Monday, December 1, 2008

Does Everyone In Your Company Know Who You Are?

Does everyone on your staff know who you are? Well, of course, they know something about the company, but how would they answer the question "what is _(company)__" if asked by an outsider?

In my experience, most employees would stumble (and fail to take advantage of an opportunity) if asked that question. But there is an easy solution -- develop a short, 25-word "elevator" speech that describes these three points: who you are, what you offer, and for whom.

Draft a statement, then call in key managers (or all employees, depending on the size of your company) and give everyone a chance to react, respond and truly understand the importance of having a concise, accurate statement about the company. By having the employees draft and approve the statement, they will develop an emotional equity in the result. And, this can be a great opportunity to reinforce to all staff members that everyone can contribute to the company's business development efforts.

You should also stress to everyone that you never know when a new business opportunity will arise or have the potential to develop. Even if you don't think the person asking the question is a new business prospect, they may have a friend, relative or former college roommate who is. So everyone in the company needs to be prepared to give a consistent and accurate description of your company.

Who knows, maybe that next door neighbor who keeps backing into your mailbox may have a brother-in-law who runs a $50 million company.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

You Are What You Eat - Sell the Steak, not the Sizzle.

Is anyone out there as disgusted as I am with the current state of political advertising? Here in Washington state, we have been bombarded with commercials "against" candidates, not for candidates. Who is telling the truth? Who do you believe? Why don't candidates tell us what they stand for, not why the other candidate is someone you shouldn't vote for?

It's no wonder that government and politicians are so mistrusted. They aren't doing anything to earn our trust.

Is there an end in sight to this madness? Maybe so, if you can believe John Zogby, author of a wonderful new book titled The Way We'll Be. John Zogby is well known as a political analyst based on his many political surveys, but he moves into a new area in this book to provide analysis and insight on consumer attitudes by age group that every marketer needs to read.

Zogby has subtitled his book "The Transformation of the American Dream" and talks a lot about how social values and attitudes are changing and will influence every aspect of our lives -- from politics to religion to global networking. He identifies attitudes and trends among major demographic groups by age, and ties each of his conclusions and insights into its possible impact on marketing.

One of the more interesting insights relating to marketing is the growing need and demand for authenticity (something politicians haven't figured out yet). To paraphrase from the book, "Reality doesn't bite. It's real, and people are demanding it. Consumers want to be respected, so they are demanding truth. Don't lie or make ridiculous claims. Remember, everyone today has a bullshit detector. In a world dominated by sizzle, it's all about the steak. Sell the steak."

I recommend that you take some time to read this book. And I hope politicians will, as well. Maybe in four years we will see more people trying to "sell the steak".

Friday, October 24, 2008

15 Best Practices in Web Design

In a recent client meeting, I presented recommendations for a new website design and navigation approach to a group of technicians who were being asked to proofread the new site for technical accuracy. I began the meeting by presenting these fifteen best practice tips to give them a quick education on our thought process. It didn't totally eliminate their design suggestions (as I had hoped), but it did give me a reference point to discuss why we chose to do, or not do, certain things.

1. Know who is visiting your site, and why they came. Most sites have multiple audiences. Make sure your site speaks to all potential users.
2. Using separate landing pages to make each audiences feel that the site is specifically designed and suited for their individual needs.
3. Make it easy to find what they are looking for by using intuitive logic.
4. Use language that your audience understands and identifies with.
5. Get to the point. People can get very impatient on the web.
6. Avoid heavy graphic elements that take time to download.
7. Simplify your homepage to reduce elements and make it easy for site visitors to know what you offer to whom.
8. Make your Search function easy to find and use.
9. Shorter copy, bold graphics and more white space make a page more inviting to read.
10. People read the sections they want to read, not the entire site. Don't hesitate to duplicate copy in the most logical place that audience might look for it.
11. Make it readable for all ages. Avoid odd type fonts and too small type.
12. Avoid scrolling whenever possible. Adding a page is better than run-on copy.
13. Optimize the site with title tags, keywords, and other programming content to improve PageRank.
14. Provide links to important sites to improve PageRank.
15. Keep it fresh, I may come back tomorrow.

