I’m in B&Ts “Meet the Futurists” – marketing trends & predictions

B&T has come out with a new feature, “Meet The Futurists”. They asked me and a number of fellow marketing and advertising leaders what our views (predictions) were about marketing trends.

My answers covered: the media industry, digital marketing, the advertising industry, blockchain, marketing science (Ehrenberg), lean startup principles in marketing, artificial intelligence and plenty of other areas.

Here’s the piece on marketing trends / futures (click the image to download the PDF):

Here is the full interview:

What’s your one BIG FUTURE prediction for media in the coming years?

Media will go from a people heavy industry to a technology platform heavy industry. Artificial intelligence will drive applied media outcomes, where a couple of smart media strategists sitting across a number of software platforms will replace the jobs of thousands. This will massively erode margins and make most media companies shrink and die. Further, blockchain media attribution will provide clients with transparency they can only dream of now. These platforms will democratise the industry, drive increased transparency and trust, and better media and client outcomes, making it easy for any creative / comms / PR agency or client to take media buying in-house.

How will our workplaces change to suit?

In the old days, organisations grew, and with scale they gained certain economies: The ability to buy expensive barriers to entry, the ability to purchase sophisticated computers and software platforms, and the ability to hire top talent via expansive human resources departments that would ensure new entrants were facing an extremely steep battle in matters of cost, quality and scale.

However that has all changed. It’s now the opposite, as highly sophisticated software is available at a per seat, per month basis. Talent is now accessible via open online markets such as Linkedin. Huge computer systems that were once physical are now virtual, such as AWS. And even the manufacturing of goods and services has been commoditised via trading platforms such as Alibaba. Any founder or entrepreneur has BETTER access and ability than enterprise. A credit card is more agile than a procurement department.

So, the only advantage large businesses have over small businesses is their access to capital. But because large organisations don’t generally adhere to lean principles, they are afraid of marketing-based validation, and have mountainous layers of bureaucracy, their capital is wasted.

Our workplaces will therefore become smaller, more agile and more focussed. Like creative industries such as music and film, where vast swarms of teams gather to work on projects at various phases of production, marketing workplaces will be a mix of highly specialised people supported by a “sexy stack” of software, virtual assistants and AI bots enhancing and applying our knowledge and skills at scale.

Algorithms are fast replacing human brains. Should the thinkers and the creators be worried?

Linking neural networks and machine learning to marketing science will drastically simplify marketing strategies, tactics and approaches, and it make marketing much easier and more effective. Thinkers and creators will be empowered – most of the work of people in advertising, marketing and media could be easily replaced and most likely will be in the next three or four years. Audience identification, profit / revenue growth strategy, product optimisation, profit pool estimation, budget allocation, channel resource allocation, media planning, media buying, media optimisation, creative optimisation and workflow management can all be done with software now. Creativity, ideas, insights, innovation and corporate strategy cannot yet be done by machines. Creatives and planners should be fine – for the foreseeable future.

What will brands increasingly have to do to stand out above “the noise”?

As Peter Drucker once said: “Because the purpose of business is to create a customer, the business enterprise has two – and only two – basic functions; marketing and innovation. Marketing and innovation produce results; all the rest are costs. Marketing is the distinguishing, unique function of the business.”

So how do brands then distinguish themselves with marketing and innovation and stand out above the noise? By adopting marketing science and lean startup principles. Marketing science is yet to make serious inroads, and until it is accepted rather than seen as a subjective fad, then marketers and agencies will truly struggle to achieve great results, and therefore be taken seriously by business leaders.

One of key challenges here is ensuring there is something to talk about – the products and services must be superb and distinctive. However the product innovation and product development lifecycles in business are generally too slow to outpace competition, so distinctiveness and excellence are increasingly difficult.

Further: Most efforts in business around ideas, products and innovation is merely internal noise – LMNA (Lots of Meetings, No Action). Worth nothing until it is shipped.

So therefore, market-validated innovation must play a more substantial role. Shipping and testing product variations, ideas and communications to new markets rapidly and iteratively is the only way brands will survive. Test every idea, every innovation, every suggestion at great reach – and learn in a mature, failure-filled way.

Mumbrella advertising review: Qantas (great), CUB (OK), Black Hawk (half-baked) and nab (forgettable)

Mumbrella asked me to review a series of current Aussie ad campaigns.

Here’s what I said:

1. Qantas → was bringing the iconic “I still call Australia Home” anthem the right thing to do? Is Qantas advertising becoming stale? In your view was this an effective way of creating an inflight video? Why/why not?

Qantas ads have been truly awful for a long time, from the baffling work of Droga5 to the more recent blandness peddled by the late Neil Lawrence / Monkeys in the “Feels Like Home” campaign (I’d suggest travel advertisements that inspire people to travel in a big, branded, energetic way work better than ads that are dull, unbranded and draw imagery from observing people arriving safely into a dark and empty airport terminal).

This however, is an excellent piece of work; easily the best safety video I’ve ever seen.

