However, before you buy or optimize those millions of impressions, take a pause. This year, more than any other, has seen profound changes in consumer behavior. And these changes are fundamentally altering the way brand marketers are speaking -- or should be speaking -- to consumers.
Here are four major trends that you can't afford to ignore:
The user is at the center of the Web
In the print world (and the world of a more recent Internet era), our experience was centered on the world outside -- other people, other places.
Now, the world as we know it has turned upside down on its head.
As Nick Bolton, author of I Live In The Future, And Here's How It Works, points out, now it is the user who is at the center of the world. "If you pull out your smartphone," he writes, "... you will see a small dot appear in the middle of your screen. That's you."
Once upon a time, we fitted ourselves into other places, sites and experiences. "But today's digital world has changed that. Now, we are always in the center of the map, and it's a very powerful place to be."
The world of advertising has reoriented itself around the user. Brand marketing strategies will have to follow.
There will be a shift from buying impressions to acquiring user data.
Given that there has been such a profound way in the way people consume media, it stands to reason that marketers need to recalibrate the approach they take to their branding campaigns.
To date, branding campaigns have relied on broadcasting a message to a universe of anonymous people. Marketers have traditionally purchased impressions -- on TV, radio or on the Internet for their online banners.
But that's an approach that's not relevant in a user-centric world.
Simply put, marketers need to acquire the user data of people interested in their products and services -- and they need to do it in a way that's respectful of user privacy.
Luckily, there are a number of options for options that marketers can use to acquire user data. These include registration forms, Facebook/ Open ID plug-ins, search ads that drive users to a landing page and signup ads that capture user information within the ad unit itself.
As marketers who look to acquire user data, they must do so seamlessly across online, mobile and social media.
Seamless experience across multiple media
The new Google TV combines Web, search and TV. It is a device that personifies the degree to which consumer behavior is fragmented across multiple media. Google TV combines the Web, TV and apps. Users can switch between the Web and TV with a few clicks of their mouse.
Content consumption across multiple media isn't anything new. Nowadays, many of us access email, books and movies across multiple devices. A recent Nielsen study showed that 32% of all mobile activity is related to social media.
Given that consumer behavior has become so fragmented, the technology platforms that will thrive are the ones that enable marketers to plan, buy and optimize advertising campaigns across multiple media easily from a single point of connection.
Growth of apps
In an August 2010 article in Wired magazine, Chris Anderson proclaimed that the Internet as we know it is dead. He said that "over the past few years, one of the most important shifts in the digital world has been the move from the wide-open Web to semi-closed platforms (apps) that use the Internet for transport but not the browser for display. It's driven primarily by the rise of the iPhone model of mobile computing." The Internet, Anderson says, is "less about the searching and more about the getting."
Brand marketers need to devise strategies to enable users to interact with their brands within apps in a non-disruptive way. And no -- clicking on a banner to a landing page outside the app hasn't worked out that well in the online world. There's no genie that's going to make it work in mobile.
These four trends will fundamentally alter the way we run brand advertising campaigns. The new branding campaign has the user squarely at its center. The new branding campaign extends across online, mobile and social media. It's really very different from what's out there. So if your branding strategy relies on an impersonal banner or TV ad, then walk up to your computer or mobile device. And hit that Restart button.
The way I see it, consumerism today isn’t necessarily impolite or uncivil; It is just the new, natural progression of a consumer-centric advertising age. Digital has always been changing the landscape ever since its creation. It allows the consumer to get what they want, as fast as they want it. I imagine you use Google everyday to search for information. Why? Because its fast. Or do you grab one of your Encyclopedia Britannica’s off the shelf and look up what you need. How old is that volume? Is it even relevant anymore?
It would be unwise to say that every consumer is selfish, rude and self-centered because they use this same approach. Our marketing landscape has changed and is ever-changing. That is the nature of marketing and advertising, that is the nature of consumerism.
As a consumer, I am self-sufficient and educated on my purchases because I can research the benefits, technical details, reviews, as well as the cost of what I am buying right there at the store. As a marketer, I am savvy, understanding and helpful because I offer my customers every opportunity (through multiple technologies/channels) to decide for themselves if my products are what they are looking for. I hold their hand through their buying process, offering what advice I have as an expert.
Does this consumer-centric approach take longer to make a sale? Yes. But once you shift your way of thinking, your way of marketing - (which really needs to happen no matter what, since the consumer has already made this shift), you not only gain a sale, but a loyal customer… who has friends and (now) the knowledge to market for your brand.
These 4 trends are nothing new - they are just the progression of consumerism. Our consumers are not wrong or bad for shopping/thinking this way; they are also the progression of consumerism.
Those who do not shift the way they market to our consumers will start to gather dust….just like those Britannica’s boxed up in your garage.