Monday, October 20, 2008

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Brand Content vs. Peer-to-Peer Content: Which is better?

Here's an interesting tidbit from a new Forrester study on Social Marketing -- brand-generated content still matters to socially connected consumers. Despite all of the marketing buzz that would have you believe that brand marketing has no future, here is a refreshing new report from analyst Lisa Bradner that brand content can actually have more value than peer-generated content. This is especially true for higher-priced products in highly competitive categories, but can be true for all products if the brand has established the right level of trust with their customer base.

The question then becomes "how do you build trust?" Well, it starts with being honest and avoiding the hyperbole of advertisingese that too many marketers still think is the way to get ahead. If the marketing lessons of TIVO fast forwarding haven't sunk in yet, it's time to wake up and realize that the customer is in charge, not the marketer. Today's customer has the wherewithal to select when, where and what content they want to consume. Take a look at this excellent presentation on today's consumer and the value of social marketing engagement by Eric Weaver of Edelman

So if you've been asking yourself (or your CMO) if your company should have a social media program the answer is an unequivocal "yes". You cannot deny the fact that traditional outbound tools are becoming less relevant. Old school tactics of shouting and interrupting have been replaced by a new school of engagement. This is an era for marketing of being found, not being heard. Today's successful marketers need to build strong connections between customers and the brand, and increasing the use of social media in your marketing mix is a way to raise brand relevance, affinity, and loyalty.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Is Brand Positioning Dead in the 21st Century?

In the latest issue of Marketing Management, Don E. Schultz, professor emeritus-in-service at the Medill School of Journalism, feels that the concept of positioning espoused by Jack Trout and Al Reis in the 1970's is no longer valid in the 21st century. He cites several reasons for this hypothesis, but most prominent is his reasoning that "marketers don't control brand positions, concepts, images, or even experiences -- consumers do". He goes on to state that today's marketers have "only limited means to communicate with consumers today . . . to position the brand" and that "the brand manager's voice in the branding milieu is tiny and faint when compared to the branding experiences consumers receive from other sources -- such as the brand's customer service group, the technical support experts, other employees, retailers, and distributors who are not even under the control of the brand manager or marketing department".

Professor Schultz concludes his argument with the question "does any of the brand baggage we've dragged into the 21st Century have any relevance or resonance today with us, our customers, or the marketplace?" Throughout the article, Professor Schultz makes it clear where he stands, which is evident with his description of positioning as "brand baggage".

Unfortunately, his apparent disdain for anyone foolish enough to cling to the notion that brands can occupy a particular place in the mind of the consumer has clouded his judgment, and for the first time in a long while I think the professor has totally missed the mark.

Professor Schultz is certainly right that the idea of one brand completely owning a position for all time in the customer's mind is outdated. But I don't think that idea was ever totally valid in the first place. Volvo has always been positioned as the epitome of safety, but that brand was never the only brand with safety features. So it never owned exclusive rights to that position.

Yes, things are different today than they were in the 1970's when the original concept of positioning was coined by Messrs. Trout and Reis. Yes, the proliferation of brands, sub-brands and line extensions has increased while the ability of marketers to reach masses of consumers has dwindled dramatically. Yes, there are new tools that all marketers should be exploring to discern how best to speak to today's customers.

But I've got news for you, Professor Schultz. The consumer has always been in charge.

When the marketing mavens in Atlanta tried to foist a new version of Coca-Cola on the world, consumers said no in dramatic fashion. The marketing business has always had its share of Edsels when consumers refused to buy into the marketer's attempts to position the product in the consumer's mind. Do you remember Quadraphonic sound, Apple Newton, Apple Lisa, PC Jr., the Susan B. Anthony dollar coin, the USFL? These were all well-positioned, sure-fire winners until consumers said no thanks.

