2012 is here, but are we prepared for it?

As we take our first few tentative steps into 2012 we thought we would cast our eyes forward and look at what the year has in store for UK marketers. The Olympics, the Diamond Jubilee, Euro 2012; it is set to be an action packed year. But with so many brands competing for the limelight, how can they make sure they stand out from the crowd? Which offline and online media trends can marketers exploit in order to get ahead? As is so often the case, the answer is right before our eyes – to be prepared for 2012 we must learn from 2011.

2011 witnessed social media continue to expand its influence over the marketing industry. Many brands moved their entire digital spend to Facebook and it seems this pattern is set to continue in 2012. In particular the posting and sharing of videos online is transforming the advertising and marketing industry. Saatchi & Saatchi’s spoof of the royal wedding for T-Mobile, which featured Prince William and Kate Middleton lookalikes, was named 2011’s ad of the year among viewers in the UK. It was viewed an estimated 24,485,000 times globally after being launched in April 2011. The advert brilliantly tapped into the excitement of a nation and is a good example of successful offline and online strategies working together in harmony; a pattern we are likely to see a lot more of in 2012 with more and more adverts going viral online.

We couldn’t look back at 2011 without mentioning the phenomenal success of the John Lewis Christmas ad; ‘The Long Wait’. The advert touched the hearts of a nation and is a great example of a brand utilizing personality. In order to stand out from an increasingly busy crowd, brands need to make sure they create relationships with consumers and foster loyalty – John Lewis achieved this brilliantly. As explained by actress and screenwriter Mae West; “Personality is the glitter that sends your little gleam across the footlights and the orchestra pit into that big black space where the audience is”. A charismatic personality is crucial to a brand’s success and this isn’t going to change in 2012. With the Olympics and Diamond Jubilee fast approaching; 2012 will foster a greater sense of national pride in Britain. 2011 has already witnessed brands keen to adopt a more patriotic stance and this is all part of the personality brands will try and display to their consumers.

Another theme that looks set to dominate the marketing industry is the squeeze on price. The worldwide economic recession shows no signs of abating and 2011 saw price based promotions gather pace. Brands therefore need to make themselves budget proof, whether this is by being seen as the best in their field or by creating a strong relationship with their consumers. Brands must encourage customer loyalty to ensure when shopping budgets are cut they do not lose out to the often cheaper supermarket own brands.

Moving away from online and offline content the technology sector is also expanding and impacting on the marketing industry. The rise of the ‘second screen’ seems unstoppable. 2011 saw more and more people consuming media through smartphones and tablets rather than through more traditional platforms and this presents an interesting challenge to brands and marketers. According to Nielsen’s 2011 mobile connected devices report, 70% of tablet users and 68% of smartphone users use their device while watching TV, usually in a social sense. This research is backed up by the testimony of BBC i-player creator Anthony Rose, who claimed television ad-breaks were becoming “tweet breaks”. A number of televisions shows now invite viewers to ‘tweet’ along while watching and this trend will be boosted by the rise of internet connected smart TVs. This is a new and rapidly growing marketplace, marketers need to be proactive and create compelling content that will engage consumers. Smartphones and tablets have revolutionised how we interact with content on-the-go and mobile devices will continue to play a significant role in 2012.

Finally, with the emergence of cloud technology and the continued rise of wireless internet our lives and homes are now more connected than ever. Almost any modern device can have an internet connection and as a result video can be displayed almost anywhere. Video is becoming the preeminent communication tool of our society. Research from Cisco’s Visual Networking Index shows that by 2015, 1 million minutes of video will cross the internet every second. Therefore it seems certain 2012 will witness brands continue to adopt video content as an important communication tool online.

Clearly there is no shortage of options for marketers in the current environment. Social media, mobile, viral videos and more traditional methods mean marketers have a variety of platforms with which to engage their consumers. However with so much choice, brands need to take extra care not to rush into marketing decisions. Campaigns need to be carefully planned to ensure they are communicating with the right consumers in the right way.

Have a great year everyone!

Ian Savage

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Christmas advertising is here – how have brands performed?

As Christmas nears, our TV screens are once again filled with festive-themed ads as brands clamour to draw in the all-important Christmas shoppers. From the sentimental to the downright brash, they are certainly a mixed bag this year. So who has left us feeling thoroughly festive and ready for a Christmas splurge?

Well we certainly can’t look past the success of John Lewis’ latest effort. ‘The Long Wait’, created by agency Adam & Eve, has really caught the imagination of consumers. The ad has been an instant hit, achieving the holy grail of good advertising: it’s got people talking. What’s the secret of its success? It creates suspense and tells a story viewers can relate to – one which, in short, realises every parent’s dream. This emotional resonance, captured in the tagline ‘for gifts you can’t wait to give’, goes a long way when nestled amongst a lot of other predictable, outdated and ever-so-slightly corny fare jostling for our screen space.

Promoting flamboyant spending is ill-advised in the current economic climate and Tesco has somewhat thoughtfully chosen to lead its advertising with the strap line ‘Keeping Christmas Special’, whilst focusing on low price festive goods. Angela Porter, Tesco’s senior marketing manager, explains: “Just because times are tough doesn’t mean that Christmas has to be less special.  Tesco understands this and wants to help keep Christmas special for the whole of Britain, no matter who you are or how you choose to celebrate.”

This festive season has also seen the swansong of Jamie Oliver’s time as Sainsbury’s brand ambassador. Sainsbury’s Christmas panto advert, starring the TV chef, debuted last week and, like John Lewis, aimed for the feel good factor – but falls a little short with a certain air of the predictable.

Coca-Cola’s latest ‘Holidays are coming’ revival and Marks & Spencer’s X Factor themed ad have both grabbed the headlines, but neither have been able to get close to the 200,000 online shares and over one million YouTube views achieved by the John Lewis ad. Annual tradition or not, we’ve all seen the Coca-Cola ad a hundred times before, and this year’s X Factor (staged infighting and rogue contestants aside) has so far failed to spark the public’s imagination.

Although the Christmas season poses a fantastic opportunity for brands, it’s easy for them to get lost in the tidal wave of themed ads.  John Lewis is currently emerging victorious in the battle of Christmas advertising, but the true brand winner will only be revealed once Christmas has passed and sales performance is reviewed. But for now we can sit back and enjoy the show…                                                                         

Ian Savage