As one year gives way to the next it is traditional for lists to be made, either reviewing the past or forecasting the future. Listing the past is easier, albeit a subjective, exercise. Looking into the future is more difficult, made even more challenging by the turbulent and complex times that we live in.
So here is my contribution: a listing of some, but far from all, of the things that I expect to encounter and observe in 2010 and beyond. There is no hierarchy or priority in the list.
That the world will become more complex is a fairly safe bet, and this will increasingly guide brand owners and strategists towards using strategy methodologies and tools that factor in the unknown. The importance of brand as a driver of business will continue to grow. Brands will demand right and left brain thinking.
The marketing services industry, as a whole, will continue to talk about the need for new business models but change will be forced upon them rather emerge from within. Creative agencies will continue to see their exclusive grip on creativity weaken as the generation of ideas and campaigns becomes more democratized.
Management consultancies and professional service firms will encroach more into the commercial creative space. Brand strategy will be elevated to new heights of expertise and broad management involvement, leaving stand-alone marketing strategies looking inadequate.
Inside organizations, marketing departments will continue to have their roles questioned and redefined. Some marketing departments will step to the challenge and become more important in the setting and execution of corporate strategy. Other marketing departments will miss the need to evolve and will be sidelined and have responsibility taken away.
Authenticity will be vital for brands to flourish. The recession will recede, bequeathing consumer demand for value. Brand experiences will be more valued than brand promises. Brands will have to accept that they are members of society and act accordingly.
Branded entertainment will expand to become branded content and more commercials will be made primarily for online distribution. The importance of PR in strategy and campaigns will increase and there will be a clear division between those agencies that can deliver and those that can’t.
The media business model will change in a flurry of experiments and challenges. The online search model will adapt to the new realities of online media. The e-reader will start its journey of consumer adoption, following in the footsteps of the mobile phone.
Digital will continue to establish itself as a primary channel of brand communication, experience and facilitation securing its front seat in strategies and campaigns. However, the hard-earned respect will raise questions about whether digital agencies can be the lead agencies.
Thanks to the iPhone and others, mobile will deliver more on its potential. Social networks will need to deliver and find value beyond the numbers. Inserting brands into social media environments can no longer be an afterthought. Online video will continue its dominance. Augmented reality will have to leave gimmicky and become useful. Consumers will move effortlessly between the physical and digital and brands will have to as well.
Above all, things will change. The need to innovative will increase and the half-life of brand idea and strategies will shorten. Brand owners and strategists will be constant pioneers.