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.

15 Reasons Why Donald Trump Won – A Marketeer’s View

Donald Trump’s election is a stark reminder of some basic marketing principles around consumers, content and channels. Two flawed but distinctive political products came to market, and Trump triumphed. Here’s my take on win:

1. Politics and politicians has/have such little credibility that people crave outsiders.

2. People crave leadership, and when there is none (across the West), strength will fill the void.

3. Looking at four pillars of political success, Trump v Clinton:

  • Policy Vision — Flawed, but clear vs coherent but ever-changing political positions
  • Passion — Unquestionably passionate vs distant & calculating
  • Delivery — Successful businessman, future delivery TBC vs Solid track record — but only in politics
  • Humanity — Identified clearly with the needs of masses of voters (with the exception of those he offended) vs research group robot.

4. Someone of unshakeable beliefs (however flawed) is seen as “incorruptible” — a quality desperately sought by people.

5. Be a hero until the election, be a statesman after the election.

6. Heroism wins over values-neutral opportunism. People want to elect those who can take their troubles away — give them a semblance of control. Trump played the hero archetype that people are craving, see: Heroes dominating popular culture, Superheroes dominating cinema, see: Marvel being the biggest brand in entertainment right now.

7. As a strategy, awareness is far more effective than persuasion. Bold branding and bold messaging. Consideration is barely relevant, see: How Brands Grow / Thinking, Fast and Slow.

8. People don’t say what they think. And they don’t do what they say. In other words — what I think / say / do are often totally unrelated. This applies to everything, most acutely secret voting behaviour.

9. Social media is a tremendous echo-chamber that provides very few accurate insights into the opinions and behaviours of real people, even people you think you know. Search trends are far more accurate, see: Google Trends, who CONSISTENTLY had Trump ahead of Clinton in the USA for at least the last three months.

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10. This global cabal of media, mandarins, think-tanks, quangos and clientelism reeks of insiders, mediocrity and outcome-free politics. It was always going to be blown away by something real or super-real. A doer in the land of grey paper-shufflers and bed-wetters. See: Eurozone

11. Trump’s super-realism was very unique and distinctively branded — whether news, satire, memes, jokes or Halloween costumes — he was incredibly distinctive. The hair, the colour orange, the pout, the wife, the extreme outbursts — all unique and very memorable brand assets for voters who otherwise don’t care.

12. Trump’s brand assets were distributed everywhere, so he reached even the most disinterested voters (the ones that count). His opponents distributed news mocking him even more passionately than they distributed their own. PR, TV and large scale events reached many, many millions. The Clinton focus on converting the converted and making supporters feel good about their choice didn’t help simply because those people have only one vote to commit. Reach beats frequency every time.

13. Competitive businesspeople are more connected to the reality of daily competition and behaviour change than political people.

14. The culture of talking down to people and dismissing their beliefs as inferior simply on the basis of disagreement is a type of tremendously lazy and unintelligent smugness that does not win hearts, minds and votes. As David Ogilvy may have said: “The voter isn’t a deplorable, she is your wife”, see: Deplorables.

15. Keep shutting people down on Facebook, dismissing them as stupid in the media, or restricting their speech through laws and they’ll very carefully and very silently bite you right in the ballot box.

Why marketers should cut social media budgets

All too often, brands invest millions of dollars into social media for the wrong reasons. Paid advertising is a more effective way to acquire new customers than investing time and money into a social media presence.

The key to marketing success is to reach as many category buyers as possible. Your users need to be aware of your brand.

It’s a relatively simple concept. If someone thinks of your brand at the point of purchase, it increases the likelihood of a sale. So why do brands still invest so much into their social media presence?

According to The Journal of Advertising Research, social media attracts people who are familiar with, or heavy buyers of a brand. Think about it – you probably wouldn’t like a brand on Facebook unless you’ve already made a purchase with them or you’re already aware of their presence. If you’re going to acquire new customers, it’s important to reach out to new users and make sure they’re aware of your brand. Invest in higher reaching channels rather than focusing on your existing social media followers.

