[Please note this blog article was posted simultaneously with my new Forrester blog at http://blogs.forrester.com/marketing/
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.
"Business has only two basic functions -- marketing and innovation."
Marketing is dead. Long live marketing!
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- Yahoo adds another touch of Twitter to search (seattletimes.nwsource.com)
- Advertising: Groups Far Apart on Online Privacy Oversight (nytimes.com)
- Facebook's Loosening of Privacy Controls Spark a Backlash (wired.com)
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