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How Marketing Will Change In 2013: The Strategic Forecast

Part two of a two-part series: Brand strategists weigh in on the social, cultural, and media factors that will change marketing this year and beyond.

In Part One of our 2013 marketing forecast, we asked a number of high-level creative types for their educated predictions on how their jobs and the marketing landscape would change in 2013.

Now, we’re passing the mic to the strategists. These are the people who are said to represent the consumer in the marketing process--they’re the masters of research, the experts in media and culture that are responsible for generating brand insights and opportunities. As they’re steeped in knowledge of consumer behavior, we wanted to add their big-picture perspective to our look at what the near future of advertising may hold.

We asked them what were the big shifts in consumer and media trends that would impact marketing and the wider cultural trends feeding these changes. They’ve got a lot on their minds, apparently, so settle in for a long and enlightening read.

What sorts of consumer behavior or media trends do you think will have an impact on marketing in 2013?

Lee Maicon, SVP, insights and strategy, 360i:
Data Driven (Creativity): After Election 2012 and #natesilver, it’s safe to say that we are all data nerds now--or at least we like to pretend we are. Big data will rule marketing, both on the side of the marketer and the “marketee.” All of our businesses kick off tremendous amounts of information, and using it openly to drive what we call “data driven creativity” will make all the difference. Banks are just one category that has become transformed by giving us access to our own information. Sporting goods are another. What’s next?

Collective Intelligence: The intelligence of machines will continue to change how we think, and over time, even transform the human consciousness. We’re ruled by the algorithm--be it Google, Amazon, or Netflix. We make decisions that we think are free will but are in fact driven by the recommendations we get--choices that we never would have otherwise considered. Think about all of the YouTube clips you’ve viewed or books you’ve bought or movies you’ve checked out from those recommendations. Let’s face it: We are the sum of our collective mind, and we’re perhaps better for it.

Jim Stengel, marketing consultant and educator, author, former CMO of P&G:
This will be the year of The Drop. We will drop social from social media as all media is social; we will drop digital and mobile from digital & mobile marketing as all marketing is digital and mobile; we will drop advertising from advertising agency as their future is in helping clients creatively realize opportunities; we will drop global from global marketing officer as all marketing leaders need to be global in thought and intent. You get the idea: we are entering an era of integration and simplification as people/consumers want coherence, impact, joy, and help from people running brands.

The year of even higher Ideals. This is gathering momentum. I have had a crazy busy year helping large and small companies--more than 25--activate their higher ideal in all they do. Look at big Cannes winners last year: Chipotle, Nike, Coke, Prudential, Visa and on and on. All centered on a higher ideal that is activated beautifully and completely. These companies are growing and writing the new story for business.

More profoundly: the year of Us versus Me. Obama won decisively as he was the inclusive, generous, empathetic candidate. Romney was more exclusive, more individualistic. The coming policy/economic changes will be more shared responsibility to make progress on the deficit, tax revenues, health care. The national social impact of the horrific Newtown tragedy will be a softening of our "hard lines" on many issues, our empathy will be heightened. Do not underestimate the lasting impact of that event. People running brands need to internalize this and reflect it. It will supercharge the movement to higher ideals.

Zach Foster, strategy director, Droga5: We’ve become both reliant upon and indulgent of our need for social validation. We continue to fish for “likes," we hoard birthday wishes, we feign photographic skill for love, and we relish the feeling of disseminating newly discovered content to our networks. Clearly this behavior is here to stay, but I believe a new wave toward private validation is beginning to take hold. New data, tools, sites, apps, and devices are tracking our activity and accomplishments and making us better, even when nobody’s looking. FuelBand and FitBit coerce us into taking the stairs instead of the escalator. Codecademy methodically uncovers our inner geek. Aherk! socially blackmails us if goals aren’t met. And Progressive’s Snapshot rewards better driving with better rates. Sometimes these private rewards are tangible (e.g: Progressive), but increasingly, our rewards are simply digital--purposefully designed to monitor our improvement and keep us hunting for even the most “valueless” points, badges, progress bars, levels, and trophies. In the beginning, such rewards felt superfluous, with digital farm crops and check-in badges yielding little return on engagement. But this new wave of private rewards will continue to shape the way we live, learn, exercise, and improve. Make no mistake, in 2013 and beyond, brands will continue to find ways to fuel the need for social validation. But the true game changers will be those that go a layer deeper with the data and tools to make us better behind closed doors, even without a “like.”