The proof is already out there. Brands will often back away from traditional high reaching mediums (such as television) to invest in social media, only to see a decline in sales. The Pepsi Refresh Project is a perfect example. Pepsi reduced its television investment to finance its social spend. While the project was live, Pepsi saw a consistent decline in market share, resulting in a loss of over $4o0 million.

Although this doesn’t mean that brands shouldn’t exist on social media. Social media can be a great tool for customer service, it can boost SEO and act as a content hub for thought leadership initiatives. Paid social advertising is a great way to reach users outside of your current social media following and drive customer acquisition.

The Five Faces of Social Media

Very often, I will be in a discussion with a client where they espouse the virtues of social media. They’ll suggest that social media is simply about people “liking” their brand.

I tend to bristle at the idea that social media has a single face – a single purpose. Especially when that purpose is as a relatively unproductive subscription-based profile better know as a Facebook Page, Snapchat ID or an Instagram profile.

The best way to look at social media is via the “best fit” purposes by which we might use various social media channels, of which there are five.

1. Social Media as a Subscription / Customer Service Channel

Liking / following these channels allows existing consumers to be kept up to date with the activities of a brand (although only a small percentage of people ever see the updates of said brand). This is where social channels attract the most attention – having “likes” and “follows”.

The ability for people to “like” a profile has taken on an almost supernatural power amongst novice marketers, as if the act of liking somehow guarantees reach, brand recognition and even uplift in “brand love”.
Sadly, the opposite is true.

The heaviest consumers of a brand – the people who are already buying the brand as much as they possibly can be – are the ones who are most likely the followers of your branded profile. It’s the people who are rusted on who are the ones liking, not the people who are the most important: your next, newest consumer.

Interestingly, only some of these channels – namely Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat – tend to attract the vanity metric seeking marketers. Ask most marketers how many people subscribe to their YouTube Channel, or how many emails they have collected in their database, and the answer is often far less clearcut, an indication of how arbitrary most of these figures are.

Therefore, the way in which these channels should be used as is later in the path to purchase – as a means of upselling, reminding or as a customer service tool.

In summary: Use your Facebook / Twitter feeds as a customer service / upsell tool, not a reach builder. “Likes” are of almost no value if you want to attract new customers.

2. Social media as a content channel

Probably the best, most common use of social media is as a low cost, high quality content distribution channel.

For many years, marketers and their colleagues in the IT department argued in favour of hosting their own websites, their own video streaming services and their own empires of wires.

However, social media channels such as YouTube proved that the best tools are free or nearly free. Using social media channels as a content distribution service is by far the best way to ensure your content is seen in the highest quality, on the right device, in the right format. Internal, bespoke content systems are generally vastly inferior, as they are almost constantly out of date, of poor quality and hideously expensive. Further, most of them are not search optimised as well as social networks, so your content doesn’t have the same opportunity of being discovered by consumers.

In summary: Use social media channels such as YouTube / Vimeo / Tumblr / others as world’s best practice content hosting /distribution services.

3. Social Media as an Advertising Platform

Social media is largely monetised via advertising, and in the era of increasing ad-blockers, social media is an extremely powerful way of advertising to consumers.

Reach is more important than frequency. It’s like a leaky bucket: every brand leaks consumers, brands that grow are characterised simply by their ability to acquire quicker than they leak. Marketing is quite straight forward: keep filling the bucket quicker than it empties.

Social media advertising is one of the best and cheapest ways of working towards this – with a variety of optimised ad formats, highly targeted advertising (on the likes of Facebook and Google platforms), and rich media options such as videos and HTML5.

The only reason why social media channels aren’t totally overwhelmed with advertising dollars is that most media agencies can’t earn equivalent rebates / revenues from booking ads on many social media sites, so they prefer other media. This isn’t good for clients.

In summary: Use social media channels as a strong part of your media buying mix. Mark Zuckerberg and the like will love me promoting this perspective: Social media’s best use is as a reach tool – and advertising platform.

4. Social media as an analytics platform

Social media channels allow you a good level of analytics on a per post or per profile level. While not generally as good as web-concentrated services such as Google Analytics, many social networks as such Facebook and YouTube provide an excellent level of analytics, delving deeply into content analytics, per-post analytics and profile / page analytics. You can see what has worked and what hasn’t.

