Top 11 Marketing Trends

I was talking with a client the other day who feels totally overwhelmed by the changes happening in the area of marketing and the vast proliferation of information clamoring for his attention. Based on what I am seeing in LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter conversations, he is not alone in feeling swamped.

Hence, I have put together a list of 11 major marketing trends that currently require the greatest attention of both small business owners and large corporate marketers.

1.  Social media — this is an easy one. It’s the most topical subject crossing our screens and desks. The key here, however, is to understand that the quality of interaction and engagement via social media is more important than the size of followers list and the number of impressions being made. Do not treat social media like an advertising campaign. Reach multiplied by frequency is not the goal. Rather, think of social media as a channel leading to interactions with communities of like interest. (See Social Media. Why and What For? for more thoughts on this.)

2. Consumer frugality — yes, the Global Financial Crisis is over and markets are rebounding, albeit more slowly in the larger markets (USA, Australia, Europe) than in the emerging markets (China, India, Brazil, Vietnam). Additionally, growth is currently being driven more by business investments and spending than by consumer outlays. For the most part, Christmas and holiday consumer spending was anemic. For fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) the trend towards private label products continues unabated. And, here in the USA, a recent Gallop Poll shows that 25% of consumers still think 2011 will be worse economically than last year, with 16% of the population believing their own personal situation will be worse this year than last. Basing a marketing strategy on a robust rebound in consumer spending is fraught with danger.

3.  Luxury market will boom — this is not a contradiction to the previous point. At the very top end consumers are flush with cash, less worried about their stock portfolios evaporating, and more optimistic about their personal situations. Plus, the new wealth being generated in China, India, Brazil and Russia will propel luxury spending globally. Additionally, with less dire headlines confronting us, it is now more socially acceptable to be flaunting one’s wealth again. If you can move your product into the high-end market, now is the time to do so.

4. Emerging markets are key — growth in the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, China) markets, as well as Vietnam, will outpace all other markets. In fact, retail sales in China are growing so fast that China may overtake the USA as the number one retail sales market by 2016.

5. Green marketing is here to stay — Green marketing goes beyond reducing raw materials and improving reuse or recycling. The Edelman goodpurpose study of 6000 people across 10 countries revealed that 87% of consumers feel “it is their duty to contribute to a better society”. The survey also showed that 83% of consumers are willing to change their own consumption habits to help make tomorrow’s world a better place. (For more, see Entering An Era of Responsibility). Another report I read found that 33% of marketers said green marketing was more effective than normal marketing efforts, with just 7% saying it was less effective. Those who do not integrate green marketing into their products, services and marketing messages will undoubtedly lose market share to competitors who do.

6. Marketing fundamentals — are as important as ever. Too many marketers and organizations have gone astray trying to jump on the bandwagons of “hot” marketing trends (like customer generated content, viral marketing, and email marketing) without keeping the fundamentals of marketing in place. The marketing model mixing 1) product, price, promotion, and place, 2) positioning strategies based on customer wants, needs, desires, likes, dislikes and 3) an understanding of customer perceptions of the product and corporate brands to create a compelling value proposition to customers is not broken. It never has been. It has merely been misused in recent years by a) inexperienced
neophytes who think naming a product is equal to branding and b) by senior managers more focused on quarterly profit statements than building brands that open up vast marketing opportunities unseen and untapped by competitors. Those who focus on knowing and understanding what customers truly value will create sustainable businesses that deserve customer loyalty. Those who do not will continue to fall by the wayside.

7.  Cause marketing — customers are looking for ways to contribute indirectly to the causes they support. Organizations are looking for ways to be seen as genuinely contributing to the needs of society. Combining these two and you see the foundation for the rise in cause marketing. A good example comes from Disney, which provided a one-day theme park ticket to anyone who volunteered a day of service to a participating organization in their community. In just 10 week Disney hit its goal of 1 million volunteers, which not only provided much-needed community service work but also drove 1 million people (plus their family and friends) to Disney’s theme parks purchasing additional tickets, food, drinks, and parking.

8. Pay It Forward and Random Acts of Kindness — previously confined to individuals, some large corporations on jumping on this as a way of thanking and rewarding loyal customers. Hyatt Hotels will occasionally “pick up the tab” in its restaurants or bars for members of its Hyatt Gold Passport program. In the UK, flower delivery service Interflora uses a social media campaign to brighten up the lives of its Twitter followers. They monitor Twitter to find individuals it believes might need cheering up, contacts them via Twitter and then sends a surprise bouquet of flowers. There’s no doubt that such kindness generates thousands of dollars of positive word-of-mouth publicity for Interflora. In another example, KLM gives tailored, unexpected gifts to some of its passengers at Amsterdam’s airport as part of its “How Happiness Spreads” marketing campaign.

9. Responsibility — in a reaction to the widespread dissatisfaction with governments, politicians and greedy corporate executes, we are in the early throes of an Era of Responsibility. Customers are looking to the corporate world to help solve social problems (62% of global consumers prefer brands that support good causes and 86% believe that corporations need to place at least equal weight on the interests of society as on their own). Consumers are changing their purchasing habits and turning cynicism into action by
supporting brands and organizations that care, donate and sympathize with community concerns instead of just selling and taking.

10. Customer Retention Marketing — one thing marketers learned during the recent Global Financial Crisis is that customer loyalty begins with a great customer experience. Reward points, discount vouchers and other so-called “loyalty programs” will not overcome a bad experience at any point of customer interaction. As one often-cited report in the Harvard Business Review showed, a decrease of just five percentage points in customer attrition can increase bottom-line profitability by 25% to 80% across a wide range of industries.

In the past, being customer-oriented has meant operating in order to meet the needs of the typical customer, or the average customer. Fewer and fewer businesses today can afford to focus on the average customer.  Your future growth, and future profitability, comes from satisfying the needs of your most valuable customers.

To treat your most valuable customers not as average customers, but as your most valued customers, requires that they be treated as individuals — with individual needs, wants, desires, likes, and dislikes. This is the true essence behind the concept I call the art of keeping good customers™.

(To help you in your endeavors, we have started a new Keeping Good Customers blog where we will about using Customer Retention Marketing to increase customer loyalty.)

11. Critical Return of Corporate Image Management — after a year which brought us the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, aircraft engine problems on Qantas, a badly handled car recall by Toyota, and even the Tiger Woods mess, senior organizational leaders are returning to a focus on managing the corporate brand image.

The underlining principle of my marketing philosophy is “if it touches the customer, it’s a marketing issue.™

Nothing touches the customer more than how he or she perceives your corporate image. This fundamental perception is the major factor that determines whether the customer will decide to conduct business with you and, more importantly, enter into a long-term and mutually rewarding relationship with your organization.

The corporate image is an organization’s most valuable commodity and deserves to be treated as such. The perception of an organization’s corporate image by its many constituents is the key to winning the marketing battle.

These 11 major marketing trends will no doubt keep us all busy in 2011. It’s an exciting time once again to be a professional marketer and I hope you are looking forward to the challenges as much as I am.

(Note: these 11 trends were originally published in February 2011 in the Monday Morning Marketing Memo by Steven Howard.)