January 03, 2010

16 Predictions for 2010 The dawn of a new year is an opportunity to look ahead and guess what will happen next. Some of these predictions might seem obvious, some reflect by own perspective or pet peeves and others just might catch you by surprise. Thanks to Sherie Anderson who helped with research and front line analysis. These 16 predictions and prognostications are offered with wishes for happiness and health in 2010. The Recession Won’t Go Away. 2010 will be as challenging financially as 2009. Credit and employment will be tight. Every expense will be scrutinized and delayed if possible. Temps will trump full time players and everyone in every sector will be looking for a deal. Downward price pressure, enforced by bean counters eager to save their own jobs, will rule the marketing sector and probably the entire economy. Emphasis on new customer acquisition will change slightly to retention because it’s cheaper and has a much greater ROI impact, though since so few marketers are good at retention, expect more propaganda than productivity. Traditional big ad spenders – banks, automotive, retail, airlines and CPG – will spend cautiously, flap their lips about CRM, experiment with social media and find a hundred new ways to package and promote discounts and deals. B2B marketers will hunker down and stick to stuff that works with an occasional foray into social or mobile media to establish bragging rights behind a steady beat of plain vanilla efforts on the CRM front. Facebook Will Flourish or Flounder. Everything turns on their ability to maintain momentum, avoid more ham-fisted privacy flaps and show marketers how to engage and interact with members in ways that don’t feel like advertising. MySpace, with 70 million users, and Friendster have considerable reach and assets even though they’ve been eclipsed by Facebook’s fast march and PR blitz. But frankly no one really knows why Facebook has stormed ahead and in the absence of a sustainable formula, that growth and popularity could disappear as quickly as it come about. There are no doubts that Murdock’s minions and many others are gunning to get back in the game not to mention non-US communities and vertical communities which have begun to show substantial growth. Look for a horse race in terms of new applications, new features or new functions and new ways to integrate or manage Facebook and other social media accounts into common work and life flows. People want to participate but are having difficulty managing different accounts or dealing with the time suck that social media quickly become. A bunch of tools, possibly modeled after TweetDeck, will emerge to organize, manage and connect different social media applications. Along with the tools, expect best practices to evolve for linking your profiles and friendships to achieve specific goals like finding a job, finding a love partner, generating leads or seeding vertical conversations. More brands will use social media as standing research panels by asking questions, soliciting opinions or conducting polls and surveys. Some gut checks and qualitative research will move online because you can gather a carefully composed crowd quickly and cheaply and can target advocates, neutrals and competitive users easily. Expect an explosion in A/B testing and even product development testing to take place online and on social media platforms. Social Monitoring & Reputation Management Will Grow. In the same vein, everyone will license a data-mining tool like Radian6 and collect the “sentiment” in social media. Interpreting this data will be tricky because the software was built on assumptions and filters that may or may not reflect users reality. But acquiring a tool to mine social media will be the must-have new toy among marketing and IT types in 2012. Individuals will soon start agitating for similar tools to monitor their presence, their reputations and their vulnerabilities online. Partly privacy or security driven and partly vanity driven, people are beginning to understand and worry about how they are presented and/or exposed online. The combination of identity theft and phishing threats plus the need to present an appropriate image to potential employers and/or partners will create a need to check what’s online, align what is searchable with who you want to be and fix or delete the stuff you are unhappy with. Sort People In. The explosion of social media reveals an underlying psychological reality – people want to believe, want to belong and want to be connected. We are social creatures and we want to believe that our lives have meaning, that our actions matter and that...
Transparency in Online Ad Targeting & Serving Russell Glass, CEO of Bizo.com aspires to " provide anonymous, safe, transparent targeting for every ad served on the web." Well I guess we all should have lofty goals. But Russ is one of the few people talking about transparency in online advertising; specifically the idea that you ought to know not only where the ads you see came from but why you were served those particular ads. It's a huge idea. Imagine how you feel when you go to the mailbox after making a charitable donation only to find that every charity in the same category is in hot pursuit. You grimace and figure that the hospital must have sold their list. But its still an inference and an annoyance. Russ proposes to put an icon on every ad that signals info about its origin and your relationship to the ad is buried inside. Clicking on the icon essentially reads and displays the data on the targeting cookie. By click #2, you see that the ad came from BusinessWeek or DoubleClick and it was aimed at a C level manufacturing guy in NYC. Will this knowledge make you more likely to respond? Nobody knows. Will it illuminate who is trying to reach you and why? Undoubtedly. This idea will thrill privacy nuts, soothe paranoids and fuel anti-advertising types. It will also make advertisers in search of tighter targeting parameters happy. But it will probably never much matter to the vast majority of B2B targets Bizo engages who don't currently think this is a problem. Nonetheless knowing this information, a Netzien could fix wrong information or add new information to the cookie; thereby opting-in for more relevant ads or opting-out of advertising. The truly enlightened will feel much better about online advertising.Russ, who leads a business spun off by ZoomInfo 18 months ago, thinks that web surfers will have a "high degree of interaction" with transparent ads. He's aiming for 100% transparency and leveraging this idea to differentiate Bizo.com from other ad networks. In his mind, transparency is virtually a right. "If you use data to target ads," he argues "then your target customer should know about it, know what information you have about him or her, have the right to edit the information and the right to opt in or out." Consider several interesting ramifications and possibilities from transparent ads: 1. Customers Will Get a Voice. If you know who's after you; you can run toward or away from them. Knowing who is targeting you can drive closer customer engagement or prompt privacy and customer service complaints. Either way it moves advertising from passive serving to active customer interaction. 2. Competitive Analysis is Easier. Rather than pay ComScore zillions to track competitive spending, placement and creative, you simply read the ads served to sample customers in your target set. After a dozen ads, you'll have a pretty fair understanding of what the bad guys are up to. 3. Everything Will Feel Kosher. There's something liberating and beautiful about openness. Having everything above board will satisfy privacy advocates, expose more of the strategy behind advertising and possibly improve the ad industry's image. Even for the uninvolved and ambivalent, knowing who's advertising and why they're targeting you eliminates a few levels of paranoia and reminds people of the commercial relationships that underlie most of the economy. 4. Online Ads Will be More Like Online Dating. In practice, the two are hardy separable, but transparency will make it clear who likes you and who wants to be your new best friend. Consumers will actually have the choice of saying "Yes" or "No" to advertisers. This will force better creative targeting, more message testing and more CRM-type thinking. Today advertisers' desires are unknown to their target customers. In a transparent world, customers read, react and respond on equal footing. 5. Ads Will Work Better. Transparency will eliminate waste, filter out the troublemakers, improve targeting and ultimately yield a better ROI. In theory it will reduce noise in the system which will enhance signal reception.

Danny Flamberg

I am a veteran marketing consultant working with leading and emerging brands

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