YouTube in particular has extremely powerful video analytics services, allowing realtime video tracking, drop-offs, and various other ways to understand and optimise content.

In summary: Use social media as a content-based analytics platform to examine how popular / engaging your content is.

5. Social media as a consumer data source

One of the strongest and most enduring assets that Facebook has is the quality of user data. It’s very difficult to “lie” to Facebook about our activities, in the same way it’s very easy to “lie” to most other online services, for example when we sign up to a new service and claim to live in “Afghanistan” because we couldn’t be bothered scrolling past the first country to appear in the pop-up menu.

Given that most people upload their real names, their date of birth and many other true pieces of data (let alone the copious amounts that Facebook collects about us via ambient means), the ability to harvest and analyse this data is a particularly powerful marketing tool.

Whether by uploading email / phone / contact details and generating a “Lookalike” market for further communication, or by advertising to an incredibly tiny and specific market of people, or by simply analysing social sign-on data for trends and insights about our consumers, social networks such as Facebook and Linkedin, are a wonderful and deep source of data about our consumers.

How Facebook Reactions will change social media

Facebook has confirmed it’s now testing a new Reactions feature in Ireland and Spain which may be soon rolled out worldwide. Essentially the Reactions feature is similar to the traditional ‘Like’ button but it provides users with a spectrum of emotional responses. The new addition will allow users to Like, Love, Haha, Yay, Wow, Sad or Angry a post.

Users will be able to click one of the Reactions located in the same position as the current ‘Like’ button. The Reactions are symbolised by an emoticon which reflects a particular mood. This change allows users to express themselves beyond just ‘liking’ something.

One of the biggest problems with social media is the limit of expression and the absence of nuance. On Facebook in particular, there has been a tendency to react in bipolar extremes, either liking something, or trash canning and abusing it. Twitter is similar in that you only have a 140 character word limit to communicate, making it difficult to express rational thought – only an extreme of emotion or outrage. For example, if someone announces the death of a family member on Facebook it seems odd and actually quite disrespectful to ‘like’ it, however, with Facebook Reactions you will be able to express sadness through the sad option which would be an acceptable response.
This new spectrum of emotional responses on Facebook could have multiple implications. What could this mean for the future of social media?

Like inflation
We may see “likes” fade as we all migrate to “Love”. This may lead to a furthering of extremes of expression online.

Social sharing Button inflation
If Facebook introduces 6 new engagement metrics this will take up a lot of space on third party websites – physically going from “Like this” to a wide variety of buttons on any given web page. Imagine what will happen if everyone else does this – Twitter, LinkedIn and other social networks all deciding to move from simple, single buttons, to thirty to forty variations of reaction to a post.

Big data and attribution marketing
Will the intersection between location, mood, natural language programming and “Reactions” give us the most advanced view of mood, attitude and mental health ever assembled? This may have a broader effect on our understanding of nuance of human emotion, and the science of why we buy, what we are aroused by, and what impresses us.

Increased engagement
People will be able to react to posts beyond just liking them. This opens up far higher engagement on individual posts. More options for engagement will most likely increase user engagement which may increase Facebook’s ability to charge money for advertising – as engagement rates rise.

Sentiment analysis
We will be better able to analyse which content causes which emotional response by analysing the Reactions.

Emotion overload
Are these emotions just the beginning? Will Facebook bring in the whole spectrum of human emotions?

Emotional targeting
Will the new addition spark a new way of targeting? Will Facebook allow advertisers to target users based on their current mood? If one person has an angry reaction to various posts will advertisers be able to target them specifically? ‘Angry, stressed? Take a holiday. Airfares on sale NOW”.

Proving people DON’T love brands
This will most likely prove that people don’t actually ‘Love’ brands. We may blame the thought that people don’t “Love” advertising, but it’s not the advertising they don’t love, it brands. Most of the time, people barely like brands, let alone love them. This will undoubtedly lead to a backlash by less intelligent marketers that in order to raise “Love” metrics, we should reduce the amount of branding on our advertisements. The opposite is true – we should never assume people love our brands, only assume people have no interest or have forgotten our brands – and in doing so, assume every piece of communication is the first piece of communication people will ever see. Don’t worry about “Love”.