It begins with the intense range of emotions at Departure: Excitement, the thrill, the emotion, the heartache, over rapidly into a big city visit, and then takes us on a journey through a range of external endorsements of Australian culture. There’s nothing Australians love more than people “from overseas” validating our accent, our approach to life, our larrikinism, our resilience, even our songs. When the bloke on top of the Andes grabs the guitar and belts out a few notes of “I Still Call Australia Home” (the best brand asset Qantas has after the flying Kangaroo) to the surprise and rapture of his fellow global travellers, it’s basically peak Aussie pride. I can imagine every person in the plane’s eyes moistening as they watch scenes of Aussie cricket in Tokyo, Aussie flat whites in London and Aussie Vegemite in that beautifully shot scene with the Shanghai family.

It’s an affectionate, happy and positive embodiment of “The Spirit of Australia”. This is what Qantas’s ads should be like from now on.

2. CUB → This ad has sparked controversy with some Australians labeling it as discriminatory. Do you think this ad pushed the boundaries in the wrong way? Is the strategy behind the ad effective? Will it get people on side with the new beer? Why/why not?

I give this a 66% rating.
Product bundling is usually done in the most boring way possible. Shampoo brand X bundles new Conditioner brand X for free in a shrink-wrap to encourage trial. Dull as dishwater. But this effort at bundling a new beer flavour within six packs, and then “rewarding” people $500 to avoid any loss aversion is a really novel idea.

It’s another great idea to encourage people to “seek out” these errant bottles – a strongly branded call to action. Basing it on “you never know where red-heads can pop up in your family” is a cute, fun and brand-associated metaphor that people who live in the real world would most likely link to the product, remember (most importantly) and get a laugh out of.

However, the execution isn’t great. It tries to be funny but it’s a bit lame. The quick cut nature of the shots / stock footage looks a bit disjointed. If I wanted to generate some outrage in this ad, I’d save it for the incredibly long / word heavy script and matching overbearing, overly bloke voiceover. I was experiencing the McGurk Effect as I was watching it: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/McGurk_effect

3. Black Hawk → As an online tool, does the campaign do the job of taking consumers on a path to purchase? Will the campaign sell dog food? Why/why not?

I like the idea that people should be taking care of their dog with appropriate food quality and quantity. I like that there is a way of easily explaining how over- or underweight your dog is, using a human scale. However this execution is a little half-baked. What they are currently not doing is using (the relatively unbranded) DogCheck.com.au to gather data on every dog in Australia (and their owners) and using that information to advertise to the owners over the lifecycle of the dogs. According to my software, the site only has Google Analytics and Facebook plugins, not nearly enough to do the heavy lifting needed for a big, data-driven creative campaign. Build cross channel attribution by using plugins and opt-ins on the site that enrich the data before people are even asked for their email address. Further, they are not using social logins, so they demand of people that they manually enter their details. This would most likely discourage at least 60% of the eventual visitors to this part of the site.

The advantages of building a more “data-driven creative approach” with this is that they might be able to create a range of creative messages targeted to precisely the right dog owner at the right time. If the dogs are young, then promote the “puppy” product. If older, maybe the “softer” product. Creative executions that have an image / size of the exact dog the owner has. These are some of the opportunities that cannot not being exploited by this particular campaign platform right now the way that it’s constructed. If they make these changes, they might be able to drive dog food sales. Without it, it’s hard to see how sales will increase.

4. NAB → Does the ad do an effective job of continuing the ‘More than Money’ brand platform? What does the ad say about NAB’s personality?

It’s really tough for Aussie banks at the moment. Anti-capitalism is infecting our Parliament, media and even our boardrooms. The Royal Commission into banking is putting them under incredible pressure. Banking taxes are crazy – they’re a tax on consumers, as simple as that.

But despite all of that, banks underpin the prosperity of Australia. The Australian economy is basically “homes and holes” and banks have underpinned these sectors with cheap and plentiful money since white settlement. Home ownership rates in Australia – a core part of Aussie culture, is at historic highs (even despite the high cost of homes). Australian quality of life and purchasing power is also at historic highs. Credit is cheap. Bank service (while we’ll always whinge) is not too bad. Try “tap and go” in the USA, or try to find an ATM in Europe, and you find yourself yearning for the “four pillars”: ANZ, nab, Westpac and CBA.

And the funniest part? Aussie know this. Aussies totally trust their banks with money. Aussies own a massive range of banking products. There’s nothing Aussies would rather do than to put their money into one of our big four. As much as we whinge and say the opposite, we endorse the banks wholeheartedly with our actions, not our words. And actions are all that matter.

What Aussie don’t trust is banks that stray from their core purpose, which is to borrow from one person and lend to another in order to provide liquidity and make for a more prosperous society. The moment banks start talking about “more than money”, is when the famous Australian bullshit detector goes up. nab is running scared with “more than money”. “more than money” implies that there is something wrong with “money” and that “money” is only part of nab’s overall offer. It’s not. It’s what nab does, and does well. It’s not something to be ashamed of.

This work is simply an empathetic but totally forgettable attempt at expressing the flawed “more than money” premise.

And the original piece in Mumbrella.