Tom Naughton, strategy director, Droga5: People don’t like being jerked around. So services like Instagram and Facebook need to realize that just because they’re huge parts of culture, they aren’t immune to being sacked by users who feel mistreated. Marketers will continue doing their best to annoy people in 2013. The invention of each new screen creates a new place where people don’t want to interact with advertisers. Those marketers that don’t respect people’s private spaces are doomed.

Jonah Bloom, chief strategy officer of Kirshenbaum Bond Senecal + Partners:
Brands for Betterment: With 18-34-year-olds continuing to demonstrate an unprecedented interest in working as a community to improve our society and environment, and a fractious government unable to make meaningful changes, brands have an opportunity to be the number one force for progress in America and beyond. That doesn’t just mean the philanthropic or CSR programs that many brands already invest in--although they are certainly a good way of winning loyalty and new customers. It means using their knowledge and resources to tackle critical issues like joblessness, small business growth, the anachronistic education system, and health care for an aging population. Drive progress in one of these areas and a brand cannot only profit in the short term but become a category leader for decades.

Mass Relevance: Brands have the data and tools today to give consumers what they want, when they want it, and where they want it. Most importantly with the growing penetration of smartphones, they can do this at an unprecedented scale. That’s why 2013 will see the acceleration of a shift to behaviorally targeted marketing (in all channels) over older, less efficient media.

Content (as in "happy customers") Marketing: Content marketing was all the rage in 2012, despite being misunderstood in terms of its scope and potential as a way of approaching sales and brand growth. Its full potential will begin to be realized in 2013, as marketers come to understand that: a) It’s simply a customer-first philosophy that dictates you deliver marketing consumers value, and b) It can--and must--be measured in terms of creating behavioral changes such as increasing consideration and, yes, sales.

Wojtek Szumowski, EVP/group director, planning, CP+B:
Exploring the poetic potential of technology: We are in a very inventive time--culture is blended with technology, people are hacking, fighting back, inventing, creating mutant forms. We are co-evolving (with) technology, not just adopting it. Today people want to be in their own story, while brands keep telling their own stories through advertising masquerading as storytelling.

To create new forms of interaction between brands, people, technology, and culture, we need to understand a product’s and brand’s ability to open up a rich narrative space where people can enter as protagonists, not just consumers. We need to think about people as protagonists in a narrative that brand and product can help inspire and co-prototype, rather than treating people as consumers of brand and product meaning. Today we find the emerging conditions to go beyond this holy paradigm of our industry.

When people are protagonists in narrative experience, they are interested in alternative functions, unusual experiences, complicated pleasures that fulfill more subtle psychological needs and open up new behaviors and new meanings. We have to unleash a product’s ability to provide new behavioral possibilities.
We are entering a period of more poetic agendas of technology because people want to engage in more alternatives, in another interpretation of reality.
We need a new breed of mutant and meta-products to make the experience of our connected world more magical.

Lindsey Allison, VP/group director, planning, CP+B: As a strategist, what’s most on my mind is how we change our approach to strategy in the throes of a user-centered versus media-centered world. It’s no new news that people are in control, seeing what they want to see and ignoring the rest. How will we change the way we think about strategy to accommodate that? And are we structured to do it?

We can no longer keep doing our old jobs--identifying the message a brand needs to say and trusting the right people will see it, let alone share it. A brand has to be culture’s ultimate problem solver. From the big ones--climate, obesity, education--to the little ones--finding the perfect pair of jeans, sticking to your workout routine, ordering pizza. We should be asking "what is the real problem our brand can solve," and then find innovative ways to solve it.