From search to social to emotional discovery of brands
Will it impact on Facebook’s algorithm? Will Facebook show users more Loved content vs Liked content? In the past, we discovered information via search. Increasingly, we discover information via social referral. Now, we discover via attribution marketing fed with big data. So, emotional discovery may become a key driver of information discovery – people who are permanently grumpy may receive more bad news. People who are permanently outraged will receive hand-wringing news of global injustice on a consistent basis. People who are happy may continue to be served fantastic memes.

Nothing
YouTube already has a dislike option and it doesn’t impact on anything at all. People don’t pay it much attention. Will this be any different?
Either way this new addition will provide users with a better way to express their emotions. As one PENSO team member expressed: “I love them, I’ll use them all the time”.

Read my article in Mumbrella here.

IBM Watson API: Artificial intelligence as a Service

In the past supercomputing was only accessible to large corporations who could afford to fork out tens of millions of dollars to set them up. However, with the rapid advancement of technology, computing has become much more affordable and accessible. Nowadays you don’t have to spend millions of dollars to access some of the world’s most powerful computer systems. In fact IBM is offering some of their Watson services to developers for free during the beta period.

Watson is an artificially intelligent system designed by IBM to process information in a more natural and human like manner. Watson continues to get smarter by tracking user feedback.

IBM is now offering developers the ability to use Watson via their cloud platform, BlueMix.

The current Watson services IBM are offering for public use are:

  • Concept Expansion: Maps euphemisms or colloquial terms to more commonly understood phrases
  • Concept Insights: Explore the concepts behind the input, identifying associations
  • Language Identification: Identifies the language in which text is written
  • Machine Translation: Globalise on the fly. Translate text from one language to another
  • Message Resonance: Communicate with people with a style and words that suits them
  • Question and Answer: Direct responses to users inquiries fuelled by primary document sources
  • Relationship Extraction: Intelligently finds relationships between sentences components (nouns, verbs, subjects, objects, etc.)
  • Speech To Text: This service provides highly accurate, low latency speech recognition capabilities.
  • Tradeoff Analytics: Helps make better choices under multiple conflicting goals. Combines smart visualisation and recommendations for tradeoff exploration
  • User Modeling: Improved understanding of people’s preferences to help engage users on their own terms
  • Visual Recognition: Analyses the visual content of images and videos to understand their content without requiring a textual description

This is a big deal for businesses around the world because this access and these capabilities were previously only available to large corporations and researchers. This means anyone has access to the forefront of technology. Now developers can use these services to easily build applications that do very advanced things for minimal initial investment.

For example the Visual Recognition service could form the basis of a digital asset management system which could automatically tag and categorise uploaded images and videos. User feedback could be fed back into the system to progressively improve the quality of the tagging and categorisation.

The Message Resonance service could be used to help improve the effectiveness of EDM campaigns. You could input social media feeds of customers and then have it analyse a draft EDM to see if the word choice fits the audience.

By making it easy for developers to interface with Watson, they are providing the AI with a firehose of learning material. It is likely that the capability, accuracy, and raw power of this and similar services will grow ever more rapidly in the coming months and years.

The service is still in beta, and while the live demos are hit and miss, they provide a glimpse of what is possible.

 

Why your brand should be as famous as Kim Kardashian’s bum.

Everyone knows who Kim Kardashian is, unless of course you have been living under a very very large rock. Kim Kardashian is…. well famous for being famous.

Most brands have far more value than Kim Kardashian, so why is she more famous? Every brand should strive towards being famous, and it’s possible, but we might have to take a few lessons from Kim.

How do I make my brand famous?…

Kim Kardashian is famous because she has very distinctive and memorable brand assets that she promotes incessantly. Kim Kardashian is defined by her consistent pout, overt cleavage, the alliteration in her name, the sound of her voice, her pop star husband, and of course her most prominent ASSet, that “broke the internet” a few weeks ago.

