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Reading the tea leaves

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I guarantee only this: There is little certainty and are few safe bets for those marketers charting a course into the future. That said, here are a few of the wagers I've made. Change will continue to be the only constant. Those who are looking for some sort of status quo or normalization will be disappointed and, ultimately, marginalized. Build in a change competency to your culture and your organization; put someone or some committee in charge of change. Deep domain expertise and genuine specialization will be recognized as having much more value than field generalism. Marketers that don't have an area of expertise should find one—quickly. Creativity will have much of its currency restored. We were all distracted by the concept of optimization and the disposability of ideas. We learned that, in practice, optimization requires both an enormous investment in message inventory that few clients have been willing to make and a tolerance for wasted effort that good agencies abhor. Good creativity is just that: It's “right” the first time. It delivers ROI out of the gate, there are no false starts or nonstarters. There is more pressure to unearth the fresh idea (big or small) that can cut deftly across integrated campaigns. And there is the realization that without this media/method-agnostic idea, there can be no true integration. Also, there is the recognition that there has been, in fact and in practice, very little true integration. Web video will continue its rise in prominence. It is admittedly the preeminent marketing channel for all marketing communications—consumer, b-to-b and professional—and its role will become even more critical. The text-based content emphasis that has been the default Web strategy will continue to lose its prominence. Agencies will have to develop their own comprehensive video production capability. This should not be viewed as either entrepreneurial or enlightened. It's nothing more or less than table stakes. Audience engagement with Web video will become a measurement standard. Session length and involvement will become key metrics with a value that is equal to, or greater than, the transactional, conventional metrics of responses, leads, calls and so on. We will continue to see the erosion of advertising-sponsored print media, and it's not coming back. That said, some forms of well-executed direct mail will enjoy a restored importance. I am continually stunned by the number of companies we see with warring marketing and sales tribes. It is seductive to think that in this era of execution and Six Sigma, organizational performance assures truly complementary efforts, but it is rare. If marketing and sales don't shake hands regularly, they will all fail and move on. Tom Simons is president-creative director of PARTNERS+simons. He can be reached at tom@partnersandsimons.com.
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