I Sea: Awards are not the purpose of advertising

I worked in the music industry for many years, with many globally renowned artists, songwriters, composers, producers and musicians, from Max Martin to Mutt Lange to David Hirschfelder.

These creative titans always only ever had one measure of success: ‘How many units did we sell?’.

To them awards were largely an irrelevance. Advertising seems to work the opposite way. Many people claim to be creative – not to sell, but to win awards. Awards are not the purpose of advertising. The only role of advertising agencies is to reduce price elasticity of demand for their clients products and services through inspiring, memorable, high-reach communications.

This grows businesses. This increases total, long-term shareholder return. This builds 100-year brands. That’s what advertising does when it’s really, really good.

However, many, many ad agencies don’t understand business, don’t understand this concept, don’t aim for it, don’t measure it and ultimately add zero shareholder value.

So how do they measure success? How do they feel like they’re winning? Through Likes, awards, plaudits of their peers and other empty measures.

And in many, many instances, they are so unfocused, so utterly without purpose or vision that they create fake work in order to win creative awards at Cannes in the hope that they can win clients, do empty work without meaning and make enough money that they can traipse off to Cannes the next year with a bagful of fake work and win creative awards.And so on.

So much so that the KPIs of most ad agencies are populated with awards win metrics, so that awards become the sole focus of the agency. ‘Scam’ is even joked about as ‘Strategic Creative Advertising Marketing’. Not doing worthy work – but making fake work to win awards.

So, the creative awards shows are largely filled with fake work, with organised ‘voting blocks’, where countries and holding groups game the voting systems to ensure their underperforming sectors, geographies or brands can win awards.


They claim these creative awards will ‘allow us to hire better staff’ or ‘give us profile with clients’. However, these just don’t add up.

What adds up is that only approximately 20% of marketeers are trusted by their CEOs to drive growth in their business. That the average tenure of a CMO in a publicly-listed company is less than three years.

That clients all over the world are waking up to the fact that the trillions of Likes they campaigned so hard for haven’t added to their revenues.

What adds up is that to grow, CEOs increasingly turn to accounting firms and other consultancies to provide marketing and advertising services because they understand business.

What adds up is that advertising is losing the battle for talent; where will our talent come from unless our industry adjusts course and more agencies recognise the true, sustainable measures of success?

Ideas are the most powerful driver of business growth, but the most revolutionary and amazing ideas in the world today aren’t being judged at awards shows in the south of France; they are being judged through the consumption of sovereign individuals, consumers who seek to buy these ideas, fragmented into the shape of can’t-live-without apps, of memorable songs, of stunning product design, of brave start-ups, of beautiful stores, of essential credit cards.

This kind of commercial creativity – this creative gale of entrepreneurship and capitalist endeavour – needs the help of advertising agencies to grow and to flourish. Clients make this incredible stuff, it’s our duty to extract the intangible value and to inspire people to buy it.

What advertising creates isn’t worthy of award, but it is highly worthy of reward. Drag a person out of their living room and into your store. Build a website that allows them to buy something in such a beautiful and simple way that they’ll do it again.

Use data and insights to create and launch 1,000 new insurance products – one for every suburb.

Make someone change the way they drive home to shop in your supermarket. Build an app that gives service staff everything they need to make the experience incredible. Inspire and educate clients as to how marketing really works.

Create content so useful that a million people refer to it every year. Give millions a message so insightful, resonant and so well branded that they can’t forget you when they next want to buy your brand of drink. Do this every day. Find ways to measure it. Find every day success. Be rewarded.


The purpose of agencies needs to move away from the disgusting work epitomised by Grey Singapore with its ‘I Sea’ app – disturbingly and predictably awarded at Cannes – and towards recognising the real growth and real success as measured through: client revenue growth; client share price growth; increasing internal rate of return, decreasing cost per acquisition; enduring advertising creative that burns its way into the consciousness of people who don’t care and don’t share; to convincing millions of consumers to buy the products and services of clients instead of a few giddy creative directors sitting in a room in Cannes.

A true democratisation of success. Real reward. Music to my ears.

McDonald’s new unbranded campaigns are actually very distinctive

McDonald’s recently released a series of advertisements which are completely stripped of any branding, yet the brand is still instantly recognisable. The ads show a close up of the food but have no text, logo, or mention of McDonald’s.

Mc donalds

mc donalds

Mc Donalds

McDonald’s is known to focus on food in its advertisements which, over time, has built strong mental connections between the food and the brand. This means that it can be recognised by its food alone.

This is similar to what Nike has done with the iconic Swoosh. Nike consistently used the Swoosh in every piece of brand communications over a long period of time, making it strongly associated with the brand. Now Nike can be recognised by the swoosh alone.

The best way to build distinctive brand assets is to create something that is unique and use it in all communications for as long as possible. Over time it will become strongly associated with your brand and act as a mental cue in a purchase occasion.

It is however risky to leave other brand assets out of your communications because over time they may deteriorate in peoples memories.

To find out more read: Would you like fries with your branding?

2015 Super Bowl ad review: PART 2

As I wrote two weeks ago, unbranded ads are a waste of time and money. TSN just released the results from its analysis of the 2015 Super Bowl ad campaigns, which highlighted that the unbranded ads added no value to the brand.

