Written by Robert Passikoff
The 12th year of the 21st century is upon us, bringing not just a new slate, but also a sense of significance: the very number 12 commands a lot of attention, in different ways.
For product brands, it’s a unit of trade: 12 units to a dozen, said to be cheaper than other number sets. Service brands can identify with the 12 labors of Hercules. For readers, there’s Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, Virgil’s 12 books of the Aeneid, and the Bible’s 12 Apostles. Music? There’s the holiday’s 12 drummers drumming and 12 studio albums released by the Beatles.
Once on celluloid, now digitally viewed, there are popular films: “12 Angry Men,” “Twelve O’clock High,” and who can forget “The Dirty Dozen”? And whether an early or late adopter, there are 12 function keys on a computer and 12 buttons on telephonic key pads. Oh, and as everyone knows, there are 12 inches to a foot, 12 ribs to a chest and 12 months to the year, with 12 associated constellations—those star configurations once thought to be portents of the things to come.
But as this is the 21st century, we prefer to rely upon the validated power of predictive loyalty and engagement metrics. Those, incidentally, allow marketers to measure the direction and velocity of consumer values and expectations at least 12 months in advance of the marketplace.
So we offer up 12 trends for 2012. Because success comes from acting on a trend when it’s identified, not waiting for market highs and lows. These 12 will have direct consequences to the success, or failure, of next year’s branding, engagement and marketing efforts. This month, we’re presenting the first six:
1. Value Is the Deal
Differentiated and believable brand meaning—emotional, rational, functional and experiential—becomes a more effective and profitable surrogate for value than low-lower-lowest pricing strategies. But only the consumer gets to say how "valuable" is actually defined. Employ effective systems to listen to them and then figure out ways to tune in the consumer’s frequency.
2. Social Network Security
Friends have an even greater influence on purchase habits than before, but the trust in the community outside the brand space will only be extended to the brand if truly understood and properly incorporated into brand outreach strategies. More connected consumers won’t call, text or email, but will use social network streams to talk about brands, create personalized content and increase brand engagement, – all necessitating a deeper understanding of what drives a brand’s category and how social network platforms play their part. But watch for more powerful peer-to-peer recommendations coming in the form of subject and feedback blogs—more targeted, more trusted, and more motivating than advertising, promotions, sponsorships or celebrity endorsements.
3. Inward Bound
Differentiation will increasingly come from a brand’s emotional offerings and finding what will best resonate with consumers. Doing what others do signals commodity, not brand. This is one suit that needs to be custom made. Personal connection and engagement will be more and more critical, especially in today’s weakened economy.
4. Great Expectations
Brands aren’t able to keep up with consumer expectations and haven’t been for a while now. Every day consumers adopt and devour the latest and greatest, hungering for cutting-edge innovations and enhanced experiences. Accurate measures of real category expectations can provide both roadmaps and significant advantages for brands that understand their value.
5. Now Entering the Statusphere
Status remains with us, but the definition continues its shift. The curtain has been pulled back on labels without meaning. Increasingly, meaning is defined far deeper than simple ownership and ubiquitous logos. Producing, selling and shopping based on environmentally green production and design, and fair-trade and socially-conscious consumption is the trend for brands and consumers. To discover their best tactics here, a brand will need to investigate the components of important category drivers. Spot them. Understand them. Leverage them.
As a result of growing smartphone/tablet ubiquity, look for more and more apps and their effective use to create an interactive nexus to increase consumer engagement and brand differentiation. It’s not just about games anymore.
The future may not be what it used to be, but next month we’ll reveal the final six trends for 2012. We can tell you now that marketers that have loyalty and engagement metrics in place will have a handle on the trends that are going to show up in their offices. And in 2012, that’s more important than ever because to be prepared is always half the victory.