So the idea that positioning is no longer valid for marketers because the consumer is now in charge doesn't resonate well with me. Nor do the arguments that marketers have limited means to communicate or that every exposure and every brand experience outside of the brand manager's voice and control is suddenly more powerful. The sum total of the actual brand experience has always been more powerful than the statements made in formal branding communications. And they always will be.

No matter how wired the world becomes in the 21st Century, there will always be a need for marketers to try to position their product or service offering in the mind of the customer. There will always be a need for marketers to search for competitive niches and unmet needs, and to espouse the most salient benefits to a target group of consumers. Success, as always, will be based on whether expectations are aligned with the reality of the brand experience.

Is the concept of brand positioning different in today's world? Yes. Is the concept of brand positioning more difficult in today's world? Absolutely. Is the concept of brand positioning nothing more than yesterday's "baggage" and thus dead in the 21st century? Absolutely not.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Keep New Technology Tools in Perspective

There can be no doubt that new social marketing technology can change every element of the marketing mix. But before you launch your corporate blog or upload that video to YouTube, you need to stop, take a deep breath, and really think through what you want to accomplish with the new marketing tools that are available.

As with almost every new technology advancement, there are risks for companies that jump in without understanding what they are getting into. Good marketing still requires the basics of understanding your target audience and the benefits you can deliver. If you are considering how to use new technologies like blogs, podcasts, online video, wikis, widgets, etc. you need to make sure you know what you want to accomplish or you may end up using the wrong tool.

I really like the POST acronym that Forrester Research has been touting . POST stands for people, objectives, strategy and technology.

More than ever before, new marketing technology requires that you understand the people (target audience) that you want to reach. For the first time in modern marketing, you can truly direct your message to the group of people that are most interested and most likely to buy your product or service. And, you can minimize your waste circulation.

Technology has added a new dimension to analyzing and defining the optimum target audience. In addition to understanding their demographics and their psychographics, we also need to factor their technographics into the evalution. How comfortable are they with using the new technology tools? Do they have broaddband access on their home computer? What new technology tools are they currently using? How would they prefer to interact with your company?

Thinking about POST again, after people you should identify the objectives you want to accomplish, and the way you need to engage your customers in order to build a relationship -- strategy. It is only after you have identified these three key elements that you should begin to discuss and evaluate what technology you should use?

Be sure you think POST before you get too far along. Don’t make the mistake of putting the cart before the horse, as my dad used to say. Know the basics of who you need to reach and what you want to accomplish before you decide which new technology to explore. Good marketing still requires good marketing.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

The Power of Passion

A couple of years ago, I attended the annual meeting of the Retail Advertising and Marketing Association (RAMA) in balmy Chicago in mid-February (whoever thought to hold a meeting in February in Chicago must have been crazy. Daytime highs were in the teens, and overnight the low was 4 degrees). Over 1,000 retailers, ad agency execs and suppliers attended, and we spent 2 1/2 days talking about all aspects of retail marketing, and the challenges we all face to grow our business.

The theme of that conference was “Opportunity, Knowledge, Passion”, and the featured speakers addressed each of these three aspects of marketing as they related to their respective businesses. By far, the most impressive speeches were focused on the power of passion and I've never forgotten how powerfully they affected my thinking on how to succeed in business, and in life..

Gordon Segal, founder and CEO of Crate & Barrel, told how he and his wife grew a small storefront in Cambridge into a multi-billion dollar retail chain because they had a passionate desire to provide something that no one else was doing – moderately priced, high quality kitchenware and accessories. He told us stories of 100+ hour weeks searching around the globe for suppliers, and how he and his wife still go on buying trips to Europe and the Far East in search of new items. His passion now is finding the next new thing. The next decorating trend. The next color scheme.