The research found that Budweiser’s ‘Lost Puppy’ ad had a 26% share of ad mentions online, however, “it achieved a poor score on personal relevance, thus failing to translate into memory – and ultimately value – for the brand”. 

The article mentions that the product only features at the end of the ad and is barely noticeable.

Budweiser wasted their media budget and missed out on an opportunity to build brand salience.

Budweiser should have:

  1. Introduced the brand as soon as possible
  2. Included the brand as often as possible
  3. Ensured the brand was big enough and clear enough for viewers to see
  4. Used a branded hashtag

2015 Super Bowl Ad Review. #WasteOfMoney

The NFL Super Bowl is the world’s most sought after advertising space, however, is it really worth the money?

In 2015 over 114 million people watched the Super Bowl making it the most viewed program on television in America. A 30 second ad spot during the Super Bowl costs around $4M or roughly $35 per thousand impressions.

There are no surprises that advertising during the Super Bowl is comparatively expensive, but is it really worth it?

The 2015 Super Bowl saw the likes of Budweiser, Nationwide, Microsoft, Mophie, Dove, BMW, and Mercedes-Benz flaunt their most impressive creativity. Unfortunately for these brands it was not worth the $4M, they wasted it on poorly branded advertisements.

If you want to get the biggest bang for your buck at the Super Bowl (or in any ad) it’s essential that you:

  1. Introduce your brand as soon as possible
  2. Include the brand as often as possible
  3. Ensure the brand is big enough and clear enough for viewers to see
  4. If you use a Hashtag make sure it’s directly linked to your brand

The bulk of the ads shown during the 2015 Super Bowl lacked clear branding. If you look at the videos below you will notice how the brand is not mentioned or seen until the last few seconds. If your brand is not blatantly obvious don’t expect consumers to remember you. People do not pay full attention to advertising, roughly 1/3 will actively avoid TV ads by doing things such as switching channels or leaving the room, 1/3 will passively avoid by doing things such as playing on their phones or chatting to friends, and 1/3 will actually watch the ads. This makes it vitally important to be highly branded so even people not paying full attention will still recognise your brand. No matter how funny, sad, or beautiful the ad is, people will forget what is being promoted unless it’s well branded.

Secondly NONE of the hashtags in the examples below are branded either. Look at the list of Hashtags and see if you can guess what brand they belong to from the ones mentioned above:

#TeamHare #TeamTortoise #ItsThatEasy #RealStrength #StayPowerful #BestBuds #MakeSafeHappen #HelloFuture #Empowering

Everyday over 500 million tweets are sent on Twitter making it increasingly important for brands to standout amongst the clutter. Your brand must be easily identifiable from your hashtag, otherwise you are wasting your time and money with an unownable, unmemorable, and unbranded communications.

The Loctite ad was a great example of clear branding. They managed to mention their brand 8 times in a 30 second ad, introduce the brand in the first few seconds, and create a catchy and distinctive jingle (see below), however, they also used an unbranded hashtag #WinAtGlue.

In every ad make your brand the focus of any communication, reach as many people as you can, and make your brand famous.

Dove Men + Care: #RealStrength no branding till the last 10 seconds

Mercedes-Benz: #TeamHare #TeamTortoise not seen in the first 30 seconds

Mophie: #StayPowerful not mentioned till the last 3 seconds of a 1 minute ad

Budweiser: #BestBuds no branding till the last 4 seconds

Nationwide: No branding till the last 7 seconds

BMW: #HelloFuture

Microsoft: #empowering No branding till the last 3 seconds


People hate losing control (of videos) because they don't expect to

Yes, of course people hate those ugly video pre-rolls that appear before video content on YouTube or other video publisher sites. Video pre-rolls are totally annoying – almost as annoying as page takeovers that completely interrupt / destroy the user experience, because we have no control over them.

Let’s consider the context of an interruptive 30 second pre-roll.  We’ve sat through highly interruptive videos in the form of traditional TVCs for years, and despite benefit of using those times to run off and put the kettle on or using ad breaks as a toilet break, they’ve not been particularly good or bad. We don’t get too annoyed by TVCs.

So why are single video pre-rolls so f*cking annoying? Because we are interrupted in an environment where otherwise, we have complete control. Whilst in the digital space, we control our preferences, our options, our screen sizes, our content – everything is customisable, everything is under our command. One of the most attractive elements of technology and social media is the customisation of it – the purity of delivery and our ablity to mold it to our will completely.

We’re annoyed because they’re ultimately sh*t and they cannot be controlled in an otherwise totally controllable environment. Most of the time we spend on them, we spend looking or the little small “x” to close the video. (That some publishers / media companies claim this as a “click” is another story – and similarly annoying).

Control is something that we do not get from TV, that we’ve never had, therefore our expectations are lower, as are our frustrations when we are interrupted with ads. Even when we fast forward through TV recordings, we recognise the trade off between being able to time-shift and the delay in which we’ve been able to consume it – we’ve customised it.

