Archive for February, 2011

Supercollider | 2011 Trends

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.

Macro trends

Marketing as value creation

“Brand Utility”. “Cause marketing”. “Purpose-driven brands”. “Brand experience”. “Marketing as a service”.
The overall macro trend in our industry is the continuing shift away from advertising as annoyance and pollution, and towards marketing as value.

We see this driving many of the other opportunity spaces below, providing marketing that is contextual and personalized. Creating original content, contributing to culture, involving fans in the brand and the product, better understanding and valuing the customer lifecycle, and standing for something and contributing something back to the world. All of these are focused on how to make marketing better, gaining competitive advantage for brands by making better, more useful and awesome things for their customers.

As our world becomes more transparent and filters become better and better, it’s crucial that marketers continue to find ways to evolve marketing from interruption to value, and we’re making significant progress every year.

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

CRM has long been shorthand for badly maintained email databases that get messaged every now and then. Outside industry leaders such as Tesco’s it’s often seen as important and necessary, but not that sexy — advertising’s ugly but well-connected cousin.

But the nature of CRM is fundamentally changing in the digital age, and all of a sudden it’s becoming exciting. If it helps, drop the acronym and just think about it as Customer Relationships.

What’s changed?

  • 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 appsDisney is producing densely populated and money-making virtual worldsMTV have moved beyond music broadcast into music creation with Rock BandMLB is making $500m+ a year from it’s web and mobile operations through MLB Advanced Media.

We all need to be looking at digital not just as a communications tool, or an advertising tool, or even a marketing tool. It’s becoming fundamentally intertwined with our products and services, and may show the way towards the future of what our companies can become.

Tactics and enablers

Owned and earned media

We’re already seeing a big shift in media towards looking at “Paid, Earned, Owned” media models. The emphasis on earned and owned media is only going to accelerate. More brands will treat their Facebook pages as Red Bull do, as a primary means of reaching their consumer.

Cultural integration

The two trends of ‘Standing for Something’ and ‘Marketing as Value Creation’ can combine to form many powerful combinations and expressions. Brands integrating into and supporting culture is one of the most potent. Branded entertainment, colabs, brand patronage and cultural activation and experiences are continuing to evolve and expand as brands find new ways to play a meaningful role in people’s lives.

To help provide true authentic grounding to their brand proposition and their “What we stand for” statement, many brands won’t be content to just sponsor. Like Red Bull they will look to roll their own, helping push sport forward with Red Bull Project X and supporting the arts with Red Bull Music Academy. Or like Intel they will serve as partners and patrons for deep and long-term initiatives like the Creators Project they created with VICE. It’s not enough to just badge something these days — brands need to have some skin in the game.

Service design

Service Design is a burgeoning discipline, defined in Wikipedia as “the activity of planning and organizing people, infrastructure, communication and material components of a service, in order to improve its quality, the interaction between service provider and customers and the customer’s experience.”

What a brand means and stands for consumers is ultimately formed in their minds from every impression they have of that brand. Every touchpoint counts. And service design can have a big role to play in making sure those touchpoints are all designed to work in harmony in service of the best possible customer experience.

As an example, it’s one thing to design a campaign for frequent flyers espousing the VIP experience you get and the benefits of your customer relationship. It’s another and much more meaningful thing to deliver a next generation check-in experience using RFID that also serves as a major fulfilment and expression of the brand promise. That’s how Qantas has used service design, to ensure it’s customer experience is paying off on their brand promise.

Real-time marketing, reactivity

It was interesting to see in JWT’s 100 Things in 2011 deck the idea of “Fashion Fast-Forward”. Their prediction is as fast-fashion retailers like Zara have shoppers expecting constant turnover, and “with consumers increasingly living Life in Real-Time”, that fashion’s seasonal-based model will begin to lose relevance and labels will introduce new looks on an accelerated timetable.