I think the solution lies at the convergence of traditional planning and user experience. A seamless group identifying unmet user needs and pain points that our brands are uniquely poised to solve, the unmet stories they are dying to tell, ultimately uncovering the ways our brands can create new and better behaviors.

Angela Courtin, chief content officer of Aegis Media Americas and president of the Story Lab: I anticipate 2013 to be a movement towards disconnecting more from the online and reconnecting more in the offline. There is a great new acronym that’s the antithesis of FOMO: JOMO. Joy of Moving On. This idea says it is okay to not be consuming in real time all of the time. Given the tragedies that have happened lately, from man-made to natural, I foresee a push towards connection beyond the ambient. This will have a great effect on how we communicate and inform the content we are creating and the experiences we are enabling. Media can and should play an important role in helping brands embrace this: More fun. More touch. More play. More curiosity. More connection.

John Roberts, chief strategy officer, Partners + Napier: Proliferation of choice will amplify the value exchange. With more brand choices, product choices, and now media and screen choices, we’re sprinting toward a paralysis of too much choice. There are too many things to spend time on, so marketers had better recognize that the cost of consumers’ attention is going up. What do brands provide that consumers truly value?

The gut will rule: The heart’s best friend is the gut--our intuition. We’ll see more truly emotional engagement that helps consumers speed through the multitude of rational choices they face.
Truth well told: Consumers are equally tired of politics and marketing babble. We’ll see a rise in honesty from brands, and sadly, a corresponding rise in brands that don’t know how to tell the truth.
ROI will be enhanced by “WI": In 2013, clients will start to appreciate the “What If.” Marketing investment in testing and exploring will become more widespread, and not only from the smart and small players.
Listening will balance with interpreting: Social media tools and data analytics give us a tone of what consumers are doing/thinking/feeling, but great marketers will cherish the why of all these things. “Why” is an easy question to ask, but the answer is very, very hard to find.

Flora Proverbio/Regina Campanini, strategic planners, Del Campo Nazca Saatchi & Saatchi Buenos Aires:
The impact of Mobile: Now every moment counts, no matter how short it is. This is the end of “wasted time.” No more boring lines at the supermarket, waiting at doctors office, etc. Any little moment can become a meaningful experience because now we have a powerful mobile device. How can these moments become meaningful branded moments? We should be thinking on how to create mini-moments rather than ads.

Walt Barron, director of account planning, McKinney: Many of us in the advertising and marketing industry are prone to self-loathing. We’re consistently ranked amongst the least liked and least trustworthy professions--we’re the ones who try to manipulate people into buying things they don’t need, and sometimes can’t afford. But at the same time, people’s relationships with certain brands are getting stronger. People may hate advertising in general, but they LOVE their favorite brands, products, and services. And they want to love advertising from those brands as well. So while they continue to have low expectations from advertising overall, they expect more from the brands they admire and relate to.

This is shaping marketing in at least two ways. First, the strongest brands for some time have been making a shift in terms of how they spend their advertising dollars: from asking people to do something, to giving people things that actually enhance their lives in some way--an escape, inspiration, motivation, utility, a laugh. And people, in turn, are sharing those things more frequently, not because they want to help the brand, but because they want to help their friends, family, community. At McKinney we call it "Talked About Work"--work too good not to share. People are posting video content (like P&G’s "Thank You, Mom" campaign), downloading and using apps and tools (like ChipIt! from Sherwin-Williams), playing games (like Play Spent), and telling others to do the same. They’re willingly evangelizing the brand, because the brand gave them something worth sharing.