Michael Francis, Senior VP of Marketing for Target Corporation, gave us fun and informative insights on the evolution of the Target brand and their distinctive style of advertising. He talked about the passionate attention to detail in every thing they do, and especially about their strong belief in providing a consistent personality through their advertising. He talked about their passionate belief that the need to differentiate themselves from K-Mart and Wal-Mart was the driving force behind their success. He said that a recent study showed that 96% of U.S. consumers correctly identified the bull’s-eye logo as belonging to Target, which is higher than the Nike swoosh. And, again, he talked about their passionate adherence to the use of this visual symbol as a quick reminder of their corporate brand. Throughout his presentation, he probably used the passion word one hundred times.

And we had many other speakers, including executives from Best Buy, Big Lots, American Girl, Weber Grills, Washington Mutual Bank, BMW, and Yahoo. And all had the same basic belief that passion has been the key factor in their corporate and personal success.

As I listened to each of their presentations, it was easy for me to hear the passion in their voices. And I think it gave me a greater appreciation for the need to have a passion for something in order to achieve your goals, no matter what they are.

Think of the passion that Lance Armstrong must have had to not only overcome cancer, but to become the greatest cyclist in the history of the sport. Think about Jerry Rice, who at 42, was still competing successfully with men half his age. Late in his career, Michael Jordan’s body didn’t allow him to do what it used to, but he still had the passion that every exceptional athlete must have to reach the top. And the championship rings on his fingers to prove the power of his passion.

When I think about the agency business today, I am confident that meeting the new challenges of digital technology, evolving social behaviors and attitudes, changing demographics, and a host of other factors impacting our business cannot be accomplished without all of us developing and maintaining a passion to be the best.

It will take a passion to do better creative work. A passion to write better business plans. A passion to find new ways to reach the target audience. A passion to go well beyond what everyone else is expecting from you, in order to find a better solution.

I hope that everyone in our industry will also develop a passion that goes well beyond the walls of their agency. To be a successful husband or wife takes a passionate commitment to make your marriage work. To be a successful parent, takes a passion that doesn’t give up on your children, not matter what your teenager has done. Heck, to be a successful human being takes passion. You’ve got to want to succeed. To do better. To be better. And you’ve got to be willing to sacrifice something to get something in return.

When you succeed at whatever passion you have, the feeling of accomplishment will go well beyond anything I am capable of describing. But like those businesspeople I listened to at that conference, I’ll bet you will tell others that you couldn’t have done anything without having a passion to succeed that kept you going, no matter what you faced.

Passion is all-powerful. Do you have the power?

Friday, April 18, 2008

Prospecting for New Business

For over 20 years, I’ve been directly involved in new business development for advertising agencies on a national, regional and local level. During that time, I’ve built new business departments for three agencies, completed well over 200 RFP’s, and made formal presentations for accounts ranging in size from a $15,000 web design project to a $100 million national television account. I’ve studied countless new business mailing packages from other agencies, attended 4-A’s seminars, read all the books on how to pitch, and even sat in on the client side and watched some of the world’s best agencies make their presentation. So I’ve learned a few “tricks of the trade” over the years, and along the way I have led teams that won over $250 million in new billings.

One thing I have learned is that there is no magic, one-size-fits-all answer to winning new business. Every opportunity takes thoughtful consideration regarding the prospect’s needs, your agency capabilities and how your agency can help the client grow their business.

There are a lot more than eight major mistakes to be made in planning, prospecting, completing the RFP, and making the final presentation. In this article, I’ve just focused on what I believe are the eight most common mistakes agencies can make in planning and prospecting. We can talk about RFP and presentation mistakes at another time.

So here are the eight dumbest and most correctable mistakes agencies make from my perspective.

1. They chase after the wrong accounts because they haven’t make an objective evaluation of their agency’s strengths and weaknesses and how they relate to the prospect’s needs.
Too many agencies waste a lot of time, effort and resources chasing business that they have little to no chance of winning. Maybe they don’t want to admit that they don’t really have a great selling story for that particular prospect.
There are a lot of good agencies out there, and they all look similar to a certain degree to prospects. So marketers will often look for reasons to eliminate you from the review, not include you. For years, I’ve tried to convince prospects that my experience in one category was directly transferable to their category. Most of the time, they didn’t buy it. If you don’t have category experience, you’re going to be fighting an uphill battle.

