December 17, 2011

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10 Things That Won't Happen in 2012 As the year winds down, allow me exercise my older, crankier, opinionated and contrarian side in looking at the year ahead. Here are 10 things that won’t happen in 2012 in no particular order. Mobile Ads Will Explode. Consumers still either resent them or can’t exactly figure out how to use them. Brands can’t efficiently buy them or measure ROI or engagement value. Look for the bulk of ads to remain embedded in games and in apps. Facebook Will Grow Exponentially. The focus will shift from 800+ million users to the quality of the experience and the virility of sharing. Brands will figure out how to get more of their messages through the EdgeRank filter and how to prompt brand advocates posting original brand-oriented messages and/or passing along posts crafted by brands. What is said, by whom and to whom, will replace the fan count as a measure of brand page success. QR Codes Will Blossom. Too many different or not enough code readers, no technical standards, low consumer penetration and poor customer experience will doom this technology. Magazines and others will continue to use them as a badge or signal that they are tech forward, but few consumers will buy that act. Even if you build it; they will not come. Groupon Copycat Competitors Will Succeed. The bloom is off this rose both in terms of local merchant satisfaction and the inability to scale and customize the product or the deal for national brands. The business model was set up for onesies at the local level. It cannot easily accommodate brands with thousands of stores or franchisees. Retailers resent the 50/50 revenue share. And they aren’t seeing enough upsell to justify the steep price cut used as a buying lure. Plus, they doubt whether coupon redeemers will become repeat or regular customers. Gross volume will drop. There will be a shakeout among the me-too and also-ran players. Social networks, payment vendors like PayPal and major online merchants like Amazon and eBay will emerge as Groupon killers. Appetites for Apps Will Grow. With 1 million available apps and more than 100 million downloads from iTunes alone, nobody needs any more apps. The number of apps downloaded and used once or less is ridiculous. Consumers will edit their apps into two buckets; useful time savers and entertaining time wasters. Anything else will go by the wayside. New variations and new competitors will emerge. Some will gear content and user experience to reflect different expectations and behaviors for geared specific devices like iPhone, Android, iPad or other tablet formats. But if an app doesn’t help or doesn’t distract it’s a goner. Banners Will Die. In spite of being widely ignored, brands will continue to pump dollars into banners primarily because they can. Banners, like billboards, are a media format every marketer understands and one that media agencies love to buy. And even though the metrics prove that banner blindness is endemic and that there is no positive ROI for using banners to build awareness, marketers will spend against them to demonstrate their commitment (to their bosses) to the digital medium. Mobile Payments Will Reach 50 Million Subscribers. In spite of the incredible utility of mobile payments, the lack of technical standards, limits on smart phone penetration, competing technical and processing systems and tentative uptake by consumers and retailers will retard the growth of this channel. Mobile payments will not take off with a hockey stick curve like Google+ did. Instead we will witness a fog of uncertainty and doubt as the competing interests fight it out, make confusing claims and build daisy chains of retailers and allies. When the battle is settled and a single standard approaches, mobile payments will generally replace credit cards, wallets and checking/debit accounts. Email Saturation Will Occur. Everyone uses it. Most of us opt-in. Retailers rely on it. Email is the ubiquitous reliable retail channel that consistently delivers personalized offers. Email will become even more segmented, more targeted, more tied to expressed preferences and purchase histories and more integrated into social networks, search and loyalty channels. SPAM has pretty much been controlled. The email workhorse will continue to perform as expected and measured. TV Budgets Will Migrate to Digital. Not! TV remains the only way to simultaneously accumulate mass audiences and quickly tap into the mainstream culture. Digital channels complement, enhance and supplement TV. In some segments, TV viewing takes place on digital devices and is tweeted or posted in real-time. But marketers aren’t seriously reallocating media...
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Experience is Everything Every so often you have an encounter with a brand that reminds you how little marketers think about customer touch points and how difficult it is to control and shape the customer experience. In an era where each and every customer touch can poison a relationship and where any customer can instantly become a viral critic, its surprising how badly brands are prepared to deal with everyday issues. Consider two recent examples. I go to the Citi ATM and the machine dispenses forty dollars less than I asked for. I validate the underage with the branch manager, who can’t or won’t do anything about it. She puts me on the phone, after an extended wait ( evidently there are no internal priority queues) with CSRs in Guatemala and India both of whom offer no resolution and piss me off. When the issue doesn’t self correct in 24 hours as they promised, the online form won’t take and symbols, like a dollar sign or the ampersand for my email address, and the 800 number is continually busy. No wonder we all hate banks! Similarly I get an e-mail announcing that I canceled by New York Times subscription, even though I didn’t. The special number goes unanswered because of high volume, the main 800 subscription number doesn’t get answered, the subscription website takes 12 minutes to load and render and a reply to the email sender bounces. Do you think they’re telling me something about our relationship by this dramatic inattention? Is it a wonder that newspapers are dying? These negative experiences are random. Neither brand seems to have any understanding of my purchase history, my status, my long term brand loyalty, my potential as a brand advocate or detractor or my relative profitability or lifetime value sufficient to save me from their systems. All the platinum cards, special clubs and other marketing blather turn to dust, when you want something simple done and your brand partner can’t or won’t deliver. Very few brands think through and map the range of customers’ interactions with the brand or anticipate the result of these interactions on brand awareness, preference, purchase or loyalty. Branding experts talk about the essence and the expression of the brand but very little of their philosophizing gets built into the plumbing of service delivery. All the high falutin’ brand babble doesn’t matter when real customers want real engagement or real services. Brands need to execute on the brand promise not only in ads but downstream – where transactions take place and where the battle for brand purchase and loyalty is joined. It starts with an attitude. Either you are a brand that understands me, helps me, meets me where I need things or you are not. This can’t be faked or masked by fun Facebook promotions or shortened URLs on Twitter. Marketers need to assert quality control over all touch points and anticipate the likely service needs and emotional results of day-to-day business. Infusing the delivery system and the customer service system with a genuine brand ethos will pay off much faster and much better than accumulating thousands of online friends or measuring gross viral impressions

Danny Flamberg

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

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