What is true in the retail and brick and mortar world is even more true in the world of ideas, memes, content and communication. As we talked about in The Real-Time Brand, the expectations, demands, and opportunities for brand communication is fundamentally shifting. Campaigns will always be important to make big statements and create saturation, but the leg work for brands is done day-in and day-out, through a never-ending stream of content, communication and experiences. We’re now in direct regular communication with our fans and customers, and that means a very different approach.

Location based services and marketing

Location is going to be on everyone’s lists and radar this year, and for good reason. The point is less which technology or platform wins. It’s more about focusing on what location enables.

Location enables us to be more relevant, more contextual with our messages and services. We can reward and acknowledge customers for physical experiences, to highlight them of information or deals around them, to know where they are and talk to them accordingly. It means marketing that is more valuable, more timely, more relevant.

StickyBits recently shifted from a general content model to one focused on deals, reflecting the pervasiveness of incentives. Knowing rewards and VIP access are the number one reason people friend brands, it seems like it makes sense that this will at least for the foreseeable future remain the main thing we use location to talk to consumers about. But as the Museum of London’s StreetMuseum app has shown, there are going to be services and content that trusted brands can create to provide value in other ways as well.

Proximity

“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

Whether it’s patients to doctors, fans to celebrities and athletes, or businesses to consumers, the internet is bringing us closer and bridging the gap between people. In the process, it is changing how we communicate and opening up new opportunities for connection, collaboration and conversation.

Advertisers like Old Spice and Comparethemarket.com and a legion of TV shows such as Eureka brought people closer to characters, while real celebs like Wayne Rooney played FIFA against his fans and others brought fans the unvarnished truth and used Twitter to break news first, and Imogen Heap has pioneered co-creation with her fans, bringing them closer than ever before into the artistic process.

Storytelling 2.0 / Transmedia

From Gatorade REPLAYRed Bull Project XCoke’s The Secret is Out TherePenguin We Tell StoriesThe Hidden Park, and True Blood, over the last few years we ‘re seeing lots of different ways of brands and content creators experimenting with storytelling. From fragmenting them across media to provide depth, to immersing users in the stories as active participants, to staging something that changes or influences culture. The opportunity for innovation in storytelling is huge.

Internet of things, connected products, physical/digital

Our products are now able to talk to each other, to other people, to the world. To update themselves, refresh, learn new things. Our things are now aware of their environment, what they are doing, can communicate and interact.
From a marketing perspective, it’s looking beyond Nike+ to LiveStrong’s Bike with a Brain, the WineM smart wine rack that uses RFID to cast information shadows, to understanding where in the city is hopping tonight, to RFID enabled Disney toys, which exist both in the digital and physical worlds, to stethoscopes connected to your iPhones and glucose meter games.
With the internet becoming ubiquitous, and everything becoming connected, the question of “what can all my connected products?” is going to be a huge one for product designers and marketers over the coming years.
Another important development in this space is the heavily rumoured inclusion of NFC technology in the iPhone 5, which would open it up to easy and seamless data transfer between any number of connected products and devices.

Personal informatics

We’ve always been fascinated with our own reflections. But these days we have a whole new way to look at ourselves. Through the unblinking eye of connected products which passively collect data on our biology and behaviour, and supplemented through personal data trackers, we’re able to aggregate a true view of ourselves through many discrete data points.
It’s now easy to track your runs with Nike+, your finance with Mint.com, your driving with Fiat EcoDrive, your energy consumption with Wattson, your weight with Withings, your sleep with FitBit, and even the health of your heart. Anything that you can’t track automatically you can input into the ever flexible Daytum.
It’s still an early adopter phenomenon, but both people and the broader media are increasingly becoming aware and interested in the concept of Personal Informatics, and with tracking technology fast becoming ubiquitous and consumer expectations being raised, expect more brands to jump on the bandwagon.