2. They don’t have a unique characteristic or capability that will separate them in the prospect’s mind.
As an agency new business guy, I carefully study client prospects and have a good awareness of who they are, what they do, and what their needs might be before I make any attempt to contact them. In my experience, clients don’t have the same awareness of agencies. They may know one or two top agencies that get a lot of local or national press, but they generally don’t have a clue about the majority of agencies.

The first thing you need to do is make sure that your website is up-to-date, easy to navigate, and presents a point of view for what you stand for as an agency. There are too many agencies out there fighting for the same prospect’s attention. And it seems like the mega-agencies have dropped all of their size criteria to chase just about everything on the planet. So if your agency doesn’t stand for something, you will get lost in a crowd of sameness.

Conventional thinking has always been that the most important factor in new business is your creative product, Not every agency can have a killer creative reputation, but if they have a great marketing reputation or some other unique characteristic or capability they can still compete effectively. All clients are under pressure to grow their business, and if you have great success stories that give prospects permission to believe they can do the same for their business, you still have a shot at getting invited to the dance.

3. They don’t have a realistic target prospect list.
The two most obvious barriers that most prospects will use to eliminate an agency from consideration are size and experience. Size becomes an easy reason to say no. Most prospects don’t want to be the largest, but they want to be important enough to feel like they will get top management attention. They don’t want the agency to be dependent on their income in case they have made a wrong decision (there’s that fear factor again). But they certainly don’t want to be the smallest for fear of being treated as a second-class citizen.

Category experience has always been an issue with clients, so if you don’t have experience in their category you will have a difficult time getting a foot in the door, much less winning the business. I believe that the days of the generalist agency are totally gone. For years, the agencies that specialize in a certain business or audience category have had better success than the agencies who tout their general experience.

My advice is to develop a prospect list that takes the client’s preconceptions and need for category experience into account. If you are familiar with Chris Anderson’s book, The Long Tail, you will understand that the niche players now outrank the big guys. Based on my observations and experiences, the niche players are more profitable in the long run, so find your niche and develop it.

4. They don’t have top management buy-in to make the necessary investment to be successful. And the investment must be more than just their checkbook.
Unless senior management agrees to fund and participate in an aggressive new business program, your chances for success go down dramatically. Please notice that I said fund and participate. It should go without saying that if you don’t invest dollars in a new business program, you’re facing an uphill battle. But a dumb mistake that many agencies make is that the many senior executives are not an active part of the new business development program.

Clients want to feel that they are getting the most experienced people in the agency to work on their business. And they want to feel important enough to warrant more than a token effort from the boss. I have worked in agencies where the senior executive didn’t feel comfortable in new business, so he spent as little time as possible with it. And it showed, especially at the presentation stage.

5. They rely on over-the-transom prospecting instead of developing and executing a proactive, awareness-building new business effort.
The mega-agencies and the national and regional creative powerhouses can rely on prospects to call them. But for most agencies, if you don’t have a good, proactive prospecting effort, you will be unable to sustain growth (or grow beyond your local sphere of influence). There are a lot of ways to run a new business program, but one of the most important is simply to gain awareness among the prospect community that you exist. To that end, I believe one of the most powerful but underutilized tactics is a proactive publicity effort. Cold-calling seldom works, especially with voice mail and spam blockers that allow the client to screen and ignore unwanted contacts. A great direct mail piece or campaign may get you noticed for a moment, but you need to be top-of-mind when the prospect is ready to make a decision, and how often does that happen on the strength of your occasional direct mail?

I recommend that my clients join as many professional and civic organizations as possible. If you can’t attend all of the meetings, spread the assignment among your executive team. Keep in mind that it’s not enough to just join the Rotary Club or the local chapter of AMA; you need to be an officer or head a committee so do something so that you gain notice among the membership.

