refresh Everything campaign was about optimism and riding the wave of positive change surrounding Obama’s election. They activated the campaign with the Refresh Project, which took the $20m they would’ve spent on the superbowl and distributed it through a CSR initiative that drove micro-grants into community initiatives, with both the idea submission and selection being crowdsourced.
Levi’s “Ready to Work” both featured the challenges of the small town of Braddock, Pennsylvania, and supported the town’s young mayor in helping him overcome them and reach his goals of repopulating and redeveloping the town.
Where a few brands like Patagonia have always had a meaningful brand idea at their core, many other have sufficed with running adjunct CSR projects to greenwash their images. But for many reasons including the financial meltdown, increasing concern about global issues, and the increasing awareness and transparency around corporate practices, and consumer’s changing relationship with brands and marketing, we’ll be seeing more successful brands not only stake out a meaningful brand position, but actively bring that position to life and help make it real.
Evolving business models for the digital age
Newspapers. Record labels. Travel agents. Yellow pages. Video rentals. Film processors. Bookstores. Encyclopedias.
The common thread in the above businesses is that they have seen their traditional business models become obsolete or fundamentally change before their eyes as a result of new models based on digital technology.
Many other industries and business models will be facing this opportunity and challenge in the coming years. Even for those industries who are not under immediate threat, digital technologies and the connections and features they enable can give businesses a competitive advantage and can open up new product and service lines.
Kraft is selling iPhone apps. Disney is producing densely populated and money-making virtual worlds. MTV have moved beyond music broadcast into music creation with Rock Band. MLB is making $500m+ a year from it’s web and mobile operations through MLB Advanced Media.
Tactics and enablers
Owned and earned media
Real-time marketing, reactivity
Location based services and marketing
“I told the media you can’t make up lies about me because I have a media outlet myself. Oh and sidebar I don’t know if everyone has realized this yet but I don’t do interviews if there’s anything I wanna say I’ll say right here on my own blog.” kanYe West : Blog
Storytelling 2.0 / Transmedia
Internet of things, connected products, physical/digital
Branded API’s and services
Crowdsourcing and co-creation
Still want more?
Here’s a collection of other 2011 trends and prediction posts that are definitely worth a look:
- Influx Insights - 50 Predictions for 2011
- Edelman - Eleven Digital Trends to Watch in 2011
- Contagious - 11 Digital Predictions for 2011
- eConsultancy - 17 digital marketing trends for 2011
- RWW - 2011 Staff Predictions
- RWW - 10 Ways Social Media Will Change in 2011
- JWT 100 Trends for 2011
- Gartner Top 10 Strategic Technologies for 2011
What trends and opportunity spaces are you most excited about? What ones have I missed that you think deserve to be on the list?