Thursday, December 31, 2009

Grading 2009 Marketing Forecasts

It's that time of the year...when the wonders of the world wide web and its infinite storage give us the chance to review what we it was typed. Mostly for fun.

Back in January, I posted themes for marketing in 2009 [here]. Let's take a quick look, shall we?  Grading is, well, subjective. Your scores and comments--using whatever rubric you prefer--are welcome.

Theme 1: Wearing other people's shoes

The era of the simulacra in marketing--whereby we substitute a representation of what is real for what is real--will further resolve itself in 2009. Defining a customer's values by using a marketer's representation of those values will be discredited by...the customer. Unauthentic marketer monologues that rely on self-referencing notions or that characterize people as collectivist definitions based on gender, race, age, income, or as...consumers...will be cast aside. In their place, favor will rest with real conversations among real people that enable the real people in marketing to catch a glimpse of the real world as it exists where someone else stands.

Grade: B+
Certainly all manner of social media has enabled people to talk with or at one another. I'm not sure if Coke Zero's conversation with 2000 followers on Twitter [here] is a good example of authentic dialogue, but many marketers now seem to be seeking the real thing on social sites like Twitter + Facebook and on open forums like blogs. Even conservative industries like agriculture are taking the plunge to actually, you know, engage customers, critics and competitors...see Monsanto here and here. The conversation isn't always pretty. Unfortunately for some industries (notably ad and news), the point of recognition seems to have not yet arrived en masse.

Theme 2: Increasing the discomfort index

The tools and techniques that have gotten marketers where they are will be unable to sustain them going forward. In a year when many long held beliefs--from capitalism to consumption--are being questioned, people in marketing will need to question whatever makes them feel comfortable. If it's easy, if it's table stakes, it probably needs to be questioned.

Grade: B
With continued weakness in advertising spending, online even feeling the pinch, discomfort is high. In addition, the challenging economics of The Great Recession make Price and Promotion the predominant P's for many marketer's [here]. Clients are asking for more causation in marketing ROI discussions and this continues to challenge investment in the tools that are broad based and hard to measure in realtime. Volume and value in advertising would seem to have a new inverse relationship [here].

Theme 3: Testing the real world

Along the lines of themes 1 and 2, the idea of market-testing ideas will continue to evolve toward a ready, fire, reload approach. With one-size-fits-all focus group and field studies too slow, too expensive and too generalized, creative and product testing will take place in realtime using clickstream data to inform evolution and variation in low cost, perpetual prototypes...much as direct mailers have practiced in paper space for some time.

Grade: C
Examples of crowdsourcing like Netflix' prize demonstrate the concept of the collaboratory in high profile. But on a more granular level, the deployment rates of social media is a broader indication that marketers are testing their ideas in the real world [here] [here]. Whether they are finding that their ideas reasonate is a different question, but the trend would seem clear: everyone continues to know that they must pursue innovative ways of competing against ignorance, apathy and genuinely good competitors. Unfortunately, too many marketers still rely on the 'please let us know what you think by taking our survey' solicitation on receipts, web pages or followup phone calls.

Theme 4: Detailed online impressions

After years of ignoring the online space, many people in marketing have rushed in to fully embrace it...using the traditional models of impressions-based media, intrusion, and branding that they comfortably carried with them from meatspace. In 2009, impressions-based pricing online will continue its deflationary trend and be replaced by pricing models that pay only for performance. Intrusion-based ad units such as rich media and popovers will be ignored routinely. People in marketing roles will focus on the nuances of online brand experiences as defined by a long-tailed view of customer preferences and interactions with a brand. Usable, useful, and desirable will be the criteria against which meaningful brand experiences will be designed and delivered online--and off.

Grade: A
Annoyance with intrusive ad units online remains high. And though some predict huge gains in new video-based advertising online, the only continuous uptrend in online spending even during down times, is with search [here]. Performance measurement is still a way off for traditional TV models, but even Google is getting into the game using DVR data [here]. Customers are in control and if there isn't a clear reason to engage, people won' matter how intrusive you try to be. If impressions are paid for without follow through to engagement, then the price can only continue to deflate as value continues to align with what is directly measurable.

Theme 5: Time as a risk to manage

Time is the one commodity everyone has in equal portions each day. People in marketing will increasingly confront the reality that wasting a customer's time is a brand risk that must be actively managed. Engagement will be defined more precisely in terms of positive and negative engagements where efficient use of and respect for a person's time becomes the expectation. Whether it's call center catacombs, unusable information, spam like solicitations, or irrelevant pitches, marketers will find that a risk premium comes standard with every touchpoint.

Grade: A-
While time is a risk to manage for marketers, it would seem they are losing the battle in capturing it. With Facebook now occupying more time than any other online activity, and games like Farmville, Mafia Wars and Sorority Life becoming major time sinks online, one wonders where marketers will find room to compete. That's why salaries are earned I guess. 

Regardless, marketers are confronted with the idea that even their products are, in fact, services [here]. And where there is service, there is a time risk to manage. The good news is that customer service options are now being deployed in online, call center, and in person channels that are more integrated and efficient for all involved. Usability and human factors are more broadly recognized as critical components of service design.

The bad news is that many marketers still seem to think that their customer's time isn't their concern. Whether it's once a day email promotions blasted to thousands of inboxes or 12-step phone menus just to talk to someone, their remains a great deal of customer time to stop wasting.

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