Nobel Prize winner Niels Bohr once noted that “prediction is very difficult, especially about the future,” but then he didn’t have access to predictive loyalty metrics. Happily, we at Brand Keys do. And because they measure the direction and velocity of consumer values 12-18 months in advance and can be applied to brands, media, and creative, they identify with uncanny accuracy trends that will determine the difference between success and failure for brands and marketers for 2007:
1) An ongoing emphasis on “engagement.” Continuing to insert itself between traditional marketing activities and an increasing demand for return-on-investment assessments, engagement will occupy a good deal of marketers’ and advertisers’ attentions. As we predicted last year, a joint task force from the Association of National Advertisers, the Advertising Research Foundation, and the American Association of Advertising Agencies offered up the following definition this year: “turning on a prospect to a brand idea enhanced by the surrounding context.” While that’s a passable (and all-inclusive) first-step definition, watch closely for more-precise, category- and brand-based definitions and metrics.
2) More reliance on consumer-generated content. Accompanying the search for real consumer engagement will be increased reliance by marketers such as Nissan, JetBlue, Chevrolet, and MasterCard on consumer-generated content. Consumer-generated content will awaken marketers to certain values or trends–but it will carry its share of drawbacks as well. The first will be a sudden and disturbing recognition that there is no standard between paid and nonpaid consumption, and that there are no norms when it comes to the extent to which the content is wholly created by consumers or assisted by marketers. This will have repercussions in regard to agency-marketer relationships. The second will be a tacit acknowledgement that just because content is “consumer generated” doesn’t mean that strategy, creativity, or engagement will be represented, let alone attained, which will add further import in creating authentic (and predictive) engagement metrics.
3) More, 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. Watch for companies such as Burger King and Anheuser-Busch to return to the 1950s advertising-entertainment model, in which brands produced more of the entertainment options themselves in order to maintain control of environment and engagement opportunities and as a way of highlighting increased contributions of consumer-generated content.
4) Media planning will become more “touch point” focused. More marketers will begin to realize that “above the line,” “below the line,” and “new media” may help to define media types, but planning will be based on being able to identify the following:
a) which touch point will best reinforce brand values,
b) where the brand + media touch-point equation identifies real ( and relative) levels of consumer engagement—with the brand really profiting from the exercise (see a), and
c) where the plan results in a seamless and continuous conversation between the brand and the target audiences.
5) Using technology and engagement to better communicate with consumer expectations. Consumer expectations in all categories will continue to grow. Brands are barely keeping up with customer expectations. Watch for smart marketers to take advantage of unfulfilled expectations via such values as "convenience" and "customization." More and more marketers such as JPMorgan Chase and Bank of America will rely upon Websites and high-tech capabilities to accommodate these values and differentiate themselves from the competition.
6) Expanding the potential of Websites, blogs, and the digital world. Engagement concerns and attempts to meet or exceed customer expectations will fuse and be most observed online and digitally. Watch for increased development of blogs and Websites beyond propaganda, information, and use as an electronic cash register toward the creation of "communities of ones.” The digital world—including RSS feeds, mash-ups, and virtual worlds—will accelerate consumer control and how consumers access content. Companies such as Expedia, Google, and Wells Fargo are at the forefront of this trend, which will enable more consumers to find new ways of applying the basic infrastructures that marketers are propagating.
7) Innovation and loyalty will matter more. What is clear is that the ever-expanding universe of brands will need an informed action plan—like those of Apple and Starbucks—that makes sense to people on the brand side of the equation and accurately tracks what people on the consumer side really feel, really want, and really do with their loyalty and their dollars. In the face of increased lack of differentiation, only innovation and increased level of loyalty will actively guarantee a positive bottom line and increased profitability in 2007.
Robert Passikoff, Ph.D., is founder/president of New York-based marketing firm Brand Keys and is the author of firm “Predicting Market Success: New Ways to Measure Customer Loyalty and Engage Consumers With Your Brand.”
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