We trust more when we control more. It’s why trust in technology companies is higher than most other companies – in dealing with technology companies and products, we assume that eager nerds have delivered pure products that we can control, interact with and pour our lives into. When this changes, we recoil in horror.

The Viral Plague – Why "viral" videos are a waste of time and money

The Virus of Viral
A new, virulent plague has afflicted communications agencies and marketing departments all over the world; one that’s based on the flimsy notion that consumers can’t wait to latch onto branded content and share it with their friends.

In fact, there seems to be a prevailing thought that some sort of “consumer sharing pipeline” exists, all of them eagerly awaiting for their weekly dose of “Old Spice”. Do people really sit around on a Friday afternoon, scouring the interwebz, looking for a corporate video to fulfil their obligations and scratch the “viral” itch for the week?

Realistically, we know it’s not true. Despite all the chat about social creativity or shareability, sharing is something people do for two reasons alone:

  1. To benefit their friends
  2. To make themselves appear smarter/funnier to their friends

Just because your company thinks it’s important, it doesn’t make it true for most consumers. YouTube is littered with the detritus of agency and client attempts to create “virals” that have gone miserably – and expensively – wrong as a result of ignoring these fundamental principles.

Sharing is good
Sharing is a core part of the human existence. Socialising and discussing information and ideas can be mutually beneficial, while improving the welfare of our friends has a strong intrinsic value, and may also have the beneficial side effect that our friends start thinking better of us. Increasing the esteem we’re held in may act as the major motivator to share for some people, but is often merely the unintended benefit of sharing.

The two criteria listed above should be used to test the appropriateness of the content created by communications agencies and marketing departments. Ultimately, if they want their message to be shared, companies must provide content that adds value. That’s important not just because they want it to be, but important because it really is genuinely “arousing”: interesting, emotional, rational, relevant and salient. Or just laugh-your-arse-off funny.

Hurdles to Sharing
In order to create content that people will actually share, it must at least be objectively brilliant, and should also satisfy all of these criteria:

  • Access – The content must be extremely simple to access
  • Consumption – It must be very easy to consume
  • Comprehension – It must be self-contained and easy to understand
  • Benefit of sharing – It must be beneficial to my friends and/or make me look better
  • Cost of sharing – weighing up the ease of sharing against the benefits of going through with it. It should be ‘worth it’.
  • Currency – It must be new – or at least carry the high likelihood that it is fresh to the receiver / future receivers
  • Perceived benefit of receiving – when the person receiving it thinks it’ll be good, they’re more likely to investigate it
  • When they benefit and/or think better of you because of it
  • When they think their friends will benefit and/or think better of them by passing it on themselves

The Long Tale
Even if it’s great, it doesn’t mean it’ll be rapidly shared. Viral is an outcome, not a strategy. There are many excellent examples of brand information and other video storytelling that aren’t “viral”. Good content that’s well executed and is always there, always on, always accessible, will always be viewed, slowly but surely. This kind of content simply makes sense. It’s an effective way of extending communications across media; less about the short term-high burn, and more about the “long tale” of storytelling over time – where a single YouTube video can achieve reach and be of benefit for years to come.

As an industry, we need to stop getting over-excited by the lure of free distribution and rapid spikes in viewers and realise that, just like any other medium, social media has costs. Only then might we be cured of this epidemic.

20 x 12 – 20 Trends for communicators in 2012

I’ve compiled a list of 20 trends for communicators for the next 12 months.  Enjoy!

1. True Digital Communications
What many people in our industry call “digital” is just online communications. Truly “Digital” operations occur across three layers: Hardware, Software and Online. Most agencies and companies have played with Online (Social , Facebook, online communications and content, ads and so on), dabbled in Software (software as a service, apps, calculators, tools and games) and have left Hardware to their staff hobbyists, if at all.

We’re going to see some truly digital operations in the marketing and communications space, led by the big integrated agencies and/or marketing companies. Large scale technology builds to augment shopper experience and facilitate awareness and sales should be part of every marketeer’s ambitions. What is more likely over the shorter term are smaller, cheaper, more nimble executions such as: merging digital displays with other media, ensuring that point of sale systems share APIs with social networks, and building low cost gadgets and tools to facilitate communications and sales (potentially starting with LittleBits, Cubelets and other low cost electronics).

2. The Internet of Things
We’re going to see a genuine value exchange – internet connected everyday household items provided cheaply (or freely) in return for advertising opportunities. With the rise of the “internet of things”, where every day household items such as fridges, alarm clocks and even toothbrushes become connected to the internet, we’ll see them become advertising and communications displays – a home full of screens. Advertising has funded the FTA TV industry in many countries; phone calls, SMS and data have subsidised mobile handsets. The freemium business model, so popular with software, will begin to expand into consumer hardware. Data, paid for by advertisers, feeding content to devices paid for by advertisers. Clocks that provide sponsored news updates, weather vanes that give you the temperature and an advertisement for clothing are just two examples of how marketeers might create new owned media channels.

