Trends We’re Watching 2013

Trends We’re Watching 2013

Our Year Preview was a little delayed this year. Hope it still counts.

Death Widely Exaggerated

People like to talk about the death of media channels. Heck, I’ve done it. Death makes for great link bait, so there is bound to be a lot of that kind of talk as digital channels mature. And while different digital media channels are always at risk, (because: Facebook), legacy media still matters because its prestige creates familiarity and lowers purchase risk. Seeing a brand on a broadcast scale demonstrates investment and commitment. Broadcast media investment and commitment gives prospects and consumers more confidence in the strength and success of the offering. Nothing provides that confidence like traditional media. 30 second spots may not ever deliver the quantifiable ROI that SEO does, but they do deliver familiarity and when it comes to purchase risk, familiarity is a soothing balm that is hard to beat. Still spots must be seen to be remembered and there is a lot less opportunity for that- Even in broadcast.

Content marketing is not just for B2B anymore.

Like any new trend, Content Marketing is sometimes derided for being a buzz word– A marketing fad that gets the kids all hot and bothered but rarely delivers sales or revenue bumps to justify the hype. Like any other marketing technique or tactic, content marketing won’t solve a product problem or lousy strategy. That said, I’m a strong advocate of content marketing to drive leads and build prospect confidence. B2B marketers have learned that Case Studies with genuine insight and credible client endorsements build report with remote prospects early in the sales cycle who have little else to go on.

Consumers need stories too. They always have. Now the web gives them access to the stories of their friends, co-workers, and peers. They want to know the experiences of those similar to them to help manage the risk that prevents them from buying your product. This is a case where B2C marketers might learn a bit from B2B marketers- how to tell the story of “challenge, solution and result” to consumers nervous about spending money in a very difficult economy.

Paid Media 
Content marketing is tough in paid media–particularly broadcast. 2013 will see it get easier though. I’m looking for more opportunities for long form programming arising out of a glut of channels. I’m also wondering when we’ll see Pandora, Slacker, or Rdio find a way to use long form programming to help labels and other music marketers expose their new artists to audiences with a propensity to be interested in them. I’m expecting to see auto dealerships use long form television to do more than yell deals at channel flippers on Saturday mornings. I expect to see some interesting experimentationthis year.

Owned Media
Want a better deal from your vendor? Negotiate a case study. Need to close a deal with a prospect and just can’t come to terms? Negotiate a case study. The Case Study is the magic gap-closer. I expect to see it being used this year to improve net income from both sides of the ledger-revenue and expenses. 2013 is the year to formalize case study agreement from both your vendors AND your prospects. Need help figuring out how to do it? 
Ping me.
 (ok, no more shameless plugs. Sorry.)

Earned Media
If your PR agency isn’t discussing how to place your content into critical traditional media channels, 2013 is the year to find a new PR agency. Your brand story is an essential part of your value proposition. With shrinking staffs, it’s hard to get writers and editors to pay attention. You need to be aware of the pain your offering relieves and the novelty of your approach. Framed broadly and without the hard sell, in 2013, PR efforts will get more traction narrowing the narrative and finding the real value in the learnings of their customers.

Multitasking Effects Communication

How do you get anyone to listen to you if everyone is talking? This is the essence of the communication challenge in 2013. The ill-effects of multitasking are well known. Nowhere are they more apparent than in the communication exchange. Customers are talking more than ever and that is changing the way messaging gets interpreted.

In 2013 I’m looking for both shorter and longer messaging as marketing communication formats continue to propagate. Shorter messaging will particularly effect pre-roll online video advertising. Skip data is more useful than many people realize. And while studies suggest that skippable preroll is not as effective as standard preroll,when you factor in the ability to use skip numbers to measure creative (yea, I went there) you can begin to find messaging and communication methods that resonate more powerfully with customers and prospects. 2013 is the year we stop guessing about what kind of online video ads really work and which ones don’t.

Context Wins

While Content marketing may be on everyone’s lips in 2013, knowing how to do content marketing is a lot easier than knowing what content to actually build and deliver. In 2013, i”m watching for marketing thought-leaders to have more content that matches their prospect’s specific pain points and sales cycle orientation. Prospects need to see themselves in the stories of actual customers and learn something valuable from their experiences. That’s context. It was remarkably lacking even in the best content marketing in 2012. I expect to see much more of it in the coming year.

Big Data For Everybody

The Big Data hype has been around for years. It was largely spoken of in abstractions, though. People who really knew about it didn’t really share too much. Honestly, it got pretty boring quickly if you didn’t get all frothy about clusters and regression analysis.

Many people know that data is more valuable than money, because data can be used over and over, and money spent only once. If, for some reason, you don’t believe this, seek help immediately. Or don’t, because you will believe it this year. If you have data (a lot of it) and you are unclear how to monetize it, there is no shortage of services to help. Behavioral data from your CRM can be more valuable than traditional opinion research, too. Knowing what people have actually done in the past is often more predictive than knowing what people think they will do in the future. People are, of course, creatures of habit and not as self-aware as they think.

