Wednesday, January 06, 2010

2010: It was a new day yesterday

Now that 2010 is here, and everyone has their 2010 predictions out of the way, here's another 10 cents' worth of road ahead. Unlike predictions, which derive from gambler's instincts, forecasts are supposed to be based on probabilities. Probabilities are more formal versions of 'probably's', which in turn are closely related to the gambler's instinct.

Generally in scenario development, I try to assess the impacts of the probably's in four very human dimensions: technology, society, culture and government. And while big time, ongoing trends like privacy, dumb networks, cheap processors, and the singularity are covered ad nauseum elsewhere, here's a list of a few practical probablys from these dimensions.

Listed in no particular order then, with no particular certainty, I present a few of the probably's that, finally or surprisingly, will impact marketers for the next 359 sunrises...all in the form of questions I hope you will feel free to answer for yourself.

For a look at 2009 themes (and an assessment of their come-to-passedness), see here.

Location, location, location!
It still matters in real estate. Will it matter even more to marketers precisely because it matters less to customers and prospects, though? With the explosion in smart phone deployments, GPS-enabled and everything, people will expect--and have access to--rich information on product, pricing, promotion, and customer experiences wherever they are...including right your store. Combined with realtime search, that low price guarantee may mean competitors can outbid you one customer at a time. Customer service and sales staff will need to be empowered as many customers may know more about what's right or wrong with a product right now than the company does.

Have you or have you not?
And what is it that you have, exactly? Two decades of conspicuous consumption are ingrained in many levels of US society. In 2010, will debt destruction, unemployment and a general trend to be more austere impact the perception of brands that appeal to 'staying ahead of the joneses'...especially if the joneses are recipients of taxpayer money? Will anyone have sympathy for the homeless housewives of Orange County? How closely will marketers tie their brand's personality to flawed (but wealthy!) celebs in the hope consumers will want to 'be like Mike...or Tiger...or Charlie...or Khloe Kardashian?'

Social media as plumbing?
Will the features + functions that tools like The Twitter and The YouTubes enable disappear into the background as utilities? Will feeds + streams continue to migrate behind the scenes of aggregator interfaces like Facebook, MySpace, and LinkedIn? "Follow us on Twitter' might be replaced with will end up in a Google search right below a customer discussion of your company. The plethora of icons attached to every item of content to digg this or favorite that will be flushed out...or built in. Plumbing isn't sexy...unless you are a plumber.

Timeliness is next to godliness
As Google (and Bing) incorporate realtime data into search results (and give added prominence to timely content), will SEO consultants and corporate communications departments be forced to engage the feed? Whither goes the investment in the staid, static corporate brochure website? Does analysis of the news have more value than timely delivery of headlines? And if it does, is it news? And if it doesn't will anyone pay to wait for it?

Deep diving in a sea of ambient intimacy
With nearly 17 million people not working in the US, there is a lot of time on alot of people's hands. For many, this time will present an opportunity to play Mafia Wars or Farmville. For others, it may present an opportunity to redefine the meaning of what constitutes a relationship. Marketers and PR professionals may need to define influence in more nuanced ways. How meaningful and influential is a relationship with 20,000 people you've never met? How much revenue potential is there in a single person without an income that exceeds their debt?

Mac vs. PC
Who cares? We're all Googlers now. This year, it's Google versus everyone...Apple, Microsoft, AT+T, NewsCorp, the FTC. Curiously, it's also Google with everyone...especially the user base.

Making an impression
Will impression-based marketing continue its deflationary spiral? Experiments in paywalls and increased licensing fees will continue to demonstrate that the value of an action is worth more than the promise of one. Marketers may decide once and for all that the pricing of a CPM is commensurate only with the value of awareness. Content providers may find that their content is a priceless commodity...with revenues to match.

Welcome to the Jungle
Will tribalism continue its rise? We all certainly belong to multiple tribes that defy simplistic black and white, red-blue comparisons. "If you aren't with me, you're against me" might be replaced by "hey, I know you" as a basis for trust.  Long tails aren't just for animal interests. In 2010, they may become THE market segments of first resort.

FAB: What's in it for me?
In a noisy sea of brand sameness surrounding green, smart, innovative, inspired, aspirational notions of consumption, will real features and benefits become the only differentiators anyone pays attention to?

What do you think?
Will "what do you think?" replace "Let me tell you something". Can an entire industry of communications, advertising, marketing and PR professionals built around telling evolve to a viable business built on listening in 2010? Should it?

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