3. Digital Austerity
2012 is about simplicity and austerity. The death of the campaign site has been coming for a long time, but finally, communicators are beginning to realise that in order to build distinctive, memorable brand assets, AUniqueWebsiteForAShortTermCampaign.com is a complete waste of time and money. Short term campaign constructs lead to efforts being made dragging people to that campaign construct such as short-term Facebook Fan page, short lived apps and other useless elements, rather than getting their brand noticed, remembered and understood through developing long term brand assets – the foundations of a brand – offline and online. The corollary of cutting down a variety of different campaigns and distraction marketing is that people will notice your brand more, rather than noticing your advertising. Branded, consistent distribution points for communications should always be increased.

4. The Last Campaign
2012 should see big changes in the way many marketing departments operate, away from the on-off “campaign mentality” that has hurt so many brands with visibility gaps and lack of reach, to more realtime marketing – always listening, always responding, always mentally available, always reaching consumers. The only way to achieve this is for many companies to move away from seasonal, quarterly and campaign budgets based on time, and move towards more modal budgeting – in order to reach, to tell stories, to create distinctive brand assets, to engage and entertain – all at the same time, over time, all the time.

5. Sentiment ain’t what it used to be
While social media monitoring, conversation analysis are essential elements to learning and developing qualitative communications insights, one of the most useless elements to it, sentiment analysis, will hopefully die a quick and sudden death. There is not a digital marketing practitioner worth his salt that believes sentiment analysis is anything more than gimmickry. So much more can be gained through analysis of issues at a qualitative level, keyword analysis and a spread of sites and conversations. Conversation monitoring firms should stop peddling this snake oil and actually provide better value by being able to monitor sites where truly insightful conversations occur – primarily Facebook and online forums / discussion boards.

6. Data and Analytics
Big Data is the new oil, the new plastics, the new “social media”. Forget retweets, likes and other soft metrics – Big Data analysis allows for any organisation to understand their huge data sets in a way that will fundamentally change the way they manage their businesses. From working out how to predict when insurance claims will be made, to the likelihood of hospital visits based on previous visits to a local doctor, to the correlation between temperature and beer consumption, companies like Kaggle are making high quality big data analysis cheaper and easier. Google Correlate helps banks understand the most likely timing and location of mortgage enquiries just as it has helped the US Center for Disease Control understand the timing and location of virus outbreaks. And on a small data analysis scale, companies like Betaworks, with their stable of brands such as Bitly and Chartbeat, and ISP based sources such as Experian Hitwise and eCommerce analytics tools are essential tools that have suffered from less visibility because they’re not the new, new thing, but they are incredibly important, and 2012 will see them recognised as such once again.

7. The Game Layer
2012 is the year that game dynamics or “gamification” crossover into the every day. Gamification is, in simple terms, a series of emotional mechanics communicators and marketeers can use to encourage purchase or incite reaction. A traditional example of gamification is happy hours in pubs. If you attend a pub (location) at a specific hour (time) you receive half price beers (discount reward). Airline rewards points are similar: purchase a flight (transaction), and you’ll get points (artificial reward points). The more you purchase, the more points you earn, therefore you increase your status (level-up) for greater benefits (point reward status). This is no different to addictive games, where the more you play, the more experience you earn (XP), the better your weapons / players / options. Humans are irrational, emotional beings. The key for communicators and marketers isn’t to change the way they communicate, but to change the way they get noticed and increase relevant associations with their communications, building a “game layer” over their existing communications and marketing.

8. One Hundred Seconds of Solitude
Solitude and silence will make a considerable comeback in 2012. Shutting down notifications, turning off phones, removing oneself from data access will become more and more valued. Out of office replies and voicemail is diminishing, with the expectation that we’re always connected, always plugged into the network. As a result, we’ve seen a consumer backlash in the form of email bankruptcy (deleting one’s entire inbox and writing an out of office alerting people that anything they’ve sent over that period has been lost/deleted) and overall attention deficit, not a disorder, but the deliberate lack of attention. Now we’re seeing apps such as MacFreedom that allow you to block the internet for up to 8 hours – and as the name suggests, earn “freedom” from notification. International holidays have an unintended benefit in that the prohibitively high mobile data costs stop people from checking in on the road, allowing a respite from notification fatigue (which for some is an asphyxiating disconnection).

9. Attention Shifting
From Instapaper to uTopic to Pinterest to YouTube’s “Watch This Later” to Safari’s “Reading List” – we’ve moved from appointment based media such as traditional TV and radio to time-shifting media such as podcasts and video recording to now “attention shifting”. We see it now, we can access it now, but we’re not ready to actually consume it and think about it now. These tools are in essence “Wishlists” for free content – despite it being free (cost-wise), we’re not free (time-wise). We’re going to see a lot more of these tools, “Attention shifting shopping carts”.

