A critical element of predictive loyalty metrics is their ability to measure the direction and velocity of consumer values 12-18 months in advance. With that in mind, here are five key trends that I predict will determine the difference between success and failure for brands and marketers for 2006:
1) An emphasis on “engagement.”
Inserting itself between traditional marketing activities and an increasing demand for return on investment assessments, engagement will become the Holy Grail for marketers and advertisers. Defined as the outcome of ad and marketing activities that substantively increases a brand’s strength in the eyes of the consumers (and actually predicts sales and profitability), engagement will be used more and more to allocate marketing budgets. Watch for joint task forces from the Association of National Advertisers (ANA), the Advertising Research Foundation (ARF), the American Association of Advertising Agencies (AAAA), and the American Marketing Association (AMA) to provide some degree of engagement meaning and metrics.
2) Using technology to better meet consumer expectations.
Consumer expectations in all categories will continue to grow. Expectations have increased more than 26% in the past five years while brands have kept up with these expectations by only 8%! Watch for smart marketers to take advantage of unfulfilled expectations via such values as “convenience” and “customization.” More and more marketers will rely upon Web sites and high-tech capabilities to accommodate these values and differentiate themselves from the competition. Likewise, watch for more tailored products and electronic interface kiosks at places beyond airports and banks. Think “Jetson”-like hotel check-in capabilities.
3) Expanding the potential of Websites and blogs.
Engagement concerns and attempts to meet or exceed customer expectations will fuse and be most observed online, particularly on blogs. Watch for increased development of blogs and Websites in general beyond propaganda, information, and use as an electronic cash register toward the creation of “communities of ones.”
4) “Recombinant” experiences.
Disney and Vegas: Oil and water? Consumer values indicate a bipolar continuum for recombinant experiences. Watch for this to reveal itself in more online gaming, especially for adults. Interactive gaming with more and more players being able to compete at once will become table stakes for online games. Also, look for mah-jjong to replace poker as the most popular game, especially in Asia-Pac. Marketers concerned with engagement will close their eyes to “appropriateness” and leverage online gaming as a more acceptable venue for virtually every brand.
5) More branded entertainment.
Popular culture, with its rabid consumption of music and technology, will see market and brand leaders leverage plugging-in as a method for customizing entertainment and selling products. For instance, music-related paraphernalia such as T-shirts, posters, and artist-related merchandise will infringe more and more on the dominance of bricks-and mortar retail.
Dr. Robert Passikoff is president/founder of Brand Keys, which has published the Customer Loyalty Index of leading companies in 26 product and service categories since 1996.