It's the time of year to look ahead (perhaps with a touch of trepidation) of what the next big thing in marketing might be. But 2013 will be less about revolutionary products and technologies and more about the subtle shifts that have already begun to transform marketing and will become even more important next year.
Here I'm going to ditch the black-box techno-jargon in favor of five big sentiment shifts that will re-frame the conversation next year:
From privacy to control.
Privacy has been a long-standing concern getting a flurry of attention with every marketing tech innovation. Predictably, each advance saw a commensurate consumer knee jerk privacy reaction demanding "opt-out" capabilities.
To varying degrees, these "opt-out" mechanisms did throttle the amount of unwanted ads but today there's no "opt-out" button that will deflect all the incoming ads from third party remarketing platforms. Newer "closed loop" attribution systems like Facebook's new initiative to merge their data with outside retail activity will "up" the privacy ante a lot. It's dawning on consumers that it's best to opt out of most online activities because any online action can unleash a torrent of unwelcome, privacy-busting ads.
Which leads me to echo what many have said before - trying to win the privacy war is a lost cause since privacy means different things to different people. Young consumers think privacy is about control and older consumers are adjusting their privacy expectations to function in the digital world.
The astute marketer will therefore begin to shift focus from privacy to enabling consumer control of messaging thus moving up consumers' value chain. As an added bonus if we make this sentiment shift, it may help our industry safely navigate our way through the rocky privacy regulatory waters ahead.
From reach to relevancy.
Platforms are miracles of marketing efficiency; achieving scale better than ever before. Yet, in the rush to reach large audiences, achieving quality engagement sustainable over time is another matter. Brands can create platform-based promotions but the herky jerky nature of fragmented platforms tend to exhaust corporate marketing resources across a multitude of functions including measurement, technology and budgets.
Shifting the focus from reach to relevancy means we can now pay serious attention to the practical application of brand authenticity beyond "sentiment analysis" platforms; learning to weave relevancy into the very fabric of the user's online experience.
From big data to GOOD data.
Another impact of platforms on the marketing landscape is the near slavish worship of big data with little understanding that : "There's big data and then there's bad big data" (a phrase I gratefully attribute to Robert Chang - our advisor from Mogility Capital). Data has always been the lifeblood of marketing but now the very nature of data quality is undergoing a radical change.
Traditionally, big data companies like Acxiom, Hart Hanks or D&B spent millions to enrich their data including expensive human verification processes. But in platform-based marketing where data verification is technologically based, data quality means something different. Platforms deliver great behavioral-based data but they don't do as well at inferring true consumer intent. This operational gap comes up often. You have remarketing campaigns that continue even after the product had been bought or Facebook's categorization of a content "view" as a "like" that is then broadcast over the person's network – much to the user's chagrin.
There's no doubt that increasingly these algorithmic hiccups drive consumers to opt out because they understand the danger of platforms misinterpreting their casual online behavior as a true intent.
From push to pull.
This sentiment shift is a long time coming. For years, the tension between innovative "push" marketing and consumers' increasing privacy concerns has been a delicate line seasoned marketers are long accustomed to walking. But with heavy-handed, push platforms, the inflection point is close at hand where consumers may fall off the "creepy cliff" as they are subjected to more invasive and pervasive ads.
The irony is that this loss of control is in juxtaposition to consumers' increasing expectation of control with their smart phones, smart homes and Apple everything. This cognitive dissonance explains the grim trust gap stats in online marketing: 71% of consumers don't trust text on mobile phones and 67% of consumers don't trust online banner ads (Source: Nielson Trust Study, April 2012).
By balancing the intensely push ad world with an appropriate counter balance of consumer pull, marketers are ready to embrace a new model of consumer engagement that is productive.
From platform-powered marketing to people-powered marketing.
For the last few years marketing's focus has been a frothy, tech dominated conversation is losing sight of the fact that marketing is a people powered discipline affecting real consumers. You simply can't platform your way into great marketing because platforms can't yet create algorithms nuanced enough to predict the human element.
With the bloom off the social media rose, people like Mark Cuban are asking tough questions in reaction to the rosy marketing conversations that has been framed, to date, by platforms anxious to demonstrate efficacy.
Optimistically, I think this will be the year that marketers – not technologists - will lead the conversation about what works and why. That's a sentiment shift we can all celebrate.