Thought leadership blogs or articles and editorials in the business section of the local newspaper or national trade publications are another good tactic for getting noticed and build awareness of your professional expertise.

6. They don’t have a well-rehearsed, professional presentation team.
Too many agencies make the mistake of taking the department head even if they are lousy in a new business presentation. If your presenters have a major flaw in their presentation style, or simply don’t have a very likeable personality, they can doom the agency to failure in the pitch. Too many times an agency brings a department head to a new business pitch because they feel obligated to do so, only to have that person give a terrible presentation.

In my experience, the Creative Director can make or break the pitch. But not all of them are very good in new business. They can come across as too arrogant, or too kooky, or not kooky enough, and none of those are good when a client is making a decision that he is fearful of to begin with. Many Creative Directors are terrible at rehearsing. It’s not in their nature to really practice a presentation; their right brain doesn’t track well with that kind of behavior. So sometimes they are good, and sometimes they are bad. And if they are bad, your chances for success go way, way down.

I have also seen a lot of bad media presentations over the years, even though media has become so complicated and fragmented that this may be one of the best ways to win over a client in the presentation. Too many Media Directors think that numbers are what clients want to see. I disagree. Clients want ideas and insights they can believe in. Colorful, but unreadable flow charts do not give them something to hold on to. Fortunately, bad media presentations can often be minimized by a strict editing of their presentation materials and through rehearsals. Which leads us to our next dumb mistake?

7. They don’t have a pitch Ayatollah with absolute authority to make the final decisions along the way.
One of the most common, and dumbest, mistakes agencies make in their new business efforts is to not anoint the New Business Director (or a senior executive) with the power to make the final decision. This dumb mistake is most often manifested in the pitch itself, but the idea should be carried throughout the entire new business process of targeting, active prospecting, etc. The lack of a pitch “Ayatollah” is especially damaging when making the final decision(s) on what to include in the credentials pitch. Creative Directors always want to show their best (i.e. most creative, off-the-wall, cutting-edge, expensive) work on the presentation reel. And I certainly agree that you should only show excellent work on the reel. But what you show should be dictated by the client and his needs, not by your creative ego. For some clients, the most creative, off-the-wall work is certainly relevant. But they also want to see work that is directly relevant to their category, or to their target audience.

8. They don’t understand that unless you have a relationship with a prospect, your chances of success go down dramatically.
I have said it several times in this article, but it bears repeating that client’s don’t want to make a risky decision. So most will tend to make the safe decision, whether it is the best one for the company or not. When I look back over the years at all of new business pitches I have made, the one constant when I didn’t succeed was that we lost when we had not developed some rapport or relationship with the prospect prior to the pitch. Sometimes the agency reputation and/or category experience got us through the RFP and into the finals, but if we didn’t have some personal or professional bond established at some level, we didn’t win the business.

I believe you win new business before the pitch, not during the pitch. That means you should be meeting with the prospect, talking with the prospect, sharing ideas with the prospect, building a relationship with the prospect before the pitch. People hire people they know and trust before they hire people that may not be in sync with their thinking. How many times, though, does an agency put all of their effort into developing spec creative ideas without really knowing who the client is and what they will respond to? That’s just dumb, but it happens every day.

There are a lot of other mistakes that agencies make on a regular basis. Perhaps the most common of these is that don’t have a full-time new business director, or at least someone designated to spend a majority of their time developing new business. But that may sound self-serving since my company specializes in providing that service to agencies who can’t afford an experienced full-time director.

So I will simply leave you with this thought. At this very moment, you can bet that some other agency is trying to build a relationship with one or more of your clients.

Do you really want to keep making the same dumb mistakes in your new business prospecting program?

