Out of the Gate: Marketers Rate '08 Traits
Marketers are blessed with a bevy of cost-effective techniques to reach customers, but cursed with too much data and too many ways to deploy those techniques. According to a Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) Council study, 2007 increased accountability and analytic-based decision-making, but 2008 will bring a focus on strategic issues.
"You can't just plan for the year, you've got to plan for every single change," says Donovan Neale-May, executive director of the CMO Council. With the digital world now primed for instant gratification, firms have to be more agile and responsive, he says, adding that 50 percent of CMOs are hired to fix broken marketing organizations, resulting in a heavy emphasis on marketing transformation.
The primary targets in 2008, however, seem to be anyone's guess. Connecticut-based Anderson Analytics analyzed a survey of the Marketing Executives Networking Group (MENG) and found 88 percent of MENG members cited Baby Boomers as the top customer demographic, followed by Generations X (86 percent) and Y (84 percent). Only 74 percent considered Generation Z somewhat or very important, but James Beriker, president of California-based search engine marketing solutions provider Efficient Frontier, argues that the younger generation is where the money is. "Users are getting younger and smarter," Beriker says, adding that their tech savviness has made them less susceptible to the traditional means of marketing.
Be prepared for more consolidation: "Acquisitions will be just as big in 2008 -- maybe bigger," Beriker says. "We're going to see some very interesting deals." He foresees action among search marketing agencies, a European deal between Microsoft and Yahoo!, and improved display advertising with Google AdWords and Microsoft adCenter.
Outsourcing will also be a big trend as firms become increasingly specialized. According to the MENG survey, 77 percent of marketers say they don't offshore operations, and only 19 percent believed it was a "necessary and good way to stay competitive." But according to Tom H.C. Anderson, founder and managing partner of Anderson Analytics, not all firms that outsource will admit to it; he cites one so intent on concealing its outsourcing that it refers to India as "Region 9."
Marketers still want to have an impact overseas, though. Among MENG respondents, China promises the greatest opportunity (53 percent), with India a distant second (20 percent). Yet Western Europe may see the most growth, thanks to its marketing maturity. Beriker's recommendation? "Consider going to Europe in 2008 and Asia in 2009," he says. Never mind that with the dollar significantly weaker against the Euro and the pound it's an incredibly expensive investment for American firms. "It's worth it," he states.
Social networking will continue to redefine marketing. "New consumers are not going onto the Internet and searching as much as they're going and congregating in very specific environments," Neale-May says. Companies are already creating staff positions to engage customers: Dell, for example, has a vice president of communities and conversation. Keep an eye on Facebook and MySpace, Beriker advises, to understand the dynamic of how individuals are -- and want to be -- communicating. Despite a major backlash after the launch of Facebook Beacon (see "Facebook's About-Face,"
January 2008), Beriker believes that Facebook and MySpace will keep trying to monetize their user bases -- and marketers will definitely want to get in on the action.
And Beacon may have been the canary in the coal mine. "Users don't want to be tracked," Beriker says, a paradox given the level of information users already disclose online. So expect a bigger role for online security. Facebook has modified Beacon to ensure opt-out capability; the site has turned to online privacy-certification provider TRUSTe to guide its commitment to user privacy. And Ask.com reasserted itself as the search engine respectful of personal information with the introduction of AskEraser -- a privacy control that deletes all Ask.com search requests within a few hours. Google and Yahoo!, for example, store user information for 18 months and 13 months, respectively.
Marketing Trends for 2009
"Customer satisfaction" and "customer retention" top the list for marketing executives.