By Wayne Levine, Managing Director of NXT\ Digital Innovation
Digital media is in a constant state of evolution; advancing at such a rapid pace, new opportunities for interaction and engagement are constantly opening up. When digital media platforms like Facebook were first introduced to South Africans five years ago, nobody could’ve anticipated the impact this channel would have on our lives and how it would further influence the modern marketing and brand communications world. Previously considered to be the poor cousin in marketing, digital is now taking the leading role.
So what can marketers expect from digital in 2012? In my opinion, there are several distinct trends that the industry can expect to see in the year ahead:
· Marketing budgets for social media will grow
Before the internet, media campaigns consisted of a fairly straightforward menu of television, radio, print and outdoor advertising options. While TV buyers still take the largest piece of marketing budgets, the share of money going to online advertising is rising steeply, and the options for those budgets are multiplying and morphing just as quickly. With consumers spending more and more time online, brands will no doubt need to maintain a presence on the social web, to remain competitive.
· ‘Content curation’ will be prioritised
Having a Twitter account or a Facebook page is simply not going to be enough. Businesses actually have to surround consumers with a variety of branded online destinations such as: blogs, LinkedIn profiles, YouTube uploads and Flickr profiles etc. By giving a customer the opportunity to pick and choose how they want to interact with your brand, will be extremely appealing. Of course, quality trumps quantity, so when extending a brand across the social web, you must ensure that it’s done strategically, so as to maximise opportunities without compromising on the messaging of you brand. Gone are the days of simply attracting fans to your page and expecting a return. You will have to provide valuable, relevant and engaging content that stands out from all the online clutter.
· Fun becomes an important part of the decision-making process
In 2012 we will also see an increase in the use of games when engaging online consumers. By using games to move customers along the decision-making path, brands can enhance websites with quizzes, tasks and rewards which are designed to keep customers engaged.
· Brands will track their online reputation in greater detail
Social media has given consumers a large platform to voice their opinions – both good and bad. With so many brands active on the social web, companies are realising just how important it is to actively monitor their reputation across all these channels. As the growth of social media continues, marketers will need to focus on tracking what’s being said about them online, following up and resolving any complaints before they go viral.
· Bar codes – the next generation of digital marketing
Quick response (QR) codes have been around for years, but another ripple from increased smart phone use has seen growth in the adoption of the second generation of barcode by marketers. Through the use of ‘snap tags’, which incorporate a brand’s logo instead of the traditional scan-able square, newer smart phones are capable of scanning the codes in order to access a manufacturers’ website while standing in store. Alternatively they can connect to a retailer’s print ad, to access the GPS app that provides a map to the nearest store, or download a mobile coupon by scanning a magazine advert. While still very much an emerging medium, marketers can definitely look forward to some interesting new campaigns platforms.
· TV’s may actually talk back
Another new development in 2012, will witness the introduction of interactive television advertising. Satellite companies now have set-top boxes that can process area-code based databases for location-based marketing – which will allow brands to direct viewers to the nearest store in their area. Eventually, this technology will allow viewers to load a promotional code into an advertiser’s loyalty programme, which will help brands understand the value of their campaigns all the way through to sale.
· Mobile marketing will grow
Many think that mobile and particularly sms communication is on a downward trend. But this is completely inaccurate. Sms is the ‘last mile’ of any digital campaign and will be for a long time to come. Thanks to new smart phones and tablets, mobile marketing is expected to move from plain sms communication to a richer experience in 2012. As more digital developers adopt the HTML5 standard, mobile sites will be able to execute almost everything an app can do without an app download or any cross-platform issues.
· The end of silo marketing
A recent Harvard Business Review study claimed that “People now consume 12 hours of media in just nine hours of elapsed time”. What this means is that consumers are accessing a variety of different media types - all at the same time. For brands to keep up, marketers must change how they work with their agencies. Offline, online and mobile marketing initiatives create an opportunity to lead consumers from one message to another by integrating those strategies. Brands can definitely drive a significantly higher return on investment by cross-promoting their different marketing destinations.
Digital offers unprecedented reach for marketers, providing access to consumers anywhere and anytime. Make no mistake; digital will one day surpass television ad spend. Until then, the greatest challenge facing marketers will be to prepare their brands and/or clients for this shift, which will see an amplification of brand messaging that is unparalleled in terms of speed and scale.