Branded API’s and services

One of my favourite presentations of the year was Tom Coates ‘Native to a Web of Data’. In it he does a great job of illustrating how the web is fundamentally shifting from a collection of siloed destinations to an aggregation of connected data sources and services. From Tesco’s to MTVLonely Planet to Best Buy and FlyBe, big brands are are realizing the benefits of opening up their data pipelines to the world.

Crowdsourcing and co-creation

For many brands, the big question with social spaces is “what do we do with all these people?”. Streams of exclusive content, deals, and other items to make them feel VIP is the expectation from the majority who’ve ‘liked’ a brand. But the possibility still exists for doing something interesting with that big mass of people.
Much of the press on crowdsourcing is focused on the most banal example of this in terms of companies like GE essentially participating in large scale spec work competitions. Which is a potentially valid and important example of harnessing collective creativity, but for me still missing the bigger point.
Crowdsourcing is a hugely powerful concept which speaks to the most fundamental promise of the web, the idea of this network providing an immediate and tangible connection between a brand and their consumers/fans, and the ability to harness this audience to help positively shape the brand. Dell Ideastorm and Starbucks My Idea are the obvious examples, but lots of brands and individuals are experimenting with this concept in different ways, from the amazing idea of crowdsourcing a Johnny Cash video by sourcing 250,000 individual painted frames through to Mountain Dew crowdsourcing an entire beverage, from the flavour through the name through to what media they use to promote it, and to Muji hosting a massive design competition that nets out with products in retail stores. The scale and ubiquity of Facebook fan pages make this even more powerful and accesible to brands. It’s an exciting concept that will just keep growing in potential.

Social activation

If crowdsourcing is about getting the crowd to contribute something, social activation is about getting the crowd to do something, with a digital experience often serving as the hub of a physical event or activity.
The Nike+ Human Race got the world running, NIke’s The Chance gave 75,000 kids the chance to go through Football trials, and Cadbury’s Spots vs Stripes campaign aims to get the whole world playing games for the Olympics.
Don’t get me wrong, activation is hard. But it can be hugely rewarding and powerful, and with social channels it’s never been easier to pull off.

Gaming

Gaming is exploding, with social gaming leading the way. Just in the last few months CityVille implausibly reached 100 million active gamers in just over a month of launchingCall of Duty: Black Ops staged the biggest entertainment launch ever, and Kinect smashed all sales expectations for sales as it took the body-as-controller revolution Wii Fit began to a whole other level.

Over the last few years we’ve seen some brand innovation in the space, from VW launching their new GTI solely via an iPhone game, to huge ARG’s from Microsoft and McDonald’s, great Facebook promotional games like Parking Wars, and Burger King developing their own lo-fi Xbox games. It’s not an easy space for brands to break in, but as gaming continues to elevate within culture as a dominant and pervasive form of expression and entertainment it will be imperative that brands figure out how to contribute in a meaningful way.

Social commerce

Social commerce is an exploding, multi-facted beast. You’ve got brands like Disney and Delta porting or syndicating their online commerce experiences to social spaces, allowing fans to discover and purchase without ever having to visit a destination site. Then you’ve Levi’s creating a Facebook like powered store called Friends Store within Levis.com. You’ve got Google-spurned Groupon aggregating the crowd for group buying discounts. And you’ve even got Diesel taking social media to the dressing room with Diesel Cam. Whether it’s allowing user’s to create their own stores or affiliate links, gaining recommendations on what your friends bought, asking for advice while shopping, or simply broadcasting your latest purchases, shopping is becoming more social.

Still want more?

Here’s a collection of other 2011 trends and prediction posts that are definitely worth a look:

It’s setting up to be a big and potentially transformational year in the marketing and digital spaces, and I’m looking forward to some amazing work being produced in 2011 off the back of these trends and opportunity spaces, as well as some we’ve not even imagined yet.

What trends and opportunity spaces are you most excited about? What ones have I missed that you think deserve to be on the list?