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By Sam Greengard, Contributing Writer, CMO.com
It’s no secret that marketing has undergone more changes during the past five years than perhaps the preceeding 100 years. Staying current with the dizzying array of technologies and trends has emerged as a daunting and often frustrating task for CMOs. Today, it isn’t enough to be tech-savvy and marketing-smart. There’s also a pressing need to understand the growing assortment of opportunities and risks that confront today’s enterprise. Here are some of the major trends that marketing executives should keep an eye on in the coming year.
So far, the long-promised digital wallet has lagged behind expectations. Google Wallet, Square, Apple, and others have introduced electronic payment, loyalty, and couponing systems, but there’s no single solution that works everywhere and all of the time. Don’t expect anything revolutionary in 2013, but, at the same time, marketing executives should keep their eye on the wallet. “We will see mobile payments trend upward in 2013,” said Amanda McArthur, a partner at marketing consulting firm BuzzFarmers, in an interview with CMO.com.
The most enticing component of the digital wallet, she said, is transactional marketing—an area where Apple, in particular, is quietly making progress with its Passbook app. “There’s no reason why businesses should be handing out punch-out loyalty cards when they can use customer analytics to build a loyalty program that segments their best customers and markets to them individually based on past purchase history,” she added.
The buzz over big data has been nothing short of deafening. It has beckoned with the promise of delivering a better understanding of customers and the overall business. Unfortunately, “There is still a lot of naivety and inexperience; a lot of companies are clueless about how to unlock the value that’s tucked away in their data,” noted M. Eric Johnson, director of the Center for Digital Technology at Dartmouth University, in an interview with CMO.com.
However, better tools and greater knowledge about how to apply big data concepts means the landscape is changing rapidly. Organizations that tear down data silos and create more efficient ways to connect all of the dots will unlock exponential gains over the next few years.
Many marketers have turned to social media to promote their brands and dive into reputation management, so now the area is evolving rapidly. Loyalty programs, transactional marketing efforts, big data, and analytics are a few of the areas becoming enmeshed with social. As a result, “CMOs need to consciously think about ways to capture consumer profiles and data,” Peter Krasilovsky, vice president and program director at consulting firm BIA/Kelsey, told CMO.com. “Many have taken the first steps by focusing on Facebook likes. The next steps focus more on yield. The goal is to move away from solely focusing on new customer acquisition and toward the retention of existing and best customers.”
The post-PC era has arrived, and any major organization that isn’t investing heavily in mobile tools and strategies is DOA. The upcoming year will likely serve as a tipping point for organizations. Dartmouth’s Johnson told CMO.com that marketers must do a much better job of optimizing sites and content for mobile devices such as iPads, iPhones, and Android devices. They must also develop internal talent for building apps and developing services that tie together big data, social media, geolocation services, crowdsourcing, and other initiatives. “This requires a lot of rethinking of the ways organizations develop and manage tools and services,” he said. Consequently, CMOs must work with the CIO and other departments to create a fully integrated experience for customers, employees, and partners.
The intersection of location awareness, social media, and mobility is finally delivering the ability to target customers with incentives and coupons at the point of decision-making. This is compressing buying cycles and creating the need for more agile thinking and actions. But these tools are also providing a powerful way to listen to customers and understand trends and micro-trends as they pop up.
“We will see more marketers taking steps to buy quickly because that is the future of all media buying,” said Bonin Bough, vice president of global media and consumer engagements at food manufacturing giant Mondelez International, formerly Kraft Foods. Bough told CMO.com that organizations must be particularly aware of privacy issues, including how comfortable customers are with sharing their location data. “It’s not entirely clear how all of this will pan out, but there’s no doubt that marketers will be at the center of the dialogue,” she said.
In recent years, the sheer number of marketing channels and options has overwhelmed more than a few CMOs. Factor in the current mélange of tools, technologies, and business requirements, and marketing has begun to resemble nothing less than a three-dimensional chessboard. A pressing issue for CMOs, and one that will garner a good deal of attention in 2013, is learning how to “reintroduce holistic media planning,” Mondelez’s Bough told CMO.com. In order to achieve success, he said, organizations must “move away from the notion of a 360-degree view and instead take a 60-degree view. It’s critical to identify the sharp touch points that actually allow marketers to connect to consumers.”
Jim Lanzalotto, founder and CEO of marketing consulting firm Scanlon Louis, said that marketers must rethink the role of marketing across pipelines and often consolidate thinking and the overall approach in order to “improve the ability of marketing to influence and drive customer intent.”
Marketers have used QR codes across a wide swath of industries over the past few years. Unfortunately, many organizations haven’t tapped into the tool's full potential. Too often, they send a user to a home page or the wrong landing site rather than directing them to the specific information they’re seeking at that moment. “QR code usage will grow and become more relevant as marketing managers learn about the sophisticated ways they can be used,” predicted Brad Hines, an independent social media and Internet analyst.
