2010 Brings Brands 10 Golden Digital Opportunities

Looking ahead to 2010, marketers will be facing Olympic hurdles that will require steadfast agility just to stay in the game, much less to hit the finish line ahead of the competition. Here are 10 ideas, wrapped in Olympic glory that should deliver the gold.

1. Social Media: A Marathon, Not a Sprint

Hoping to become fast friends with their targets, a lot of brands rushed into Facebook and Twitter in the last 24 months without investing sufficient time or resources. In 2010, savvy marketers will increase their commitment to social media by first listening and then offering up a steady stream of engaging content that their fans actually want. This will be particularly true for B2B brands, only 38% of whom included social media in their 2008 marketing plans (vs. 71% for B2C brands). With one comScore study indicating that branded social media activities can have a multiplier effect on search results, there is even a quantifiable rationale for brands to up the social media ante in 2010.

2. Mash-Ups: Taking Inspiration from Biathlons

A few innovative marketers took a shot at mash-ups in 2009. E.P. Carrillo, a new cigar manufacturer, created a mesmerizing Twitter and Google Maps mash-up for its 'coming soon' site that tracks cigar tweets from around the world. In 2010, these kinds of mash-ups will become smoking hot as marketers look to extend the value of their social media activities. Recognizing that tech-savvy consumers glide seamlessly between personal and business, online and offline, mobile and desktop, farsighted marketers will bring together formerly disparate elements into a cohesive and self-perpetuating social media experience.

3. App Happy: On Your Mark, Get Set, Go Crazy

Given the success a handful of marketers enjoyed with their 'apps' in 2009, expect a blaze of new entries in 2010. iPhone apps that provide demonstrable utility like Kraft's iFood Assistant recipe finder and Benjamin Moore's color matcher will continue to gain traction. Expect more app's that integrate with other social media like the Gap StyleMixer that allows you to mix and match clothes and share them with friends on Facebook. And don't forget the non-iPhone universe. The steakhouse Maloney and Porcelli cooked up a humorous and somewhat deviant web-based app at Expense A Steak that extrudes faux expense reports with stunning verisimilitude.

4. Measure Up: Track Every Second

With more dollars earmarked for social media, marketers will undoubtedly use new tools to monitor the conversations that are happening with or without them. Radian6 and Scout Labs emerged in 2009 as two of the leading social media monitoring tools. And while these tools are great, each requires a sizeable commitment by the marketer in time of staff, a commitment that can and does pay off. Just ask JetBlue who manages to enhance customer loyalty daily by responding to any and every customer Tweet within minutes, following 117,000 on Twitter, and in the process generating over 1.3 million followers.

5. POV Power: Don't Just Talk the Talk

While lots of brands raced into social media in 2009, few established true connections with their targets. The reality is that consumers engage with brands that they like on a visceral level and that provide a distinct perspective on the world. Aflac's Duck quacks up a gaggle of quirky content, including charitable requests that appeal to over 161,000 fans on Facebook and 3,000+ followers on Twitter. Meanwhile, Geico's Gecko has been left in the social media dust due to its surprisingly dry and unresponsive online voice. Ironically, a brand by definition is a point-of-view that once clearly defined should guide all communications, social or otherwise.

6. Expose Yourself: Win the Crowd With Honesty

The emergence of several 'tell all' consumer-created sites signals the arrival of a new era of honesty and transparency - especially for brands targeting those under 35. Sites like, and reflect a generation willing to bare and share all without the least trepidation. Even the emergence of 'Untag Mondays' speaks to the socially acceptable norm of posting embarrassing content that one might not want a parent or employer to see. Marketers that share this sense of honesty, that admit mistakes and address shortcomings in real-time will find a youthful army of comrades willing to do their bidding. As Comcast discovered, this kind of honesty can even transform a PR nightmare into an industry-leading customer service.

7. Hold the Presses: Major Comebacks are Possible

Though a 50% decline in ad pages certifies 2009 as the worst year in its history, don't write off print as a viable media channel just yet. Over 80% of US consumers still subscribe to at least one magazine and 83% believe newspapers are still relevant. Experimenting with video in print pubs like Entertainment Weekly is but one of the ways certain magazine segments will hold onto their targets and satisfy their advertisers. Fashion magazines and enthusiast pubs continue to offer a visual showcase that is far superior to what most e-pubs can serve up. Models, both human and auto, simply look prettier in print. And while P&G shut down its 72-year-old TV soap opera Guiding Light in 2009, they are cranking up the presses with the custom published glossy, Rouge, which expects to reach a whopping 11 million North American households in 2010.

8. Go to the Video: Separate from the Pack

The emergence of viral video rankings in 2009 reflected the mainstreaming of this approach to audience engagement. While everyone and their branded brother aspired to cut through with a viral hit, surprisingly few found an audience. In 2010, marketers will undoubtedly crank out more of the same while a savvy few will worry less about mass reach and focus more on grass roots appeal, providing content that their core target really wants. B2B marketers in particular will find that using informative videos that transform the complicated into the comprehensible, like Commoncraft's Plain English videos, will generate quality leads from grateful prospects.

9. Mobile Media: Catching Up at Last

Despite all the hype by this author and others, less than a third of marketers had a budget for mobile in 2009. In 2010, smart phone penetration should rise to at least 25% (from 17% in Q2 '09) making it a lot easier to deliver a rich mobile experience worthy of consumer attention. The blending of mobile and social apps like Facebook, Loop'd and Twitter has also created a new openness towards this medium. Given the desirable demographics (18-34, HH income $75k+) of smartphone owners, at minimum, marketers should give strong consideration to creating a mobile friendly website, thus allowing prospects to engage whenever and wherever they happen to be.

10. Be Positive: Attitude is Everything

While honesty is a worthy friend to marketers, don't forget that almost no one wants to date a Debbie Downer. A recent poll by Adweek/Harris found 'relative little enthusiasm and lots of indifference for ads that refer to the downturn.' Even if the economy is slow to recover in 2010, find the silver lining for your customers and prospects with both words and actions. Like the athletes whose positive outlooks and superior skills propel them to victory, so, too, can marketers find success with an upbeat message and an unimpeachable value proposition.

Go for the Gold in 2010

While 2009 hasn't been much fun for most marketers, there are many reasons to be optimistic about the approaching year. There are more ways than ever to engage with consumers and a new willingness from consumers to engage with brands. Marketers are showing a renewed desire to listen to their customers and offer 'marketing as service' that favors the dissemination of meaningful value over disruptive messaging. To borrow the words of our President after a disappointing Olympic bid this year, 'Although I wish that we had come back with better news, I could not be prouder.'

Courtesy: Drew Neisser, CEO and founder of New York-based agency, Renegade

Sponsored By: The Brand Positioning Workshop

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