Second, brands are inviting consumers to participate in more that they do. There’s less distance between company operations and the end consumer, which puts less pressure and scrutiny on advertising to strengthen or maintain the relationship between consumer and brand. Brands are inviting people to co-create products and services (My Starbucks Idea, Dell IdeaStorm, Local Motors’ The Forge). They’re listening to complaints more actively, confessing when they’ve screwed up, and being open about what they’re doing to improve things (Domino’s). And a funny thing happens as a result of this candor and transparency--consumers tend to like these brands more afterward, not in spite of their imperfections but rather because they show that they’re listening to consumers and doing something about it.

So, in 2013, we’re going to see more brands open up, come clean, and involve consumers in what they do. And they’re going to ask for less and give more--or to paraphrase JFK, they will "Ask not what consumers can do for us, but what we can do for them." And perhaps at the end of the year, consumers will have a higher opinion of advertising, and we in the advertising world won’t hate ourselves as much.

Nate Swenberg, SVP, global communications planning leader, BBDO: In my estimation, the latter half of 2013 should mark a major re-grounding in marketing; the turning point in a shift that’s already begun, taking us from what’s essentially been a decade-long Wild West in the digital and social spaces, and moving us to an environment where a new set of fundamentals creates a much more stable base off of which marketing and advertising organizations can operate.

What I’m talking about is how organizations approach prioritizing, planning for, activating, and measuring how they sell and communicate; a much more deliberate and informed process that plans and budgets for testing innovation and leaves room for opportunistic communications, all while focusing on what’s been proven to work.

I see this regrounding playing out because of three developments that seemed to reach critical mass in 2012:

1) The New Social(media) Contract: 2012 not only marked the 250th anniversary of Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s "Du Contrat Social," it also marked a point in time when a sort of "New Social(media) Contract" came to be. What I mean by that is the rules and boundaries of the value exchange between marketers, media owners, and people became much more readily understood--either in formal, documented corporate policies and government laws (actual and threatened) or through implied, yet well understood, standards of conduct, enforced by the comments, tweets, emails, and actions of the people (and as often as not, backed by media outlets looking to capture eyeballs and fill their 24/7 news cycle by manufacturing controversy). The recent Instagram kerfuffle is a great example.

2) The People Factor--More Sophisticated, Self Aware, and Less Susceptible:
Through a combination of rotations, education, and on the ground experience, both client and agency organizations have dramatically increased their digital and social marketing IQs. A critical mass of folks seem to have reached a fundamental understanding of what works and what’s possible in the digital and social spaces. As important, they’ve also learned to overlay their own organizational readiness--staffing, budgeting, culture, legal policies, and operational flexibility--when evaluating opportunities. This understanding of the space and the boundaries of what’s possible (vs. just imagining the unbounded possibilities) is a critical turn. These folks are asking probing, intelligent questions grounded in actual digital marketing experience and an awareness of what is and isn’t possible within their organization.

3) Incentives and Investment: Finally, there’s also been a big shift in the underlying motivators that drive many digital and social marketing decisions--financial and cultural incentives. Sparked by the recession and fueled by a better understanding of the digital and social spaces, I’m seeing a shift from an emphasis on rewarding and celebrating the creation of things seen as "new and original," and back to a more balanced approach that also rewards folks who can reapply ideas that worked in other parts of their organization.

Relatedly, and perhaps most importantly, I’ve seen an unsticking of one of the major structural obstacles to operating effectively in the digital and social spaces: investment planning. More clients are deliberately budgeting to test new tactics, making significant investments in foundational tools and resources for things like social listening, and leaving themselves enough money so that they can dial up promising new tactics or quickly react to opportunities that pop up throughout the year.

What it all means: At the end of the day, a clearer set of boundaries, a better understanding of the digital and social spaces, and a shift in what’s budgeted for and rewarded should create a much more stable and effective base for marketing and advertising organizations to plan, explore, and react.

However, as with any prediction, there are always ways for things to go off the tracks. In the next few years, I see three potential pitfalls that could derail companies that land in them:
1) The Siren Song of Data--the sweet theory vs. the rocky reality
2) Participation as Interruption--“no, I don’t want to tweet, like, create, or consume your stuff, now go away”
3) The Distractions of the News Desk--when real time becomes the only time

But that’s another post for another time…

What are the broader cultural trends that will inform marketing?