Along with being distinctive, Kim has a high reach fan base – her focus isn’t on an existing fan base, but on GROWING it. Like every brand, she loses people every day, but like the best brands, she acquires them in even greater numbers by spreading her fame to new people and new markets. A very effective acquisition strategy that every brand should emulate.

She’s currently on ‘Keeping up with the Kardashians’, has a diary full of public appearances, a plethora of product endorsements, has her own fashion and fragrance collections, a mobile game for iPhone and Android, she is always in the news, on the front of gossip magazines, penetrating your Facebook feed, and even at a mall near you. She’s everywhere, you just can’t avoid her, and this is what your brand should strive towards. Even if you don’t know about her nor care about her, you probably recognise and remember her.

This is like ANY brand. Consumers generally don’t care and don’t share brand stories. People have enough trouble building relationships with family and friends let alone brands – hence why brands have to be hugely distinctive and seek fame in order to be successful. Don’t rely on fan bases. Don’t assume strong levels of passion or knowledge. Just have that same vain desperation for your brand to be famous that Kim has for herself.

Kim Kardashian’s success is thanks to her multiple distinctive assets that are seen everywhere. This is exactly what your brand should strive towards.

  1. Your brand should be distinctive. Create assets that are ownable and unique. Like the McDonald’s Golden Arches and Coca-Colas “Dynamic Ribbon” typeface.
  2. Be everywhere, show everyone your assets. Reach as many people as possible with your marketing message and make yourself famous

Everything is in a constant battle for attention and memory. Every brand competes with Kim Kardashian. Make sure your brand is distinctive and famous in order to succeed.

Take Bart’s advice – Don’t sell your soul… to the discount devil

In the mid 90’s Bart Simpson sold his soul to Millhouse for a mere $5. After a series of calamities he realised that life isn’t the same without a soul.

Fast forward twenty years and it appears that brands haven’t learnt a thing from the world’s favourite animated bad boy.

Walk into any supermarket and you’ll be slapped across the face with an array of specials, markdowns and 2 for 1 deals, but does selling your brand’s soul to make a quick buck really pay off?

As a shopper who can resist a bargain? As a brand, however, does it actually increase the sales of a product?

The simple answer is no. By discounting your product you are cannibalising your future sales, training customers to only buy on sale and devaluing your brand.

How does this work? When a product goes on sale, people will purchase it at that discounted price, not full price. You’re giving away discounted product to people who probably would have bought it anyway, therefore eroding revenues.

If a brand of toothpaste goes on sale, for example a two-for-one special, people will buy more than one tube meaning they won’t need toothpaste for a longer period of time. No matter how cheap the toothpaste is, people are not going to clean their teeth more often. Discounting gives away product that would have been purchased in the future, it doesn’t increase overall sales.

Discounts also impact the way customers perceive your brand. Slashing prices gives them the perception that your brand has lower value, it also turns the conversation away from product benefits and providing need solutions and solely to price. This trains your customers to expect discounts and to only buy from you when you are on sale.

Three things build brands and increase sales:
Have a good product: if it’s a bad product people won’t buy it.
Be well remembered: with memorable advertising and communications, extract intangible value and tell people what makes your product great.
Well distributed: make sure your product is available for sale absolutely everywhere.

Price promotions don’t work.

Location based gaming – is this the next game changer?

Location based games, such as Geocaching, are gaining worldwide popularity.

Geocaching is a worldwide treasure hunt that’s becoming a huge craze all over the world.

Geocaching is an app which uses a phones GPS to direct players to the specific co-ordinates of a hidden geocache (a container filled with a logbook and items to trade). There are over 2.5 million active geocaches worldwide and 6 million people loving every find.

How could this work in marketing?

Location based games could open up a whole new way of engaging with consumers. Creating your own branded location based game could help to draw consumers into your stores.

For example, a coffee shop chain could create a location based game in which users find virtual rewards in store to redeem for a free coffee. The users could compete on a live leaderboard for titles such as most coffee shops visited, most distance covered, and even most coffees drunk.

Providing potential customers with an entertaining, engaging, and memorable platform like a location based game, will embed your brand into their consideration set for life.

Find out more about Geocaching here.

Other location based game: Ingress

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.