The new year always inspires a wave of industry forecasts that offer varying degrees of inspiration and pithy buzz phrases. Certainly the parade of fairly new gadgets like 3-D TVs, tablet PCs and home videoconferencing systems provide the basis for much trend fodder.
But if we look beyond the new product intros, there are some new realities that could make 2011 a truly pivotal year for the marketing industry:
1. The mass acculturation of digital technology has fundamentally changed our way of life. How we communicate, share information, shop, learn, experience entertainment and even find love has undeniably evolved. These sweeping changes in behavior offer brands more involving ways to create value exchanges with consumers. Moreover, we have more ability to transcend demographics to engage audiences based on behavior and mind-sets.
2. Social media is turning individuals into the most influential media channel. Social media is impacting many aspects of our industry and is fundamentally reshaping the traditional product purchasing funnel. Through social technologies, we are amassing an enormous database of brand reviews that heavily influence product purchasing decisions. Consumers now have instant access to communities to gather information in their evaluation of brands. And we are likely to see the rapid growth of social commerce in 2011, providing Facebook and other social network users with access to special discounts and pricing offers.
3. Real time planning will overtake the slower conventions of “ad time.” Annual marketing planning is giving way to the constant creation and implementation of ideas. This will have a dramatic impact on client and agency relationships as well as the interaction with media companies to implement ideas. Real-time planning means video of all lengths and production values will be developed and deployed with increasingly more speed. Additionally, real-time insights and analytics will constantly inform all aspects of communications planning, not just online media.
4. “Anywhere access” becomes a critical mass reality as smart phone penetration reaches 50 percent. The multitasking tools of smart phones coupled with nearly ubiquitous wireless access for laptops and tablets will make the often quoted “anytime, anywhere” approach to marketing a reality. This gives brands significantly more opportunities to engage shoppers with relevant offers when and where they’re making buying decisions.
5. Advanced analytics will rise to the forefront in 2011. The explosion of search and social data is ushering in a new breed of analytics. This has raised the visibility of a discipline that has been underrepresented in the advertising world. The entire industry will ramp up in this area, not only to validate marketing mix ROI but to discover new and more predictive research insights for product development and context planning.
So many platforms reaching critical mass will trigger a number of industry-wide debates and challenges for the industry:
1. The bundled vs. unbundled conversation will go beyond media. While the media structure debate is likely to continue, there are many capability areas—including digital, search, social and mobile—that are often unbundled and managed by specialty companies. Marketers will come to terms with the benefits of integration as advertising agencies expand their offerings in these areas. Likewise, marketers will increasingly evaluate what digital management resources need to be managed in-house, such as social community management.
2. Privacy vs. publicity will be a unifying industry challenge. The explosion of “online tracking technologies” forces serious discussions around behavioral targeting and the acceptance of this practice from both the government and the general public. Marketing transparency will be essential to maintain consumer trust.
3. Digital and analytic talent will be at a premium. If there was one unifying challenge and need for our industry, it is in collectively attracting and training the right talent to capitalize on the new realities that lie ahead. Since this will not happen overnight, aggressive cross-training will likely be a major initiative for a number of companies in 2011.
Rich Gagnon is chief media officer at Draftfcb in New York. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.