Commentary

2014: Year Of The Disconnect

Starting as soon as next month, there’s a lot to look forward to in 2014 if you relish human competition: the Super Bowl, the Winter Olympics in Sochi, the World Cup, the introduction of a College Football playoff system, and so much more. We’ll be exposed to incredible feats of mental strength and physical capability, no doubt resulting in some pretty unbelievable accomplishments.

Marketing is its own competition that plays out on the world stage every day. Incredibly complex work and years of preparation lay behind what looks like an absolute stroke of genius and ease on the surface, fueled by a combination of mental intuition, operational sophistication and executional power. I’m guessing that we’ll also be exposed to some pretty amazing marketing feats in 2014.

These marketing “gold medals” all begin with an understanding of the consumer and shopper — not only what they have been doing, but also where we think they will be headed in the coming year — so we can excite, energize, help, motivate, satisfy, and fulfill them. So as 2014 unfolds, what’s on deck for consumer and shopper behaviors and attitudes? Fundamentally, I envision 2014 as being the year of the paradox — a year where what people say and how they feel may grow ever increasingly distant from what they do — and only a handful of marketers who acknowledge and address this seeming disconnect will reap huge successes.

Everyone’s talking about the continued rise of mobile, social, big data, the death of print, and the latest marketing stunt. But a better place to start is with our increasingly fragmented and polarized society. We continue to see an ever-growing gap between the have’s and have not’s. America’s pathway to being more diverse hinges more than ever on our ability to retain and value our various and distinct cultures. Technology will continue to wield the power to transform us creating a more empowered, more “real time,” and differently wired society. 

This refined wiring is compelling us into a realization that fewer events truly attract a mass audience. And the number of points of view as to whether the event was good, bad, or ugly has expanded exponentially, even among those events we deem to be big.  And, of course, the civility in this social discourse on “what happened” can often mirror a day in the life of Congress. This viewpoint disparity will further give rise to the notion of a mosaic society, the micro-event and the role that big data can play in identifying, locating, and messaging to the most receptive audience segments — highly relevant, in-the-moment activities directed towards like-minded, self-selected communities. However, big data alone is not the answer. It will need to be connected with a true understanding of what is inspiring, driving and preventing behaviors to ensure the effectiveness of our marketing models.

Those who adopt a whole-brain approach to marketing will realize marketing access in this new paradigm — knowing what attitudes and conversations translate to behaviors, and which behaviors shape attitudes and conversations to motivate future behaviors and purchases. It’s the only way to address this year of the paradox.

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