Wednesday, December 16, 2009

2010: The Year Marketing Dies...

poor ned better off deadImage by yewenyi via Flickr
...(Subtitled) Or at Least Marketing as We Know It!

[Please note this blog article was posted simultaneously with my new Forrester blog at

It is that time of year when every blogger, reporter and analyst is publishing their 2010 Social Media and marketing predictions.  (It's a rather odd phenomenon--aren't we interested in what's happening in the next twelve months other than in December?)  Forrester's own Social Media prediction report will soon be released, but I'd like to make my own big prediction:  2010 will be the year marketing--as we know it--dies.  Let's explore the trends and what they mean to marketers.

Marketing's been under attack for some time, but in 2009 we witnessed the most profound evolution the marketing world has seen in fifty years or more.  The pace of change is not going to lessen in 2010.  Core elements that have driven marketing practices for decades--such as messaging strategy, mass media, PR, advertising, and others--will continue to change rapidly.

The latest news from the print world is unsurprising:  Average weekday circulation at 379 U.S. newspapers fell 10.6% during the six months ending in September--the steepest decline ever recorded by the Audit Bureau of Circulations.  And although a recent study found that consumer spending on subscription media increased 7% in the past year, that didn't mean subscriptions in the traditional sense--the number of households subscribing to magazines dropped two percentage points while subscriptions for home video and smartphone services were both up.

On the television front, households with DVRs tripled in just three years, more consumers are avoiding ads, and a majority feels there is "too much advertising."  One cannot help but feel sorry for networks and media companies worried about matching ad revenue to expenses, but their response is a bit hard to swallow. TiVo is showing ads to viewers as they are trying to skip other ads, and TNS Media Intelligence tells us that "marketing content represents 43 percent of a prime-time hour"--11:46 minutes per hour of in-show Brand Appearances (a 31% increase from a year ago) and 14:07 of network commercial messages.

Certainly, someone has to pay for Fringe, Glee, and The Office to be produced, but chasing down consumers and bludgeoning them with more advertising messages hardly feels like an effective strategy. (By the way, I selected those three shows for a reason: according to the latest Entertainment Weekly, almost one in five people viewing those programs is time shifting, and you can guess what that means for advertisers.)

The story on the Internet isn't much better.  Hulu is striving mightily to avoid being forced to go the way of TV and load their content with more ads.  Social Media sites like Facebook are so loaded with ads that a consumer spending ten minutes on the site might be exposed to as many as 90 easy-to-ignore ads.  To improve low attention and meager clickthrough rates, advertisers hope to enhance their targeting of consumers based on their online behavior, but the long-threatened intervention of the government may be at hand.  This year could finally be the year that the Feds change the way online advertising works; said  FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz recently, "We're at another watershed moment in privacy, and the time is right for the commission ... to take a broader look at privacy."

Marketers have, of course, taken note of the power of Social Media, but they continue to struggle with what to do and how to measure it.  In a recent study, 64% of CMOs said they plan to increase their social media budgets next year, but "at least half of respondents expressed uncertainty about ROI."  It strikes me as quite concerning that the top metrics being utilized--mentioned by more than 80% of the CMOs--aren't deep measures of influence or attitude but shallow measures of presence, such as number of fans and page views.

Meanwhile, it's possible (although not likely) that the Social Media landscape could change yet again if Facebook stumbles in 2010. (Don't think it could happen?  Remember that 13 months ago MySpace was drawing more visitors than Facebook;  today Facebook draws 150% more than MySpace.)  Facebook is facing potentially serious challenges.  Some are predicting that young people could soon stream off the site to avoid status updates from mom and dad; by one report, just 50% of the 15-24 crowd is checking Facebook regularly, compared to 55% last year.  More people are complaining (and suing) about being caught in scams from third-party developers on Facebook.  And faced with the growing privacy concerns of its users, how did Facebook react?  By implementing changes that many feel make it not just more difficult to protect their privacy, but actually remove privacy protections from some sorts of data.

Facebook seems unlikely to go the way of Friendster (if for no other reason than a serious competitor has yet to emerge), but even if Facebook finds itself being MySpaced in 2010, Social Media is here to stay.  The influence of the masses will only continue to grow as Social Media tools improve and more and older consumers climb the Social Technographics Ladder, moving from Inactives, Spectators, and Joiners to Collectors, Critics, and Creators.

Social Media has just begun to change the way marketing and business operates. The coming year will see advertising put under the microscope by a connected, savvy, and critical consumer (just ask Motrin and Unilever).  Consumers will use Social Media to exert more influence over marketing and business decisions (see Tropicana and EA).  The best practices for brands in Social Media will continue to evolve (and woe be to brands caught violating consumer trust, as demonstrated by recent missteps by individuals at Honda and Belkin).  And some multi-million-dollar marketing budgets will be challenged and undermined by simple consumer-generated videos (see the Domino's employee video--or better yet, don't!)

As we enter 2010, consumers have new partners that will help to expand the reach of Social Media dialog even further--the big three search sites.  Bing, Yahoo and Google recently made changes to the way their search engines index the real-time web, and status updates and tweets are rapidly finding their way into top search results.  This means that consumers searching for brands and campaigns are increasingly likely to see results that include blogged and tweeted criticisms as they are links to official brand sites.

The search engine changes mean that 2010 will be the year when brands can run but they cannot hide.  Gone are the days when marketers could carefully craft messaging and then broadcast that message in a few channels to huge portions of their audiences.  Oh, you can still spend money that way if you want to but in our transparent world, no marketing budget can possibly overcome the actual experience consumers have (and share with friends, followers and Google) with the product, service, or organization.  It no longer matters what you say;  in 2010, your brand will be more defined by what you do and who you are!