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Ten Marketing Trends You Can't Afford To Ignore

It will come as no surprise to marketers in almost every business category that 2008 will be a difficult year. The economy appears headed for a recession, whether we use the “r” word or not. The credit industry is facing the repercussions of too many years of questionable decisions on credit-worthiness, and we’ve all discovered that the keyword “sub-prime” doesn’t really have anything to do with the prime interest rate. Fuel prices continue to rise, with no relief in the immediate future, no matter how much more corn we grow. The healthcare industry continues to be a mess, and the current political discourse hasn’t revealed any plausible solutions to the issues.

But even with all of these caution flags waving high, opportunities are still available for marketers that are willing to try new things and take advantage of the changes that continue to occur in our media consumption habits and attitudes toward marketing.

Here are some of the key trends that we believe will play an important role in marketing during 2008 and beyond:

1. The shift from traditional media to online and other new media alternatives will accelerate to the point that online will become a traditional medium. For several years, marketing giants like P & G, Kraft and Unilever have simple dipped their toes in the water of online marketing, with less than 10% of their marketing budgets (and their marketing efforts) devoted to alternative media. I believe that advertising in traditional broadcast and print vehicles will continue to be a staple for many advertisers, but the astounding growth of social media and the availability of broadband connections in the home environment will shift online advertising from being a secondary, or even tertiary, afterthought to one of the most important elements of a marketing program. The Internet is now used extensively by every major demographic group for information, communication and entertainment. According to Forrester, online marketing spending will triple to $61 billion over the next few years, and experts predict that online spending will account for 25 -30% of all marketing dollars by 2015.

2. The integration of off-line support for online campaigns will continue, with television playing a major role in developing that synergy. Over the past two years, we have seen an increasing use of television and other off-line media to drive customers to a web site where they can find more in-depth information. Once there, a longer form sales message can be used to tell the story and build customer loyalty. A great example of this is the current Burger King Whopper Freakout campaign. Thirty second television commercials and selected print ads direct consumers to a special web site, where an eight-minute, documentary-style video tells the story of how real customers reacted to a staged situation of a Burger King that no longer offered the Whopper on its menu. It is a very creative way to demonstrate a taste preference for the Whopper versus the Big Mac and other alternatives, and according to Burger King has received over 1.5 million views in its first month, about five times what a company spokesman said is considered successful.

3. E-mail marketing will continue to grow in importance, but will evolve from its current context. Consumer fatigue from mailboxes overloaded with too many unsolicited and irrelevant offers will force marketers to focus their efforts on delivering relevant messages when they are most willing to listen to them. In order to avoid consumer shutdown and rejection, marketers will need to take advantage of increased use of behavioral targeting and other analytic tools to deliver e-mail that is triggered by consumer actions, not their own promotion activity.

4. Brand loyalty and customer retention will eclipse brand awareness and customer acquisition as primary marketing goals and evaluation metrics. Past marketing tactics have focused on building broad scale awareness with a resulting belief that the more people you reach, the greater chance you have of converting a sale and acquiring a new customer. In today’s multiple-choice world, simply knowing that a product or service exists isn’t enough. In this environment, product relevance to niche market segments is a much more powerful marketing tool, and marketers should focus their efforts on building loyalty and retaining the customers they already have.

5. Word-of-mouth marketing will become more intentional as a primary marketing tool. While marketers have always hoped to achieve positive word-of-mouth due to its presumed greater credibility, word-of-mouth can no longer be a happenstance event but rather an important part of an integrated marketing program. Deliberate efforts to generate beneficial consumer conversations through viral marketing and other buzz marketing tactics will grow in importance. WOMMA, the Word-of-Mouth Marketing Association, reported the results of a national survey in their November conference that identified word-of-mouth marketing as the "fastest-growing segment of the $254 billion marketing services sector," and reported that "Brand marketers are responding, and have begun to increase their WoM media budgets, moving from test phase to implementations that support their integrated marketing campaigns." We caution marketers, though, to be transparent and honest in their efforts, or they will face the wrath of the FTC who has announced they will pay close attention to "unfair or deceptive acts or practices" such as the recently reported scandal created by John P. Mackay, co-founder of Whole Foods Market. Mr. Mackay has admitted that he used a pseudonym to log more than 1,100 entries on Yahoo Finance’s bulletin board to champion his company’s stock and to blasting a rival – Wild Oats Market. In an era where corporate greed and ethics are so top-of-mind, this was not only illegal, it was stupid.

