Do or die for 2009

As Bob Dylan once sang, 'you better start swimmin' or you'll sink like a stone, for the times they are a-changin'.' In that vein, we asked some people in the know to break out the crystal ball and tell us what must change if marketers want to keep their heads above water this year.

As Bob Dylan once sang, ‘you better start swimmin’ or you’ll sink like a stone, for the times they are a-changin’.’ In that vein, we asked some people in the know to break out the crystal ball and tell us what must change if marketers want to keep their heads above water this year.

Value and Values – It’s going to be about stability versus satiation

The turbulent economic climate will certainly have a lot of people in the industry scrambling to get better – rather than more – bang for their buck. Trendspotter Marian Salzman, CMO at New York-based Porter Novelli, foresees that the buzzwords for 2009 will be ‘value’ and ‘values’ and the trend will be a growing acceptance of the need to redefine them.

‘In this anxious, uncertain environment, real value means just enough to satisfy,’ says Salzman. ‘It means meeting needs and having a sense of money well spent, not wasted. In 2009 and beyond, watch for consensus building around values that suddenly feel so much more important: stability, sustainability, co-operation and peace of mind.’

Consumer Connection – It’s going to get more personal

The savvy marketer will avoid blasting everyone who will listen, predicts Mitch Joel, president of Montreal-based Twist Image; rather they will take cues from online trends like social networks and sharing sites, and mobile’s evolution into a primary communication channel. They will empower their consumers to connect to one another.

‘The smart marketer is going to hunker down and really start working the ‘who’ instead of the ‘how many,” says Joel. ‘Through these online channels and our interconnectedness, marketing has an incredible opportunity to create real interactions. If you thought marketing was all about building strong relationships with your consumers, just wait and see how detailed and personal it’s going to get in the coming year.’

Get Real – It’s going to mean walking the talk

Simply being a brand won’t cut the mustard anymore. Brands must embrace the causes and support the interests of the communities they talk to.

‘A brand has to live its message in all that it does,’ asserts Mike Farrell, chief strategic officer at Toronto-based Youthography. Visceral activations that astonish and arouse interest can breathe life into brands, he notes, and can reveal their relevance and knowledge of the cultural sphere in which they live and play.

Community-type support (for example, Scotiabank’s involvement with Nuit Blanche in Toronto or Fido’s ‘Sessions’ program) becomes that much more enticing when the chips are down and it humanizes brands, giving the consumer an even better reason to believe in them. ‘The newer generation of citizen-consumers already wants the brands and organizations they believe in to act more human,’ says Farrell. ‘In tough times this will be more the case.’

Digital – it’s getting smarter

The future will be about standing out from the crowd – for less. Nick Barbuto, director of digital solutions at Cossette in Toronto, expects that media like search, online video and mobile will be well positioned to help.

‘In challenging times, marketers looking to reach their target consumers with pinpoint precision, while only paying for response, will have a difficult time finding a better opportunity than search engine advertising,’ he says.

Barbuto also foresees video-centric ad formats becoming the norm

online: ‘More savvy marketers will devote increased budgets to produce web-specific video content for pre-roll, in-banner and online amplification opportunities.’

Mobile is poised to offer up a wealth of new opportunities to marketers thanks to the advent of smartphones and more feasible data rates and application distribution systems. ‘The implications of this shift from service to platform will make mobile one of the sexiest and most pliable media opportunities in the market,’ says Barbuto.