Of course, if marketing burns to the ground in 2010, a new and more powerful marketing will rise from the ashes.  The role of the new marketer:
  • Won't be simply to focus on outbound messaging but to consult with sales, customer service, and human resources on how the brand must be communicated in every consumer interaction, every tweet, and every touchpoint,
  • Won't be merely to imagine creative messages but to fashion programs that are seamless with the actual product and service experience,
  • Won't be to plan bursts of communication on a yearlong calendar but to respond to and be part of the ever-changing dialog with consumers, 
  • Won't be to count friends, page visits, eyeballs, readers, or viewers but to measure changes in consumer attitude and intent,
  • Won't be merely to talk at consumers but to listen and engage one to one,
  • Won't be to build campaigns but relationships,
  • Won't be to create impressions but experiences, and
  • Won't be buy media but to earn it.
To some of you, these changes sound easy, but they represent painful transitions for marketing organizations.  In 2010 and the years that follow, everything will change:  job expectations, skills, metrics, structure, budgets, agency demands and compensation, and the role of the marketing function within the organization.  While the changes will be difficult, they will also be extraordinarily exciting.  In the end, the marketing organization will be integral partners in everything the enterprise does, living up to Peter Drucker's famous quote:
"Business has only two basic functions -- marketing and innovation."

Marketing is dead.  Long live marketing!

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bali villa rental said...

Great read, I believe the current situation is going to be a testament to creative talent. Creative marketing is ALWAYS going to win, and the talented individuals who create it will succeed. It is not that consumers dont like looking at ads, people look forward to the creative ads during the Super Bowl, it is just that most ads sux. Most ads are just trying to sell you something instead of making it worth your while to be sold. Companies are going to have to hire true talent and not just resumes, they are going to have to realize the people who can execute. Look at how Bmw and Audi were able to place their products in the James Bond series, consumers did not mind that type of marketing. If I am watching a football game why do I want to watch an ad about bed pans? or toe nail clippers? Those type of misaligned ad placements are going to make me skip through the ad and get back to the game. People have to be entertained, as Maximus said in the movie Gladiator "Are you not entertained", then people might watch more ads.

Augie Ray said...

Thanks for the comments Bali!

I'm not sure creative marketing ALWAYS wins. A lot of creative marketing forgets the consumer, the emotion, etc.

One problem I can have with "creative" marketing is that people often enjoy the message but forget the brand. Quick, tell me the brand behind Elf Yourself, one of the biggest viral campaigns of the past three years! Chances are you and most others can't recall the brand!

I'm certainly NOT against creativity, but brands need to shoot for something deeper than just being creative. That's why I like the Forrester POST methodology: People then Objectives then Strategy (where creative mostly fits) and then Tools/Tactics/Tech.

Thanks for the dialog!

jascha kaykas-wolff said...

Great post Augie.

My take is a bit different than Bali's in that i believe managing marketing with accountability trend of the present and future. Our business as marketers has changed and I believe we can attribute this change to data.

Once a competitive advantage, data is now table stakes. It fuels our businesses. To be successful, it is a requirement to use this data to iterate, to continually adjust and improve. What has been traditionally referred to as the “IT stack” has made its way into marketing vernacular.

Just as the IT stack enables an assortment of applications and software to work in concert to perform tasks, consider the ‘marketing stack’ as a combination of those same services and technologies needed to empower an effective iterative marketer and create game-changing marketing programs and campaigns.

Marketing is dead. Long live marketing!

Augie Ray said...

Thanks Jascha! Appreciate the input.

Carri Bugbee said...

Spot on. I’ve been saying for a long time that social media will require wholesale changes in the way agencies and corporate communications departments are staffed and managed. And I’m not talking about adding new bodies with different skills sets.

Marketers will become hybrid customer service reps (or vice versa) and those that work for big brands will be on the clock 24/7. The days of the Mad Men-style Happy Hour will soon be over. The bars won’t be open when your shift ends at 6:00am.

The era of Ogilvy’s “big idea” is nearly over as well. We’re entering an era of a thousand small ideas. With data driving opportunities for highly targeted and fragmented marketing, there will be little time and money allotted to produce grandiose concepts – no matter how entertaining they might be. I predict marketing creativity – as we know it – won’t be nearly as valuable as the ability to find and relate to people wherever they are in short, dynamic bursts of terse, actionable information.

As a writer, I’ll miss the clever concepts. But as a marketer who cares passionately about getting clients’ their money’s worth, I’m ecstatic. I was bored doing things the same way for 20 years anyway. Vive la diffĂ©rence!

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Christina Steder said...

Great post Augie!

One of the biggest challenges I see for marketers in 2010 is how to keep up with all this change. Technology is evolving so fast and people move from one social media tool to another quickly. Those of us who want to do the right thing can end up spending more time on self-education and monitoring the social media world – including the written and unwritten rules – than we do on the creative and communicative parts of our jobs. The trick will be figuring out how to keep our technical skills current and still have time to put thought and creativity into communicating in a way that is interesting and compelling to the target audience. (And by “target audience” I don’t mean people we want to blast, I mean people who will care.) You’ve definitely given us a lot to think about as we head into this brave new world!

Unknown said...

Great post to aware people.The key to effective marketing is a succinct, compelling marketing message, also referred to as an elevator pitch that is crafted from the customer's point of view. It should address your customers' pain points, explain your solution and differentiate your company from your competition. It must be memorable which is used consistently by everyone in your company and integrated into all of your marketing materials from proposals and emails to your website and print pieces.Developing a strong,effective marketing message is a process and not the product of a one-hour meeting. Involve key players in the process so all aspects of your business are included.When you think you have a marketing message that will work well, try it out before you incorporate it into your marketing tools. When you are sure you have a statement that will work for you, use it consistently. It is the foundation of all of your marketing efforts.

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