Of course behavioral data really doesn’t tell us why people do what they do. Knowing that is certainly important in figuring out when people might change their behavior.

Battle for the CRM feed

This really is an outgrowth of big data. Your company’s CRM database is the head of the data-well for many businesses. Until recently, in larger enterprises customer service and marketing have had a friendly, if somewhat distant relationship. I’m looking for that to end in 2013. Gloves will come off in the largest enterprises as marketing realizes The big data it needs is coming from the call center. Customer service executives will have a choice to make about how they share in a way that’s bound to frustrate C.O.O.’s. Big Data needs to serve both operations and marketing, but how those constituencies get serviced and how the data turns into meaningful stories is very much up for grabs. Grab it we all will in 2013.

Mobile First

Usability work has to focus on the lowest common denominator– now that is the mobile device. Make sure your stuff works on all three platforms-iOS, Android, and yes even Windows 8. (See platform parity.) The best way for you to think about development for new media is thinking “mobile first”. No the the desktop and lap top are going nowhere, but the growth is all mobile. Remember this when you are reviewing your email and website design changes this year. It matters more than you can imagine. So many missed opportunities when your stuff doesn’t work on the mobile device.

Platform Parity

Remember the old platform (Windows vs. Mac) wars? Well, they’re back– only this time they are on the mobile device. And instead of two platforms there are three and none of them are open (I’m waiting until next year to worry about whether Tizen will mater). In 2013, I’m watching for real passions to begin to flare as the platforms become more similar, usability improves (especially on Windows and Android phones) and device competition heats up. The truth is the platforms are becoming more similar and the devices are too. What really matters though is that the device and the platform get used. One of the most fascinating things about the platform wars in 2012 was that more Android devices were activated than any other, but way more iOS web traffic was observed. To me those findings meant that more people had Android devices, but iOS users were more adept at using their mobile device. Remember “follow the money” in the 70’s? no? well, “follow the traffic” is the same thing. While content may be king, the king is naked without usability. Usability is essential to traffic, and traffic is money. Search is money; data is money; traffic is money. There’s a lot of money disguised as other things out there. It gets confusing, but competition helps. Here’s to less confusion in 2013.

Streaming Entertainment

With Netflix, Boxee, Amazon, and iTunes all in serious adoption mode, the cable box abandonment trend is nascent. And much like traditional television, cable boxes will not die (remember, we will not fall victim to “death-hype” this year), the cable box will simply have a competitor sitting right next to it. Cable pricing models will begin to change. Customers who are not sports fans will start to figure out a way to end their forced subsidy of football (both professional and college) and baseball. I’m optimistically hoping that in 2013 carriers will need to figure out how to bundle entertainment packages that defend from the dreaded (and highly unlikely) a-la-carte pricing that would ruin their bottom line.

Branding First on Facebook

As a client recently -and quite brilliantly- pointed out to me (hi, Ellen) Facebook is the new “cigarette break”. Brands can get attention on Facebook but its very hard to get real engagement there.

Nobody likes this. Blame EdgeRank. Recent analysis we’ve completed makes it very clear that any attempts you make to send people to sites other than Facebook seem to get handicapped by Facebook’s algorithm. What to do? Create unique, sharable content that keeps people on Facebook. Treated it as the walled-garden it seems to insist on being. By all means, move people to your site with content and offers, but try harder to created a branded experience that can exist on Facebook discreetly. Use email, and Twitter to drive website engagement. You still need to organize your customers and prospects on your website. I look forward to being corrected on this observation in 2013 because Facebook doesn’t immediately strike people as the branding platform it seems to want to be.

Google+ Mattering to business and Instagram Mattering To Your Kids

There’s really no way around it, so I’ll say it: Google+ is a pain in the ass. Just admit it and get on with it, because search=money. It matters because Google (the almighty) needs corroboration to make its search results better. It doesn’t seem to trust its old simple spidery self. Google+ is the way that Google can improve search relevancy by having peerage into conversations about web content. That’s fine and perfectly understandable. Google faces serious threats. In order to improve search results businesses will need to get into Google+ and that probably means you.

As painful as it is to manage yet another social media platform, Google+ is still pretty good. It’s rather painfully complex because it allows you a lot of control and personalization that Facebook and Twitter really don’t (and aren’t meant to). I’m looking for the Google+ UI to get better and for the API to open up so it can merge into my other social media feeds more simply. If I follow my own Barnes Law of web apps (that states for every app you can think of, at least three have been built already), this app exists too. I just have to set it up… That 2013 punch-list is getting longer by the minute.

Instagram is huge with the kids. It’s Twitter with pictures and it’s Facebook without the emotional baggage. It is the perfect tool for the youngs to define themselves though sharing visual symbols. Can you speak in pictures? I bet you can. If you aren’t already, I watching for you to start in 2013.

Have a great year!