6. SEO and SEM will become SOP. A recent study by Anderson Analytics ranked search engine optimization as one of the more significant tools to create bottom line impact for a company. As more marketers become aware of the power of complementing organic search with a proactive use of keywords and keyword ads that link to specific landing pages on their website, this use of search engine optimization and search engine marketing will become standard elements of their marketing program.

7. Social marketing will continue to grow dramatically as targeted consumer networked communities become more popular. Web 2.0 has opened the door for unprecedented interaction and consumer-generated content, and marketers should pay attention to new ways that consumers are interfacing across the web. Facebook was the darling in 2007, grabbing attention from MySpace and YouTube, but the real growth in social marketing will come from social network sites that are targeted to consumer niches from teens (e.g. Pizco and Tagged) to seniors (e.g. Eons) to photographers (e.g. Flickr) to mothers with children (e.g. momseasychair) to business networking and job seekers (e.g. LinkedIn and Plaxo).

8. Blogging may be right for some companies, but only if they do it right and are willing to accept the consequences. As we noted earlier, transparency will be crucial to avoid any backlash from disgruntled consumers who can smell manipulation a mile away. Companies must be careful when using tools like blogs, vlogs and Podcasts or face the wrath of a networked audience that can love you one minute and hate you the next. Some forward-thinking companies have created a new executive position of Blog Monitor to be able to respond quickly to new issues as they arise, or to correct misinformation that can damage a company unfairly.

9. Going Green is no longer a luxury or an option; it must be addressed by every marketer in every category. Since the original Earth Day in 1967, marketing periodicals have been saying that green marketing was the next big thing. It wasn’t then, but it is now. Every day, another brand finds both direct and indirect ways to commit to a sustainable future. A recent national study among marketing executives at a VP-level or higher listed “green marketing” as one of the most important emerging concepts. Once again, we want to caution marketers to avoid over-hyping any half-hearted efforts. If you are committed, flaunt it. If you aren’t, don’t try to fake it.

10. Consumer engagement will displace the traditional interruption-disruption model as the order of the day in all categories. For decades, consumers have understood that if they wanted to experience free content in the form of television entertainment, radio broadcasts, and news and weather reports in their daily newspaper, they would have to put up with ads. Ads were seen as a necessary evil to support the content consumers really wanted to see. But the rise of broadband connections, satellite radio, cell-phones, TIVO, and other forms of digital communication now allow consumers to control their media content and easily avoid advertising they don’t want to see. When this is combined with less trust in advertisers and their messages, and a greater ability to create their own content with the help of blogs, social networks, wikis and other digital-communication platforms, irrelevant content will not be tolerated. This doesn’t mean that advertising is doomed. It simply means that as marketers we must do a better job of engaging consumers with content that is so compelling, relevant and entertaining that they will seek it out and even share it with others. As Geoff Ramsey, CEO and co-founder of New York-based put it in a recent article, “the new ad model is about creating great content and finding clever ways to embed it in the fabric of communities and content platforms where consumers are hanging out and actively participating”.

Understanding and responding to the aforementioned trends will have little effect if we, as marketers, can’t find better ways to truly engage our customers. 2008 offers great challenges, but will also offer unprecedented opportunities. A.G. Lafley, chairman – CEO, Procter & Gamble had this to say about 2008, “We need to reinvent the way we market to consumers. We need a new model. It does not exist. No one else has one yet. But we need to get going now.”

For marketers to answer that call-to-action challenge, they must “get going now” to look for new ways to connect with their customers. The future belongs to those marketers who can out-smart their competition rather than out-spend them.

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