Branding and all related marketing ideas are evolving almost daily as we all strive to keep up with the balance between technology, consumer expectation and the search for differentiation from the competition. 2013 promises to be a year where these challenges become opportunities, here are my predictions on where brands should be focusing.
1. The (re)–rise of journalism
Social media is great, it has literally empowered millions of voices the world over. We are now all able to comment share and provide opinion on anything we choose to engage in. Social-journalism is not journalism and the credibility of the information shared is dubious at best and yet is an increasingly acceptable form of information gathering. People don’t just want fast information upon which to develop opinion, they want accurate information. My prediction is that as we race for this credibility of good content that is informative and well written, the journalist will return and along with it a healthy acceptance that information is not free – at least not the credible sort. This will lead to an increase in the use of the concept of pay-per-view – and not just in entertainment. This will also alleviate the ever struggling digital media business model where revenue generation is all but exclusively driven through advertising.
People don’t resonate with what you do, they resonate with why you do it. Points of differentiation in branding are increasingly less about product and more about the attachment one shares with a brands reason for being and the fit of that ethos in a consumer psyche. Brands who share stories of a shared passion with consumers will rise above the competition and achieve a higher level of brand commitment from their market. Tell great stories and create brand heros.
3. Social company, social brand
Companies have engaged socially and with their constituencies for years, but I predict that the companies who align their brand, business and CSI strategies to not just speak about their principles and virtues, but rather to encourage and entice consumers to participate will see reward. Further, brands that invested in the upliftment of the consumers and invest in the betterment of their lives and not just in their use of your product, will enjoy an unrivalled brand loyalty.
4. Green credentials
Going green is no USP. At least not any more. With an increasingly savvy consumer (especially the youth), it will fast become a given that to even compete in the consumer landscape, your sustainability and green credentials must be well defined, well documented, publically available and above all – impactful. Plus, going green makes good business sense. With increased efficiencies and reduced costs, going green will be the best move your company and brand ever makes.
5. Peer-to-peer marketing
Peer to Peer marketing will rise: Sure, in the old days it was the power of referral, but it is somewhat different now. With the aforementioned ability for everyone to have a voice (and a big one at that), peers who advocate brands in social media, are infinitely more trusted than any brand message. The trick? Don’t buy it. Earn it. With great products, great service and strong customer retention strategies, the media earned in this manner will outstrip anything you can buy. In essence, the emergence of public governance will ascertain the advocacy your brand enjoys. I like this prediction – it means we as marketers have never been more accountable to the people that matter most before – our consumers… this is where good company management and engaged staff become integral in brand success.
Apps need practical purpose for consumers. I believe in a “Help me be better at being me” approach to app development. Useless, apps purely there for entertainment, will almost certainly have a shelf life. Apps, however, that help us in everyday life – like tracking my fuel and mileage (an idea for a petro company), my diet, my training etc. These are the things that will make you stay within everyday reach of your consumers. Don’t create apps that sell stuff, create apps that help with stuff. Another idea I’m really enjoying is the role of augmented reality in Apps. The real estate industry is already adopting this as a search technology by integrating the phones camera with GPS based information on specific properties. This technology will surely begin to be seen in other industries like retail where a stores specials could be known before we enter it, just by holding our phones up to their front door…
7. Customised consumer experience
Customised Consumer Experiences: for ages we as marketers worked towards broadcast messaging where we had one message and sent it to as many as possible – it was all about reach. Slowly we have moved to the current branding landscape where we are sending messages to smaller, tightly knit communities of consumers. But I believe it is going from one to many, to the current one to some, but ultimately it will be one to one We will also truly measure engagement, not only reach. Brands will use the disciplines of CRM and the like not only to control the delivery of message, but rather the uniqueness of each response and then use this info to create and manage a wholly unique experience for each customer – based on their needs, station in life and history with your brand or indeed that of a competitor.
8. Content is king. More than ever.
The content of the message is becoming increasingly more important than the mechanism or technology that delivers it. For too long brands have invested in technology, the delivery mechanism of the message, but I believe 2013 will be the year that this reverses and content – the message – returns as the point of innovation. After all – all technology is, is a modern day envelope for the real meat and potatoes – the message it carries.
Tobacco legislation in the 2000’s resulted in a major shift in terms of what consumers grew to expect and want from direct communication form brands. The experiential executions that ensued set a bench mark still spoken of today. With the liquor industry in South Africa heading very quickly down a similar path, it is safe to say that there will again be another industry, along with their big budgets, headed below the line and into the world of direct marketing and experiential. This will almost certainly lift the game of experiential marketing as brands fight over share of time and not just wallet. A new benchmark of infotainment, experiential and direct marketing is en route and all brands will need to react to maintain standards of consumer engagement. When legislation hit tobacco, they had very few tools when compared with modern social media, instant messaging, technology and speed of communication. Yet still they became the de facto standard for a generation of consumers in terms of what was good consumer engagement and experiential marketing. Love or hate tobacco, the impact their marketing had was undeniable and the liquor industry too will further impact all brands in terms of consumer engagement innovation.
The problem I see with the current agency and media landscape is that we are still strategising, thinking and implementing in silos. We have dedicated digital agencies, dedicated social media agencies and so on. This can’t be sustainable as the convergence of technology is ultimately going to mean the convergence of content. Mobile has already become synonymous with social media for example (especially in emerging marketing like South Africa, India…). I believe 2013 will see the start of the convergence of not just technology but also communication disciplines. Think of it as one big Assimilated Channel or Mega Channel.
Mobiles look set to become the “remote controls” to our lives. We already access our banking, social media, business, emails, blogs and more via our phones, it is a matter of time before we start to set our PVR’s, turn our house lights on, start the laundry etc with similar technology. This idea is exciting for brands, especially in retail, as mobile and social media begin to converge with in-store and experiential marketing (Transacting or paying is already changing with Near Field Communication or NFC). This consumer information then feeds databases where these CRM or customer databases will no longer be merely depositories for consumer data, but will become in-house campaign search engines where individually targeted campaigns become possible and manageable.
11. Brands as media owners
As brands begin to engage and curate individual relationships with consumers, so too will come the need to manage the platforms of communication they rely on. To this end, I believe more and more brands will move away from outsourcing digital curatorship of social media accounts especially and will invest in the creating of their own media platforms and training of their marketing teams to manage it all. They will however seek out mentorships on how best to structure the social media ecosystems, as well as the creation and timing of communication, but they will deliver it themselves across various platforms. My reasoning is that consumers seek immediacy in response when they choose to engage with a brand via a social platform and if the person who responds is either too slow or doesn’t sufficiently understand the business or how to solve the query instead of just acknowledging it, the impact is potentially disastrous. After all, you can outsource strategy – but you cannot outsource a relationship.