An Ode To Change, An Ode To Mobile

With America's most anticipated inauguration behind us, a spirit of change is all around. The new President's campaign was founded upon the idea of change, an idea that has permeated the national consciousness.

The change in government has already triggered changes in our priorities. Changes in consumer demand are being met with fundamental changes in business operations and strategy, while changes in personal financial circumstances are changing Americans' perceptions of home, entertainment, and career.

These significant macro changes have given rise to new tactical shifts and industry-specific trends, each of which will take on a new path and deliver a new outcome. Cultural evolution and shifts in marketing strategy will become as important as any legislative stimulus.

Marketers will be looking for spikes in buyers' confidence and anxiously monitoring the state of the consumer. They will also be looking for a new reality; improved ways to develop and optimize relationships with their customers, and a new year's worth of effective marketing techniques.



And so begins a new era.

A New Era for New Media

The weak economic outlook has underscored a new reality facing retailers: traditional marketing tactics have waned, and the industry is in a state of flux.

While traditional media still commands the lion's share of advertising dollars, emerging channels are on the rise. Consumers have changed, along with technology, affording more choices and greater control, fundamentally altering conventional wisdom about effectiveness in terms of reach, penetration and conversion. Audiences are no longer passively absorbing messages, instead seeking interaction with brands and accelerating the adoption of preference marketing. The game is changing, rapidly.

This reality is signaling a new era in direct marketing through new channels like mobile, and increasing attention on the 'choice generation' consumer.

This is the generation of consumers who represent the retail sector's best hope for recovery, but who shun the one-size-fits-all ethos behind traditional advertising. DVRs, targeted social network advertising, and most mobile initiatives all play to the Choice Generation™, largely because they are preference-based. Instead of pushing a message to the greatest number possible, marketers aiming to close the Choice Generation™ gap are building relationships with targeted groups of existing customers.

Brave New World

Our brave new country and new marketing world are demanding solutions to meet rapidly evolving challenges. The most successful marketers in this environment will demonstrate thought leadership without ideological rigidity--the resolve to develop the next great strategy or idea and flexibility to adapt it to the market's needs.

Today's marketer must be more partner than contractor; an integrated world expects integrated brand management and integrated outreach. Today's marketer embraces emerging technology, is fluent in the power of 140 characters and the inherent connectivity of a human voice, and realizes that the fragments of yesterday's media strongholds may be greater than the sum of its parts.

Enter Mobile

CMOs and marketers in many verticals are looking to less expensive options and turning to the personal medium of mobile, which had gained traction and industry acceptance despite analyst revisions for '09. In a CMO survey released by Epsilon last year, 63% of marketing execs were planning on increasing interactive/digital spend, while 59% reported a decrease in traditional marketing.

Twenty-nine percent were interested in mobile, and 22% have already added mobile to their marketing mix, recognizing that this tough economic period is precisely the time when highly targeted and more effective marketing channels play a crucial role. Numbers like those are very encouraging for our industry.

New media, and specifically mobile, are an important way for retailers to engage their core customers. Current market conditions should not prevent any business from doing so. It's true that a lot of marketers look at unstable periods as an unlikely time to try new things, but mobile is not experimental anymore. It is a billion-dollar-per-year industry, and growing.

Brand recall is high, with some survey results as high as 51%, with 96% remembering the call-to-action from the message. That is unheard of in many marketing channels. A July 2008 survey by the DMA found that SMS campaigns were the most successful mobile ad medium. 70% surveyed had responded to a marketing text message, whereas only 41% had responded to a survey and 30% to email offers.

Yes, indeed, it is numbers like these we need right now.

Today's consumers are making their choices loud and clear; choices of when we can talk to them, choices of how we can talk to them, what they want to hear and when. And they've shown very clearly they can and will decide what happens in their lives.

The 44th President waged his campaign on these same consumers with his 160 character message and look what happened. The technological ease and familiarity, and the outstanding use of marketing techniques proved mobile's efficacy and reflected the nation's appetite for mobile solutions and targeted, respectful communications.

Is it too early to say that the state of the economy is giving rise to mobile and new media strategies?

Perhaps, but some of the change we asked for is already here. We've been given tools to create a new era. How we make use of these in the coming months will greatly affect the quality of our tomorrow.

Obama's top agenda is to get the economy back on track and ours is to get marketing back on track. Let's do that so the retail industry and marketers alike will reap the benefits of new ideas--and ideals.

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