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Skepticism rules in the new year

Digital marketing strategies in 2011 will be played out against a background of macro-trends in the US culture and the economy. Here is my pessimistic, short term forecast for macro-economic activity affecting brands and marketers.

People are searching for things that are real and reliable. They are looking for something to believe in. Skepticism rules. Brands must be authentic, genuine and real to get an honest shot at engaging customers.

Time seems to be moving faster with consumers on a merry-go-round of multitasking. Brands that provide proven solutions will have an advantage.

The economy will be in shambles for the next 18 months. Europe’s troubles will catchup with us. Fundamentals have changed, but the implications aren’t yet clear. Caution will rule most sectors, downward price pressure will continue into the foreseeable future.

Unemployment will not be fixed soon, and people continue to watch their spending. Firms will prune and selectively upgrade their staffs.

Consumers will indulge themselves in idiosyncratic ways by splurging on things big and small. Positioning your brand as an affordable indulgence will resonate.

There will be ferocious competition for attention and any form of customer engagement. Copycat tactics won’t work, and novel ideas will work only once. Create a test-and-learn sensibility within your organization, and experiment until you hit on best practices.

Brands that help consumers make decisions or filter choices will gain respect and traffic.

Everyone will have boat loads of data even though they might not be sure how to read it, measure it, apply it or keep it secure. Privacy will remain, particularly with the latest FTC proposal, a contentious issue. Marketers need to remain vigilant in protecting privacy, while skillfully using the insights data can yield. Those who can extract actionable intelligence and useful information will beat out those who just collect and house data.

Clients will only want to spend what they absolutely must. All kinds of inventive measurement approaches will be employed to justify spending, but ROI is still difficult to attribute to many marketing activities.

Successful marketers and agencies will understand this landscape and have a definite plan forward. In uncertain times, brands seek out those who can understand the situation and map out a strategy. However, it will make sense to fall back on reliable tactics such as search and e-mail. In other cases, selected investments in social, mobile and emerging media will also yield results. It’s a fair bet that speaking in a single brand voice expressed across a carefully chosen set of interlocking and reinforcing channels and media will be the easiest way to go to market in the new year.

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