Wojtek Szumowski, CP+B:
Yearning to rediscover reality: We are in a very interesting moment of our co-evolution with technology characterized by our deep desire to rediscover reality, to enjoy it and experience it. We are in the cultural and technological moment when we can use technology to unleash magic into the real world of human experience through physical computing. The goal of physical computing is to go beyond rational functionality to engage our imaginative cooperation and move a flat predictable relationship between people and material objects into new mental territory. Physical computing is an opportunity to bring us back to human, back to proximity, to local environment. We can use physical computing to help people rediscover reality. Use technology to rediscover serendipity.
We can invent new forms of interaction between people and brands by making a product an active part of the tactics people are using to make reality pop up in front of their eyes again. Our industry has to use the inventive potential of technology as a lens to look with renewed empathy at human activities.

Tom Naughton, Droga5: I think we’ll see more brands adopting honest approaches to marketing. People are getting sick of gimmicks and jargon from marketers, and are begging advertisers to cut the crap. So everything from their communications to their innovation approach will be impacted.

Local is still important. There was a time when local meant artisanal or of higher quality, but that’s less important today. People like to support their city or neighborhood, even if they must sometimes sacrifice quality.
I think we’ll be seeing more messaging efforts from individuals to marketers, to politicians, to governments. Action in this country is too slow. As people grow more and more fed up with being ignored, they’ll start taking matters into their own hands by urging those with the resources to spur change to get started.

Zach Foster, Droga5: The lines between “corporate responsibility,” advertising, PR, and product marketing continue to blur. That’s because today, more than ever, we expect more from our brands--not only on the spec sheet but also in the way they source and manufacture products, how they treat the planet, veterans, their communities, and their own employees. In short, before we buy in, we often need to know how they are making the world (even marginally) a better place. In an increasingly connected, socially conscious, transparent culture, the most successful marketers will continue to be those with a clearly defined, clearly communicated “purpose” that they embody as a company and project in their marketing. For Droga5, a brand’s purpose is the launch point for every piece of communication we execute, whether it’s injecting honesty into the beer category with Newcastle Brown Ale or helping Prudential inspire the next generation of retirees with real stories from real people.

Lee Maicon, 360i:
Growing Curiosity: As technological and cultural change accelerates, the best and the brightest have sped up with it. People today are curious about their own abilities and know that the means exist for continuous improvement of everything. The pace of microchip evolution (doubling of capacity every 18 months) over the last 30 years has conditioned us all that our next upgrade is right around the corner. We’ve always loved the New and Improved; the difference today is how we’ve taught ourselves that it can really make a difference. Games makers like Rovio have benefited from this vibe, as has fashion leader Zara.

Singularity/Mobile Mind: Forget the year of mobile; that’s thinking small. Access to anything and everything everywhere all the time is currently limited only by the speed of our thumbs on our touch screens. Now that voice recognition is pervasive (and almost works!), we’re just one upgrade away from a silicon/cellular/neuron merger. This has massive implications for marketers, the simplest of which to consider is a complete re-thinking of the so-called consumer journey or shopper marketing. 2012 was the year when our intelligence became more than just biological. Kurzweil’s singularity isn’t coming; it came--and we were too busy using our iPhones to notice.

Multipolar Global Cultures: Digital growth has also created a truly global culture for the first time. Although TV and American cultural hegemony made our icons famous in the late 20th century, the second decade of the 21st century is making a more multi-polar geography and language. 15-year-olds in Guangzhou and Philly share more with each other than with the 20-year-old next door. National culture will always run deep, but the smartest marketers see the transcultural connectors and benefit from them. Oreo and Uniqlo are great examples of brands that learn across borders. Marketers need to be flexible to move with and occasionally ahead of their overlapping and evolving constituencies. Both leading and learning from these conversations will become increasingly important.