Already, supermarket giant Tesco has introduced virtual kiosks at subway stops in Korea and the U.K. that allow shoppers to buy items by scanning QR codes on life-like replicas and have the items delivered to their homes. Meanwhile, retailing giant JC Penney has introduced a “Santa Tag” that includes a QR code on the gift box. It links to a recorded voice message from the sender. With QR codes, creativity is the limit.
The rise of social media, including blogs and review sites, has created a need to monitor posts and gauge consumer sentiment. Although Google Alerts has been around for years—and many organizations use it and similar tools to track online postings—many organizations lag far behind. However, reputation management tools are becoming more sophisticated and indispensable. “Companies must have a sure-fire way to keep track of what’s being said about their brand,” analyst Hines told CMO.com.
For example, Skweal now offers organizations the ability to keep negative comments offline by resolving them privately via e-mail or text messages. Complaints get routed to the right person. Others are introducing services that comprehensively track negative reviews or write-ups and help organizations develop a more strategic plan for resolving specific issues as well as ongoing problems.
The rise of green and sustainable business practices has sent a tsunami through the enterprise. While many organizations have made an earnest attempt to become greener, it’s also no bulletin that many others have attempted to use marketing to disguise feeble efforts and mislead consumers about what they’re actually doing. However, it’s becoming tougher to hoodwink the public. A number of organizations, including TerraChoice Group, GreenPeace, Greenwashing Index, and CorpWatch, have begun calling out companies for perceived exaggerations or outright fabrications—and the press increasingly picks up on these stories. As consumers become savvier and the downside for greenwashing becomes more apparent, more and more CMOs are discovering that it’s better to approach environmental issues honestly and make genuine efforts to improve rather than to try to fool the public.
The most successful organizations recognize the need to be highly agile and flexible. The problem is that simply decreeing a need to be innovative or assigning employees to address the task doesn’t necessarily produce results. Consequently, some organizations are revamping conventional marketing practices and allowing small and ad-hoc teams to compete for new projects or initiatives that are on the leading edge of conventional and digital marketing. The company may assemble and disassemble these groups in a matter of weeks or months, and provide incentives and rewards for new and successful ideas that translate into marketing wins. The goal is to build a more organic way to incubate and implement ideas. Mondelez is among the companies embracing this approach. “It’s all about bringing the business closer to the point of purchase,” Bough told CMO.com.
The ability to measure every click, tweet, and page view is both a blessing and curse. On one hand, there’s a wealth of potentially valuable information that can transform an enterprise. On the other hand, it’s incredibly easy for marketers and others to take their eye off the ball and chase the wrong metrics. Georgetown marketing professor Malaviya told CMO.com that many CMOs are chasing rainbows rather than results by plugging in the wrong data. “It’s great to see a viral campaign take off and attract a lot of eyeballs, but unless it translates into actual revenues, its value may be inflated,” he said.
Worse, it may encourage marketing executives to pursue similar initiatives that, in the long run, lead to increasingly poor results. Marketers are getting better about choosing relevant metrics, Malaviya said, but there is still a ways to go. This promises to be the year CMOs re-examine metrics. “The ultimate metrics revolve around providing a high level of engagement with customers and seeing improved sales,” he said.
When the Internet burst on the scene in the mid-1990s, some observers predicted it would greatly diminish the demand for content, particularly the written word. That prediction now ranks right up there with flying cars and robot assistants. In reality, the emergence of a truly digital business environment has fueled huge demand for content—blogs, videos, interactive tutorials, white papers, social media content, and much more. In this new digital order, many organizations are discovering that they need additional content specialists—particularly those who are savvy in areas such as video creation, scripts, and producing written materials. What’s more, the interrelationship between technologies and channels is creating demand for content producers who can think in a more conceptual way, Dartmouth’s Johnson observed.
The challenge for CMOs in 2013 will be to find and develop talent and squeeze out content that’s attractive and compelling—without blowing out tight budgets that remain following the Great Recession. Michelle Glennie, operations manager at The Partner Marketing Group, told CMO.com that marketers must approach this environment with the mantra: repurpose, repurpose, repurpose.
A funny thing happened on the march to digital marketing: Many CMOs are rediscovering traditional media. In fact, conventional advertising and commercials still represent the largest chunk of the marketplace—about twice as much as digital media advertising in terms of total dollars spent, according to Malaviya. “The bottom line is that TV and print are more important than ever,” Mondelez International’s Bough told CMO.com. “In a world where content is king, TV networks and print publishers are some of the best mass content producers. They are at the forefront of figuring out ways to bring the right content to life at the right time and to the right audience.”
During the next few years, expect television sets to undergo some major changes. Apple is rumored to be developing a digital age set, and other tech giants are studying the concept as well. More effective ways to measure and gauge viewer and reader response (think social media analytics, cross-screen integration, and QR codes) could turn traditional media upside down. Predicted Bough: “Cross-screen integration will become the most powerful strategy available to brand marketers and will give new meaning to the term ‘connected experience.’”