My 2013 Trend Wish List
While most marketers have already published their predictions for digital marketing in 2013, I’ve taken some time to look back at what I thought would happen in 2012 and chosen, instead, to publish a trend wish list. I had a lot of hope for 2012. I thought that marketers would shift their thinking to a more multi-channel approach, I saw the opportunities with the ubiquity of mobile, and I thought relationships would be the building blocks of our digital strategies. All of them were pretty safe bets, and many marketers saw the same potential in the digital space. Some took the leap, and others simply stuck their toe in the waters of these trends. But, as we all know, true evolution takes time.
So, this year, I will continue to look forward and refine my own approach to marketing. Though I still hold a lot of hope that marketers will adopt the trends of 2012, I’m looking at 2013 as the year marketers, brands and customers begin to collaborate even more than they have in the past, and we all end up on the same page in years to come. And that’s what makes the following thoughts more of a wish list than true predictions for the coming year.
Living the Digital Life
Admittedly, I am an early adopter of all things digital. I enjoy trying out new gadgets and applications to see how, or if, they will fit into my life. I constantly scrutinize my decisions and tweak the number of tools I use looking for that perfect combination that actually enhances my life. I live the digital lifestyle. Right now, within arm’s reach there are at least three gadgets, with three different screen sizes and three different methods of delivering and collecting information. I know I’m not the average user; I’m a power user. And the insight I am gaining from my digital addiction helps me to understand exactly what combination of devices and applications are easy and valuable enough for a variety of users. Around the holidays, I get a lot of questions from family and friends about what new gadget they should buy or give as a gift. My answer is actually a question and always the same one: "What are you planning to do with it?"
This simple question makes all the difference when I’ve made recommendations, and it makes all the difference when marketers start making decisions about how they will use technology to engage their customers. Let’s face it: We live in a world where new devices are launched monthly, thousands of applications are launched daily, and we are all connected in a way that allows us to communicate as if we are standing in the same room all the time. Nearly all of us are carrying a powerful PC in our pockets that has the capacity to hold the personal data, not only of ourselves, but everyone we know. And this technology is maturing faster every day, making the power user of today the average user of tomorrow.
So, as I look to 2013 and think about technology, I will be looking for that perfect intersection where the multi-screen lifestyle, social media and mHealth applications meet. I will try to understand what role these platforms play in people’s decisions. I will continue to watch as users dive into their pockets or purses and pull out their always-on, at-hand PC (i.e., their mobile phone or tablet) to connect with friends, family and trusted brands to find answers to their questions. And I will encourage my colleagues to approach their digital initiatives from a mobile-first, but multi-screen, perspective.
How May I Help You?
In October of last year, TrendWatching. com released a brief entitled, "Servile Brands: Why for Brands, Serving, Assisting and Lubricating is the New Selling." It is a great brief that I highly recommend reading. However, the idea of providing services beyond a product is not new, and I wouldn’t go so far as to call it "the new selling." It’s traditional customer service packaged in a new way due to technology. Obviously, technology has changed customer behavior along with their expectations. Because they are always connected, their expectation is that your brand is, too. Because they believe in a specific cause, your brand should, too. And because they know you are tracking their behavior, they expect you to look at that data and help them whenever and wherever you can.
For the healthcare industry, this is a tall order. It essentially means that if you are providing a drug, you should also be providing the tools and support
For the healthcare industry, this is a tall order. It essentially means that if you are providing a drug, you should also be providing the tools and support to help people live healthier, have easier access to your product, or get their questions answered by experts. The servile brand, or customer service, takes on a whole new meaning when we are talking about something that affects everyone. Health is arguably the second-most talked about subject after money - until you become a patient, that is. With this, there is a lot of potential for marketers in the pharmaceutical industry to create a digital environment that truly satisfies many pharma company goals of becoming holistic healthcare companies. But it will definitely take an organizational shift in mindset to become a servile brand and provide the appropriate level of service expected by your customers.
So, as I look to 2013 and think about marketing, I will help my clients and colleagues find better ways to serve and collaborate with their customers. I will look for opportunities to assist customers, through technology, in a more human way, knowing that the more indispensible the brand can be as a resource by providing relevant information and assistance when customers need it most, the more trusting, long-term relationships will be built with the by-product of higher revenues.
Access vs. Ownership
Like most marketers, I had a really hard time escaping the buzzword "big data" in 2012. Right off the bat, let me tell you, I am not a data expert. However, I do understand that marketers have more data now than they have ever had in the past about their customers. Of course, that doesn’t mean that any of us know exactly how to use all that data to our brands’ advantage. Most of us are still trying to figure that part out. What we do know is that collecting customer data has become an issue with our customers. They want to know what we are collecting, how we are collecting it, who we are sharing the data with, and where we draw the line between good marketing and an invasion of their privacy. And if you are deemed to be doing the latter, be sure to inform your PR department to prepare for a crisis.
There have been numerous experts that have boiled the issues around big data and privacy down to access and ownership. Companies need to clearly define what personal data they collect, why they want access to that data and how it will be used. Generally, people want to trust the brands they use. Give them a reason to. Show people the benefits of allowing you access to their data. Even if you think you own the data, it’s better to be transparent and avoid a PR nightmare that could even lead to a lawsuit where ownership would be determined in both the courtroom and the court of public opinion.
So, as I look to 2013 and think about the challenges ahead, I will advise my clients and colleagues to actually use the data they collect, or gain access to, to provide the optimal brand experience for customers. I will identify opportunities to build trust by providing relevant information to customers based on their data. Privacy can become less of a challenge if people know the benefits of allowing a company access.
My trend wish list really boils down to one thing: customers. They’re people, their lives have changed due to the speed of technological advancement, and they expect marketers to keep up. They want to be treated like people, with all the respect you would want to be treated with. And, they want you to earn their business. They want to do business with companies and brands that will go the extra mile, and they will reward you for it. In 2013, I look forward to seeing great work from marketers who don’t just think about how to sell more products because they realize that giving customers a great experience will do just that.