Flora Proverbio / Regina Campanini, Del Campo Nazca Saatchi & Saatchi Buenos Aires
Local/global: The backside of global brands is that they are cold and distant, as corporations push for global campaigns to be more efficient, people will demand more closeness and familiarity. We advertisers will find ourselves in a balancing act.

The new macho: A successful woman is today the one that has been able to have a career but also create a family. Male success is being redefined. Now the ideal man is also a care-giving dad. We see them in parks, schools, parenting blogs and they are becoming important in categories that used to be mom land (diapers, food, cleaning products, etc)

[Image: Flickr users Drew Brayshaw, Chris Goldberg, D. Sharon Pruitt, Hannes Mauerer, and Ametxa]

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9 Comments

  • Jerry Ferguson

    Hi. I thought this article was incredibly insightful. I put all of the ideas included in this article together in this deck to help myself better understand all of the trends. If you're interested in digesting this content in slide format here's a link to the deck- http://www.slideshare.net/jerr...

  • Petya Lakova

    Jim Stengel's comment about the "Year of the Drop" definitely holds true. Another drop to add to the list would be the "programmatic" from "programmatic buying" as more and more agencies are creating in-house platforms to tap into the DSP industry and move away from the traditional and direct purchasing of display inventory. Content is another area for expansion. More and more advertisers will rely on meaningful, interesting content to enhance their "story-telling". Their message will be fully ignored, no matter how "loud", unless consumers can get something out of it, ie. receive some kind of helpful advise in exchange for 5 minutes of their undivided attention.

  • Amber King

    This year, Social media will head the marketing arena. Digital marketing will also prosper. Almost all companies will have a social account.

  • Jodi Cary

    Great discussion. I think Wojtek Szumowski summed it up best with we are "co-evolving with technology." How that impacts marketing is the most exciting part of being in the industry right now.

    What's interesting to me is the contrast in predictions between groups-think (collective intelligence, us vs. me, brands for societal betterment) and hyper-individualism (need for social validation, user-centered world, consumer as protagonist). Wondering -- as individuals turn to more digital (and less real-life) interactions, are they seeking to fill an internal void with purpose, or do they care about the world because they feel closer to it?

  • Fbnunes

    Great article. some of the forecasts have been already happening for a while and are no news, but continue to grow and being important in the marketing arena.

  • Sarah Best

    I hope the future has more lady strategists in it, because this article is a little light on that.

  • Marc Binkley

    I think there are lots of great points for consideration here.  Data analysis, A/B testing, transmedia storytelling, local, and reality are all important trends likely to shape marketing for the coming year.

    There is one trend worth adding to this discussion.  

    The elephant in the corner of the room is placing trust in employees.  The front line employees are ultimately the deliverers of the brand promise.  At one point in time, the company only needed to buy lots of advertising to make consumers believe the brand promise.  Now, it's not enough for a company to say they're great, that's the job of the customers, they have to prove it. Today, every person in an organization that has contact with the customer becomes an ambassador of the brand's promise. 

    I'll use a recent, personal example to illustrate my point. I recently had an experience with Telus (a Canadian internet, phone, cable provider) whose promise/tagline is The Future Is Friendly.  As a consumer to believe them, my experience has to match their promise.  This means that the online service staff, the on phone technical advisors, the customer service department and their in-home service technicians all have to consistently deliver that brand promise in order for Telus to convince me that my future with their organization is friendly.  It took some time, but eventually they pulled it off. 

  • Gammaplayer

    Apart from Jim Stengel, I have never heard so much self indulgent narrow minded clap-trap. Stephen King used to write about such things.

     

  • Debbi Dale

    I agree with you..... 
    Marketers need to get real, and stop putting Digital, Mobile and Social on a pedestal as the New Media (WHAT) and rather see them for what they are, the technological enablers of hopefully authentic brand conversations, the HOW humans are now choosing to communicate and connect.