10. Advocacy Fatigue
Why listen to loyalists? They’re buying already. As for their reach, it’s limited, despite the protestations of many a social media “guru”. The excellent Ehrenberg-Bass Institute recently found that less than 1% of existing Facebook Fans were actively engaged in their Fan Pages, and existing fans didn’t buy any more of the products compared to non-fans. The social media industry needs to focus on reach, rather than niche; the industry needs to use social conversations as a means to understand what people are thinking, the questions they are asking, and what they’re searching for and visiting, rather than defining success on the actions of the very few “likes” and “fans”. What is more important is to speak to the many people who aren’t buying, talking, sharing, liking and blogging about your brand – the everyday consumer, non-existent or light buyers of your brand. Many social media campaigns ignore this very obvious paradox: the very people who are the lightest consumers (who are the source of sales growth) are the very ones who aren’t engaged, who aren’t participating, who aren’t fans – and who have little or no interest in the brand. Further, with the exception of high involvement purchases, current fans are unlikely to advocate to these others on your behalf.
Provide better communications to get noticed by the uninformed and disinterested – yes, involve the key opinion leaders, involve the niche if you have the luxury – but effective storytelling has to happen across media, for the many, not just the few.

11. Social Signon
Here’s a puzzle: If you consider the entire Hotmail user base, where are the largest number of users based? If you answered China, you’re wrong. Japan? No. India? Indonesia? Brazil? United States? Germany? United Kingdom? All incorrect. the answer is AFGHANISTAN. Before you wrack your brain considering the reasons why, the simple answer is that Afghanistan is the first country that comes up in the login / signup page, therefore people click Afghanistan rather than scrolling down and accurately filling in information. People are sick of signing up and logging in, but this isn’t new – 88% of people claimed to have provided incorrect information when joining services in 2011, up from 76% in 2010, according to a recent survey for Janrain. Facebook Connect – using Facebook to automatically fill in signup documents and login isn’t new either – however 2012 is the year when “Social signon” will move towards universal adoption. By the end of 2012, sites that do not offer social signon (whether via Facebook, Google Account or Twitter), and true connections to the social graph, will suffer drastic declines in visitation, interaction and most importantly, the ability to deliver customised content and advertising to users.

12. The Tyranny of Popularity
Facebook is making it easy – too easy – to automatically share our activities. We read an article on the Guardian or Washington Post Website, and it automatically adds it to our Facebook feed. We don’t even have to like it – simply participate, and it shares automatically, “frictionless sharing”.
There is a problem with this – there’s so much info out there. Facebook is breaking with its past of “Top Stories” and moving the other way – overwhelming us with more information than we need – or like. While sharing is always important to the sharer, too much sharing is a burden on the consumer. That’s the key problem with Twitter – it’s a torrent, not a stream. In the era of information overload, and attention bankruptcy, we now have too much from Facebook. Most people aren’t good at working out what’s interesting to others and what isn’t, so we require filters to identify the best stories and content – some filters are professional people such as editors, while other filters use aggregate measures such as clicks and “likes” and serve us the most popular. If something becomes popular, it moves to the top of social rankings, which begets popularity, whether the content is “good” or not. The only way to ensure that the most popular content changes on many sites is to introduce decay rates to content that ensure even popular content falls off the perch quickly enough that people won’t get bored by it. Google overcame this issue, what was known as the “Google effect“, when it used to promote the most clicked link higher up the search order. Since then, they’ve improved their algorithms to ensure that it’s not just the most popular (ie: social), but the most relevant and most authoritative link that gets promoted, but this will change in 2012 with increased social search results.

13. The Payment Layer
Digital has lead to an explosion of channels across so many industries – from music to social to content to platforms. However, one of the holy grails of the internet – reliable, universally acceptable and rigorous payment systems are rare. After PayPal, there is daylight. WePay, MoneyBookers, Amazon Payments and Bitcoin (despite it’s recent troubles) are potential challengers, while Square’s growth has been slow and steady.
Google Wallet is slowly growing, while Near Field Communications will be integrated into everything from digital panels to vending machines to supermarket checkouts – allowing us to pay by waving our mobile phone over a payment terminal. Once payment systems become more sophisticated and allow us to pay in increments of hundredths of a cent, then we may see an improvement in the way copyright is adequately remunerated outside of specific distribution channels, from text to images to video to audio.

14. The Rise of APIs
APIs, Application Programming Interfaces, are ways in which software programs communicate with each other. Simply, it’s how you’re able to get the weather on your iPhone app – the weather bureaux (or source of content) creates an API that your mobile weather app accesses in order to find out what your local weather forecast is. APIs aren’t just used for weather, but by organisations of all different types to open up their systems and allow people to build apps, software, games and solutions using that information. A perfect example of that is the NYSE, who opened up all of their data in the form of APIs, so that people would create software that analyses, tracks and provides solutions related to any part of the NYSE. Another example is auto manufacturer – General Motors has recently created a number of APIs in their cars, allowing people to control elements of the car’s operation using their mobile app – whether starting the car remotely, or setting off a map based alarm to warn the person that they should stop as they approach a petrol station. APIs aren’t just about access, but about building an ecology around products and services for the betterment of the consumer. American Express and FourSquare trialled a system whereby offers and specials through Foursquare were automatically redeemed if a person used their American Express card – without staff or consumer having to wave a coupon or delay the transaction. All of this powered by their respective APIs. 2012 will see a boom in APIs as organisations see the benefit of opening up their APIs and allowing customers, suppliers and consumers to mash up the benefits and reap the respective rewards.

