Ten practical marketing trends for 2006
The communications strategy firm Foghound has published its first annual 'Hound Trends' report, identifying ten fast-developing marketing trends that are expected to dominate the marketing industry in 2006. The list addresses traditional, technological and relationship marketing issues.
According to Foghound, the marketing trends most likely to be observed increasing throughout 2006 include:
- New market concepts vs. new products Buying music online is a big new market concept, which is why iPod and iMusic are so successful. Other products have failed to make the grade by simply having too small a 'market concept', despite being essentially good products. Companies that have innovation behind them will tend focus more on market concepts (which are difficult for the competition to quickly copy) and less on new products, which can be easily imitated.
- Consumer insights vs. market research Conventional market research is too slow and superficial to keep up with fast-changing market trends and increasingly fickle consumers. Indeed, what consumers thought was "hot" six months ago often leaves them cold by the time the focus group results are in and the reports distributed. Continually gathering market insights will become more important than conventional qualitative research. In a recent speech at Wharton's Marketing Conference, Hershey CEO Richard Lenny urged companies to rely on insight-driven customer marketing to increase their chances of success.
- Communities vs. blogs Corporate blogs can be difficult to keep up with, and are still more of a one-way conversation (in which the blogger talks at the blog reader rather than being truly interactive). So, as customers yearn for two-way conversations and an easier interface, they will seek out communities of interest. Companies will also find that creating communities for their customers is an excellent way to find otherwise elusive consumer insights, which can lead to greater loyalty. Watching product or service users discuss their moans and grumbles is highly constructive, and many more companies can be expected begin to adopt this approach as the year progresses.
- Point-of-view vs. messaging While messaging helps to set direction and focus on what you want to communicate, these written messages themselves have limited value unless they're translated into engaging points-of-view that are written to be said instead of being read. For example, the "point-of-view" can be used to gently feed consumers new ideas, opinions and beliefs, eliciting the customer response: "That's interesting - tell me more". This kind of message can also help to jump-start sales conversations, industry presentations, and media interviews. Expect to see points-of-view included as part of the standard marketing tool kit in 2006.
- Meaning-making vs. promoting Customers are increasingly "tuning out" advertising, promotions, and other corporate spin. What they actually want is trusted help in making decisions. Companies that adopt more of a "meaning-making" approach (that is, helping customers make sense of so many competitive choices) will run rings around the competition. Helping to make sense of options instead of pushing a meaningless brand message will become an increasingly popular tool for those companies selling expensive or luxury goods where consumers feel they have to give a high degree of consideration before making their purchase.
- Teach me vs. tell me Educational psychologists tell us that the keys to teaching students of any age are making sure the lesson is personally relevant, putting it in a larger context, and giving it some emotion. For the marketer, there is another factor: making the message involving, almost becoming more of a partnership than a simple transaction. This approach provides a lasting and valuable outcome for both parties because it is not just based on pure sales information: the consumer feels better informed, and will usually trust the word of the company that helped them to understand something - so the technique of teaching is also an effective 'lock out' against competitors. Marketers will be using this technique more and more to increase consumer trust and loyalty.
- Salons vs. conferences People will be more attracted to small scale salon-style events (often called 'workshops' or 'summits') where they can meet with other interesting people in an interesting setting, and enjoy a looser, more open approach to the agenda. These smaller events provoke thought, while conferences simply present information.
- Podcasts vs. webinars Downloads of company speeches and presentations to a PC or iPod, so that users may listen at their convenience, will replace many "fixed time and date" webinars. Most people are too busy these days to rearrange their schedule to fit the time at which a company wants to host an online presentation. Podcasts allow people to grab valuable ideas when it best suits their schedule, and this is something that advertisers will be able to use to their advantage as the internet's speed and infrastructure continues to develop, both domestically and commercially.
- Behavioural targeting vs. demographics Behavioural targeting rather than demographic or even psychographic segmentation is the difference between being appreciated because you're relevant and being a clueless nuisance. If done right, behavioural targeting increases both profitability and loyalty. Even the US Federal Reserve Bank has a research centre focused on behavioural economics, to better understand how people really make their spending and saving decisions. Marketers will start to understand consumer behaviour based on their actions rather than where they live or what sector of society they come from.
- Voices of customers vs. voice of the company Many marketers have recently begun adopting a "voice of the customer" attitude but still it is often very linear and formal. What it should involve - and what will start to happen in 2006 - is really listening to what customers are saying and, just as importantly, how they're saying it. The language a customer uses to express either delight or dissatisfaction is critical in understanding their frame of mind. There are times when what a customer says about a small problem is actually a warning sign about a bigger problem that hasn't been voiced, or even a customer defection in progress. Analysis of customer feedback will become increasingly intelligent and important to competitive survival.
Foghound helps marketing and sales organisations come up with new ways to talk about their products with the aim of getting consumers to buy, believe and change their behaviours.