Top ten alternative marketing trends for 2007
While marketers are constantly watching for alternative methods that can give them a competitive edge in over-crowded markets, Drew Neisser, CEO for Renegade Marketing explained to us the ones that will rise fastest in 2007.
During Roger Federer's stunning victory at this year's US Open, the camera panned frequently to Tiger Woods who was there as Roger's guest. At first glance this was two top athletes sharing a cross-border, cross-sport, cross-race moment of mutual admiration. But Neisser is a little sceptical: "Was this actually a brilliant product placement, putting the Nike brand front and centre for the whole match?"
Top ten trends Among Neisser's observations (with much inspiration drawn from the world of tennis) in looking for the key alternative marketing trends for 2007:
- Corporate honesty at all costs Just as the new instant replay system at this year's US Open kept the line judges in check, bloggers are bringing a new level of scrutiny to corporations and their marketing activities. Marketers must assume they live in glass houses and that consumers are armed with some large stones. Directness and honesty will not only help you win a lot of respect but also to recover from some bad shots. This is exactly what the folks at FaceBook discovered when their recent "upgrade" caused an uproar among their stalwarts who decried a loss of privacy. Bombarded with negative emails and postings, FaceBook management was quick to respond, first with a "don't panic, we hear you" posting followed later by a "you're right, we fixed it" note to all of their loyal users.
- Transparent customer satisfaction In a world of glass houses, the winners will be those companies that focus first and foremost on customer satisfaction. Expect more companies to redouble their efforts to improve customer satisfaction in 2007 at every point of contact. Call centre response times will be heavily scrutinised with the goal of reducing hold time to seconds instead of minutes. More companies will offer the "push zero" feature providing valuable customers relief from endlessly annoying option trees. Online customer support will also improve radically as more companies offer live support, along with improved web searches that allow customers to find what they need in just a click or two.
- Net Promoter Scores As customer satisfaction moves to the forefront of business strategies, expect more companies to use new metrics such as the Net Promoter Score (NPS) to assess progress and reward performance. Net Promoter Score was developed by former Bain consultant Fred Reichheld and measures the relative strength of brand promoters versus brand detractors. His research found that companies with high Net Promoter Scores consistently outperformed those with lower customer satisfaction ratings. The beauty of NPS is that it only requires asking one question: "On a scale of 0 to 10, how like are you to recommend brand X to a friend?" Companies such as GE have already made NPS ratings an integral part of their marketing plans, basing some 20% of compensation on NPS scores.
- Blog monitors In 2007 marketers will enhance their ability to defend against potentially ruinous blog attacks by dedicating resources to blog monitoring and blog response. The role of Blog Monitor will finally become a full time position in the communications department, as opposed to the occasional activity of a lone blog enthusiast. In addition to tracking blog noise, the Blog Monitor will actively engage other bloggers, correcting untruths and responding to issues as they arise. Corporate blogs will also be an important defensive weapon, assuming the authors are empowered to tell the truth (even if that means admitting a product's shortcomings).
- Niche market mining Marketers will mine new niches with increasing accuracy and reward. Unilever created Small & Mighty detergent, packing a lot of cleaning punch into a small container. Targeting urban city dwellers that hate lugging heavy containers to the Laundromat, Small & Mighty has found a sweet spot and is quite literally cleaning up. Panasonic recently introduced a 103-inch Plasma TV that retails for US$75,000 (including, of course, custom installation). Clearly this is not a product for the masses but, in addition to providing bragging rights for producing the world's largest plasma screen, no self-respecting billionaire will want to be left of the waiting list for this kind of jaw-dropper.
- Eco-everything Marketers will adopt eco-friendly green strategies across the board in 2007. Wal-Mart seems to be leading the way with its new "Embrace the Earth" mission that pushes sustainability on its vendors. Suddenly Wal-Mart is the world's largest buyer of organic cotton, fair trade coffee, and energy-efficient light bulbs. Thousands of companies - from P&G to J&J to Black & Decker - will be forced to examine the greenness of their manufacturing and distribution processes. In addition to the environmental impact, the sales impact could be enormous.
- More user-generated content User-generated content (UGC) seemed to be all the rage in 2006. Everyone from Doritos to Mentos, MasterCard to Panasonic, Chevy to Oreos, offered user generated content programmes. And not without good reason. Consumers really responded. The UGC programme that Renegade created for Panasonic was great for engaging the action sports community. Mentos's effort to ride the wave of consumer interest in watching Coke bottle geysers has created a corresponding explosion in sales (up 17% over the previous year). Looking ahead, however, marketers will need to raise the stakes if they hope to get consumers involved in such campaigns. One way will be to offer cash (or other incentives), not just for the winners as Doritos is doing, but for all UGC that other consumers end up watching. This "pay for play" approach is certainly gaining traction with the emergence of Current TV (which is paying for ads) and Revver.com (which is paying for content). Creative consumers will undoubtedly follow the money.
- No more lines For years, marketers have been dividing their communication budgets into "above the line" and "below the line" buckets. More recently, the division has focused on offline versus online activity. Hopefully, 2007 will be the year that marketers say "forget the lines" and look at their communications as one continuous conversation that seamlessly weaves across media turning prospects into customers and ultimately into brand advocates. To achieve this, marketers will need a new approach to strategy development and product management, creating briefs that embrace multi-channel ideation and managers that seek ideas rather than tactics. Unilever is a leader in this area and the results have been extraordinary, setting the standard with programmes like Dove's Campaign for Real Beauty and the Axe Effect campaign.
- Daring to be digital 2007 will be the proving ground for a number of emerging digital media weapons from mash-ups to RSS to virtual worlds. Google led the way with map-based mash-ups like the one it executed for the second Pirates of the Caribbean movie. Zillow.com created quite a stir with its mash-up of real estate sales data and mapping software, providing instant value estimates for just about every address in America. With RSS feeds just about everywhere, consumers can control how they access content. For example, on Expedia you can get personalised travel deals delivered wherever and whenever you want them. And virtual worlds such as SecondLife.com are progressing well, attracting hundreds of thousands of players - and forward-thinking marketers such American Apparel and Wells Fargo (both of whom set up virtual stores there for virtual commerce). While none of these new media approaches are likely to conquer the world by themselves, for the right companies each approach could play a key role in the year's marketing mix.
- Innovation triumphs Innovation will propel marketers and agencies to new heights of success in 2007. On the client side, companies can't afford to keep pushing the same products while competitors rush to market with less expensive copies. Apple continues to be the poster child for innovation, bringing out new iPods and Macintoshes that are faster, cheaper, smaller and cooler before competitors can even respond to previous iterations. Agencies also have an opportunity to use their considerable skills in both understanding consumers and culture, and producing remarkable ideas to help organisations change the way they operate. To innovate, companies of all kinds will need to extend their core competencies to new arenas. The opportunities for innovation abound, and the only impediment is the willingness to go for it.
Founded in 1996, Renegade creates ideas and campaigns that cut across all channels, bringing something of a guerrilla mentality to each project. The company's clients include Panasonic, DoubleClick, HSBC, Car and Driver, and the Children For Children Foundation, among others.