Eight major brand marketing trends for 2008
There are eight major brand marketing trends that will affect marketers during 2008 and beyond, according to Robert Passikoff, president of customer and brand loyalty firm Brand Keys, who has explained these trends and how to benefit from them.
Passikoff warns that, because brands and customer attitudes don't always follow our expectations, marketers should always have the right customer loyalty and brand engagement metrics available to measure their consumer universe.
Brand marketing trends When properly configured these metrics can measure the direction and velocity of future consumer values, often 12 or 18 months in advance of major market shifts. Having examined these metrics, Brand Keys offers the following advice on the eight major trends that will have a direct impact on the success or failure of brand marketing efforts in 2008:
- Ongoing emphasis on 'engagement' measures It has already been proved that real engagement is the outcome of any marketing or media initiative that substantively improves a brand's equity. And brand equity is the degree to which a brand is seen to meet - or even exceed - consumers' expectations for the category in which it competes. Of course this is getting harder and harder to measure using old and out-dated models (pre-1985) and, combined with the power of today's "super consumer" who is born with an internet-enabled iPod in one hand and a TiVo controller in the other, engaging these consumers is a very effective path to both loyalty and profitability.
- More brands become 'category placeholders' As brands become more and more enamoured with and enmeshed in so-called 'new media' (e.g. Web 2.0, social networking, and so on), marketers will need to ensure that their brands actually stand for something significant in the mind of the consumer. Media planning is necessary and sometimes even engaging, but those who rely on "flavour of the month" tactics will quickly find that they are forcing their consumers down pathways where only price can differentiate their products from the competition, moving away from "brand status" and toward being a simple "category placeholder".
- Don't just say you're green. Actually be green Simply playing in the environmental awareness arena will not be an option in 2008, and brands will have to find ways of positioning their offerings in ways that meaningfully support a sustainable future. But as the number of companies trying to co-opt the environmental movement for their products and services grows, so too will the number of sceptical consumers. Most consumers have heard such promises before and will begin to demand authenticity. To borrow a phrase from the Wizard of Oz, brands will have to be "morally, ethically, spiritually, physically, positively, absolutely, undeniably and reliably" green.
- Media planning becomes touch-point focused and personalised Planners will still classify touch points as "above-the-line", "below-the-line" and "new", but planning will be based on three critical considerations: (1) which touch point best reinforces brand values, (2) where the brand + media equation yields real engagement, and (3) where the plan is seamless, believable, personalised, and authentic.
- Behaviour will finally beat attitude More marketers will come to realise that "to know you is not necessarily to buy you" (or, for that matter, even to like you, Passikoff quipped). Loyalty and engagement metrics - particularly those configured to provide brand-to-media engagement measures - will be used to identify behavioural "hot buttons" that marketers can add to their toolboxes and their search efforts. The identification of behavioural consumer segments can then be used to synergistically reinforce brand values, brand and corporate positioning efforts, and media planning, making the marketing function much more effective and efficient.
- Consumer expectations will continue to grow Brands are barely keeping up with consumer expectations now. While expectations remained stable for a short time, that was only because consumers were catching their breath and examining, adopting, and then devouring the latest technologies and innovations. In 2008, expect the smarter marketers to identify and capitalise on unmet expectations via values like customisation and personalisation, using more and more high-tech systems. This approach will help them differentiate from competitors, and mobile marketing is also expected to play a major role in 2008.
- Personal health management to impact engagement and loyalty In the US, obesity is at an all-time high with Americans being among the fattest people on earth. This increase is primarily the result of consuming more calories, and that, Brand Keys suggests, is a direct result of technological innovations making it possible for food to be quickly prepared far from the point of consumption and then consumed with lower costs of preparation (even if the marketing costs are factored in). With obesity expanding (pun intended) so rapidly, consumers will start to engage with brands that offer healthier eating options. Certainly, 2008 could be the year when the consumer tries to gain more control over personal health, weight, and diet. This would result in stronger loyalty bonds with products and brands that offer low fat, organic, and low salt products.
- Innovation and customer loyalty grow in importance It is clear that the ever-expanding universe of brands will require an informed action plan - one that makes sense to the people on the brand and marketing side of the equation, and one that also accurately identifies and capitalises upon what consumers really feel, want, and believe. In this action plan, the roles of innovation and customer loyalty will become increasingly important as product specifications and pricing continue to fail as competitive differentiators.