15. The Internet is Leaking
As much as we love our flash in the pan status updates, tweets and other digital ephemera, people are looking for a reversion to the tangible, the tactile, the real. It’s been happening for a while, but there are a distinct lack of providers in this space. Berg has just launched Little Printer, a prototype for a “social printer”, a means to deliver up to the second status updates, weather reports, photos, coupons and other ephemera in printed form. Apple have recently added a very useful “Cards” app, that allows iPhone users to send greeting cards direct from their mobile phone using photos they’ve just taken. From the NewspaperClub.com to Postagram to Printstagram, tactile options are on the rise. As wonderful as digital is, it’s not great at giving us texture, despite the proliferation of Instagram and Hipstamatic film grain packs. 2012 will provide us with many more examples of where the Internet has leaked into our rooms.

16, Mesa Checkins
Forget checking into a venue – what are you eating there? What is the event you’re attending? 2012 will see an explosion in the detail checkin – not the generic venue, but the specific product, service or event. If I want the best spaghetti bolognese within 1km, a check-in service such as Oink will help me find it (despite it recently being purchased and shut down by Google). I might not be a fan of a sports stadium, but I’m a fan of the team who are playing there that day. Mesa checkins – “mesa” coming from the Greek “inside”, tend to be more active – I’m “watching” / “eating”, rather than the passive “I’m at”. Mesa checkins are also rapidly extending into traditional media, with an increasing number of media-synching apps that allow us to check-in to songs (Shazam, SoundHound) and TV shows (Miso, GetGlue, Into_Now, Meta Mirror, Flingo, Media Sync and GOAB) while we’re watching them.

17. Life Telemetry
Formula One cars are at the bleeding edge of electronic innovation, particularly their telemetry systems that monitor hundreds of variables on a car and instantly send the information back to base, in order to provide the teams with the ability to modify the performance of the car, thus improving performance. With mobile phones in every pocket, with accelerometer, compass, microphone, camera and other sensory inputs, why not track every element of your life and thereby improve your performance? Whether it be tracking your sleeping patterns with sleep apps such as Sleep Cycle, monitoring your calorie intake with LoseIt! or your jogging distances with Nike+Fuelband, the mobile device as sensor and quality infographics as output should increasingly allow us to monitor our life telemetry – from calorie intake to productivity to moods.

18. Smarter Search
As good as Google is, it only supplies us with a list of links where it believes the information lies, rather than the information itself. The greatest online success stories are platforms for sorting and filtering information – Google, Facebook, Yahoo!, Amazon – they are in essence elaborate curators / editors – with either ads or a retail store attached to monetise them. We require better search, “plain English” search, and actual answers, not results. From Google Squared (recently shut down) to Wolfram Alpha to Siri to Google+, we are in a new era of search wars, based on providing us with real answers and solutions with a social, local, intent / historical context.

19. Second Screen Culture
We’re all accustomed to text search. For many of us, Shazam was the first app we installed on our smartphone – with its wonderful ability to ID any song we might hear out and about. We may even be in the vast minority who scan QR codes to access product information. Increasingly, 2012 will see visual search increase dramatically, especially when shopping – note eBay’s recent introduction of visual search. Second screens such as mobiles and tablets will give every single element of a brand the ability to be multi-dimensional in its communications. Where visual and audio search will play an increasingly important role is using the mobile as a media enabler – where people want to know more about a product at point of sale, or while watching an advertisements, they’ll simply be able to point their mobile phone at the device and allow the product packaging to “speak”. 68% of Americans watch TV with their smartphone, tablet or laptop in hand. How many marketers are providing complementary content for this second screen?

20. Vertical Social Networks
In the “good old days” of the internet, people would gather around interests and hobbies. News groups, with names such as alt.music.house were large planets that we would orbit around. We gravitated around interests, not people. These communities evolved into online forums – on topics as varied as fashion to football to cars to politics to music. These online forums are still the primary and most popular way in which people converse online – bringing together total strangers, generally identified by pseudonyms, around one common interest. Social networking sites such as Facebook are different – they make the person the “planet” – self-focussed, with a person’s life being the major topic that others gravitate towards. Vertical social networks bring together people who aren’t necessarily friends, but gather around an interest, just like online forums. The difference being they link the best of forums with the best of social networking; around specific topics. LinkedIn is a good example – people brought together around careers and business networking. Sermo is another – a social network for medical professionals and doctors to discuss medical issues. Myspace went from a social network, to trying to become a vertical social network around music, looking for focus and a specific interest to provide a hook for users. 2012 will see more and more of these vertical social networks arise, with the key being that they are mobile enabled – localised and using the cameras and microphones on phones to bring content “from the street” to the network instantly. PearlTrees, FoodSpotting and GetGlue are three examples; by the end of the year, there’ll be many, many more.

Apple iPad – What's old is Newton

Check out this 1993 ad for the infamous Apple Newton.

Now check out this 2010 for the new Apple iPad. I like the subtle hat tip back to the Newton ad. Let’s hope the iPad is somewhat more successful than the Newton. I’d say it will be. Out with the stylus and handwriting recognition. In with the broader acceptance for tablet based and mobile computing.